Tag Archives: Mexico

Oaxaca What-Nots and Rugs, Settling Into North Carolina

I’ve been in North Carolina for a week, arriving safely on the tail of Hurricane Florence. In some parts here, it is still treacherous, but not where I live when I’m here in Durham, NC. My two pieces of luggage each weighed in at 49 pounds and some ounces. Maximum is 50 pounds without penalty.

SOLD. #1. All Naturals Lightening Rug. 57-1/2″ long x 31″ wide. $350 USD

#1 is all natural sheep wool in tones of grey, cream and brown, with traditional fringes. A complex design to weave. Shipping to anywhere in the USA is $8.

I stuffed them with what-nots and rugs, aprons (flouncy and more simple), stylish market tote bags, and a selection of Zayzelle dresses and pullover scarves. Some were pre-sold. Many were not. I guess this is what I do when I come to this part of home! Make Oaxaca available to you.

#2 Butterflies. All natural. 58-1/2″ long x 29-1/2″ wide. $260 USD

#2 is a butterfly motif accented with the mountains and rain pattern. $8 mailing to anywhere in USA. 

Catching up with friends, keeping routine medical appointments for check-ups, walking and sewing is what I do here. Not much different from life in Teotitlan del Valle in terms of activities, but lifestyle worlds apart.

SOLD. #3 Runner. 116″ long x 30″ wide. All natural wool. $385.

#3 is part of my collection, unused but stored for a couple of years. I’d like it to go out the door! It is large, so will weigh more and mailing is $26 USD to anywhere in the USA. 

#4. B&W Large Market Tote. Woven plastic. 20x13x5″ $55. Two available.

#4 is a snazzy, elegant tote, sturdy and functional with double straps. I use mine to carry an umbrella, farmer’s market produce, an extra wrap. I sling it over my shoulder and it goes along with me everywhere. Mailing is $8 to anywhere in USA. 

Here in NC there are no barking dogs, no corn fields, no mountains, no patio or terrace, no hand-made blue corn tortillas. Here, I get uninterrupted sleep. Here,  there is the pulse of urban life in a country that continues to need my attention. I will not give up my voice. Usually everyday I make a call or send a text to my U.S. Senator. Remember John McCain, I want to tell him. He would do the right thing.

SOLD. #5. All natural zigzag rug. 42″long x 28″ wide. $265.

#5 is a sawtooth zigzag rug in all the natural sheep colors. Note that fringes are tucked in for easy vacuuming. $8 to mail anywhere in the USA.

I brought a few rugs back woven by friends in Teotitlan del Valle who need the money. One family just had a new baby. The other has two daughters pursuing college educations — costly on a rug-weaver’s income. Another is by a woman who weaves for a family enterprise and wants a bit of her own money.

SOLD. #6 Zapotec Diamond with Feathers. 58-1/2″ long x 31″ wide. $295.

#6 is tones of gray sheep wool, accented with dark brown and hints of gold and cream. $8 to ship anywhere in USA. 

These weavers are not famous and their prices are modest in comparison to others. The quality is very good. I bought them outright at the asking prices to help and passing these savings on to you.

#7. Turquoise apron, size 38 (M-L). $55 + $8 mailing.

#8. Simple gingham apron, $20 + $8 mailing. Size M-L.

#9 Flouncy Artful Apron. Size M. $75 + $8 mailing.

#10. Raspberry Sateen Apron, Size S-M. $95 + $8 mailing.

If anything appeals to you, let me know by email. norma.schafer@icloud.com

Tell me

  • Your name and mailing address
  • The Item Number

I will then send you an invoice and as soon as I receive funds, I will package up and get it in the mail to you.

Thanks so much, Norma.

 

 

 

September 16: Viva Mexico, Independence Day from Spain

In villages and towns large and small, Independence Day is a big deal in Mexico. On September 16, 1810, the Grito, or Cry of Dolores was shouted by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo in the Guanajuato town of Dolores (later renamed Dolores Hidalgo). On September 27, the revolutionaries, led by Augustin de Iturbide, marked into Mexico City to overtake the Spanish garrison. The rest is history.

Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City

Even in the days preceding the celebration, even in the rain, I could hear the drum beat of the Banda de la Guerra (the military marching band) practicing in the middle school courtyard. This is a celebration where children are front and center.

Flags for sale from the back of a motorcycle, a size for everyone.

Most homes have flags flying. The moto-taxis are adorned in banners and flags featuring the red, white and green bandera (flag).

Red, white and green as a food display.

On the late afternoon of September 15, my Zapotec family celebrated family matriarch Dolores’ birthday, named so because she was born on this special day. The Cry of Dolores is an important part of political and social acculturation, just like singing the Star Spangled Banner.

My chakira (beaded) flag blouse, stained with guajillo chile sauce at supper, soaking

Here in Teotitlan del Valle, the celebration begins on September 15. After the marching band leads the parade of young costumed girls through the streets, the townspeople gather in the municipal square. The late afternoon brings the threat of rain, but none comes.

A drum for every child? Why not!

At 11:00 p.m. everyone shouts the Cry for Independence together and the event is followed with firecrackers and rockets. The dogs bark and donkeys bray.

Chiles en Nogada at Oaxaca’s Los Danzantes. Traditional for Independence Day.

I put in my earplugs to get a good night’s sleep because I have a long travel day on September 17, starting at 3:30 a.m. and I want to walk the dogs in the campo where it is quiet and meditative.

There is more celebration today. Viva Mexico!

 

Podcast: Tixinda Dreamweavers Plus Our Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

Listen to the WEAVE Podcast from Gist Yarn & Fiber

Today, Sarah Resnick from Gist Yarn & Fiber, talks with Patrice Perillie, an immigration attorney based in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, and Mixtec weaver Amada Sanchez Cruz from Pinotepa de Don Luis.  She also interviews Norma Schafer at the end of the segment.

Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil, Pinotepa de Don Luis

Patrice started the non-profit Tixinda Dreamweavers Cooperative twelve years ago. Her goal was to keep very talented artisans in Mexico instead of migrating to the USA where jobs are limited to cleaning houses and washing dishes in restaurants.

Listen to their story — a 26-minute investment of your time

Tixinda Dreamweavers ethically harvests the endangered sea snail that gives the rare purple dye. The group grows pre-Hispanic native cotton. They use the malacate — drop spindle — to make the thread. They weave extraordinary clothing using the back-strap loom.

Weaving designs, Pinotepa de Don Luis, with cochineal

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator sponsored this Podcast. At the end of the segment, I talk about why we take textile lovers to the Coast of Oaxaca to explore the weaving, natural dyeing and hand-spinning culture.

Spinning and cleaning cotton in San Juan Colorado

Pinotepa de Don Luis is one of five villages we will visit on our January 11-21, 2019 textile study tour on the Oaxaca coast. For our Grand Finale, we attend the Tixinda Dreamweavers Exposition and Sale. A noted cultural anthropologist will travel with us. We go deep into the textile culture of the region. You meet extraordinary artisans where they live and create.

4 Spaces Open: Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

Women of the Ji Nuu Cooperative, San Juan Colorado

 

Zaachila Zancudos: Dancing on Stilts is Cultural Heritage

The Stilt Dancers of Zaachila are called Zancudos because stilts are long and leggy like mosquito legs. Stilts are called zancos in Spanish. The Zancudos are very proprietary about this dance. They consider it part of their  cultural identity and heritage.

Zaachila Bachos Zancudos Buin Zaa

After I wrote the blog post about the Lila Downs concert during Guelaguetza season and published a photograph of stilt dancers there invited from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec that also appeared on Facebook, I received a deluge of messages from Zaachila Zancudos, critical of my calling the dancers from Tlahui Zancudos.  Many were quick to tell me that they were the first to use stilts to dance. I explained that I only photographed what was presented at the Lila Downs Concert. Yet, the backlash poured in and I wondered why.

I wanted to go to Zaachila to talk with the group Bachos Zancudos Buin Zaa (Zancudos de Zaachila) to find out more about their history and traditions, to understand why they reacted so strongly.

Erick Aragon Rodriguez (left), me, Pedro Aldair Antonio Aragon

On Thursday, Zaachila market day, I arranged to meet with Pedro Aldair Antonio Aragon, age 21 and a zancudo since he was six years old. Aldair invited his friend and fellow zancudo, Erick Aragon Rodriguez, now age 36 who learned to walk the stilts when he was ten, to join us. Kay and Dean Michaels, friends from North Carolina now living in Oaxaca, joined me.

Zancudos sculpture in Zaachila zocalo

There is immense community pride in this dance, originally called Bachos. It is part of village identity. The dance goes back at least 100 years and Aldair carries on the tradition of his father and grandfather, who were also stilt dancers. A bronze monument of a stilt dancer stands in the center of the village zocalo or main plaza as a testimony to this history.

Erick explains that stilts were originally used to cross rivers and arroyos. The land is filled with rolling hills, swales and deep gullies and it makes sense that this became a necessary mode of transportation and navigation around and through the limitations of the landscape. How stilts came to Zaachila is a matter for research. Were they brought by Europeans or an innovation to deal with the terrain?

Entering town, the Virgin of Guadalupe, artist’s adaptation, greets us

The wooden stilts are made in Zaachila. There is a workshop that fabricates and sells them. I am told by the young men that about ten years ago, a troupe of Zaachila zancudos traveled throughout Oaxaca towns to perform the dance. In Tlahuitoltepec someone asked to buy a pair of stilts, which were then reproduced. Tlahuitoltecos from the Mixe region of Oaxaca learned how to use the stilts and created their own steps, using their own indigenous dress. Aldair and Erick say the stilt dancing has been in existence there for less than ten years.

We met at Comedor Denisse for barbacoa de res, there for 51 years

There is controversy. They emphasize that Zancudo is a word associated with Zaachila and should not be used in association with Tlahuitoltepec. They say the word is part of their tradition, culture and to honor the grandfathers. Anthropologists consider dance, language, dress and other forms of artistic expression to be part of cultural identity. I want to understand, not arbitrate.

The softest, best BBQ beef ever!

The Zaachila Zancudos have never gone to an official Guelaguetza because their village leaders field their group of Los Danzantes de La Pluma (Dance of the Feather). About five Zapotec villages in the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca perform the Dance of the Feather. Which is selected each year to go to Guelaguetza depends on the office of tourism/government Committee of Authentication.

At Comedor Denisse, mole amarillo, too

Today, there are about 80 people in the Zancudos group. Thirty are ages three to ten years old who are learning the dance. Eleven year olds dance with the adults. From time to time, about 10 to 30 people can show up for a dance or calenda (parade), but for major fiestas more dancers will turn out.

Coming up on Thursday, September 6, 5 p.m.

Zaachila will celebrate her Saint’s Day honoring Santa Maria Natividad. There will be a big parade of Zancudos, going from the church to the Zocalo. 

Everyone is invited. 

Go early! Go to the market. Have lunch. Eat nieves.

We have been talking about cultural appropriation at Oaxaca Cultural Navigator for some time. The new cultural center in Teotitlan del Valle addresses the question of what is cultural heritage and who “owns” it, who has rights, if any, to copy or adapt.

  • Is it disrespectful for a Mixe group to use the stilt dancing developed by a Zapotec group?
  • Is it disrespectful for the Lila Downs concert producer to invite the group from Tlahuitoltepec and not the dancers from Zaachila?
  • Was the Tlahui group chosen because they look more professional or because their traditional village dress is more interesting for a stage production?
  • Is it disrespectful that a Guelaguetza Committee of Authentication has never included the Zancudos in the official tourism office produced Guelaguetza event?
  • These are issues here for Mexicans to decide.

Your comments and opinions are welcome!

After lunch, we said goodbye to Aldair and Erick. Kay, Dean and I could not resist the nieves stalls on the zocalo. There is a line-up of about six permanent puestos. Which one to choose? We picked the busiest, of course, owned by Doña Chabelita who has been there sincce 1966, the oldest in Zaachila. Her grandson just returned from 20 years living and working in Connecticut. Impeccable English. Not sure about immigration status, but who cares!

Dean savoring nieves de vainilla

Doña Chabelita, ready to retire after a lifetime of ice cream making

Melon and pecan nieves. The Best!

A treasure trove of pitaya (dragonfruit) in Zaachila market

 

 

Flouncy Aprons of San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oh, gosh, how to resist these extraordinary aprons of San Miguel del Valle.  The Zapotec community is nestled into a steep hillside 8 km up into the Sierra Juarez from the Tlacolula crossroads on the way to Cuajimoloyas. Remote but accessible by car.

Merry modeling the flounciest apron, which is for sale.

This is a small village of about 1,000 people many of whom are rug weavers that do contract work for Teotitlan del Valle resellers and exporters.

Four Aprons For Sale, Below.

Church on the plaza, San Miguel del Valle, open every day but Friday

But the fashion has turned to heavily embroidered flouncy aprons and this is becoming a more substantial part of the local economy. These are aprons for us to dance in, to wear to parties, to adorn oneself in the color Oaxaca is known for. When I come back to Oaxaca from North Carolina in November, I’m going to have an apron party! Or, maybe I’ll have one in NC, too.

Me, Epifania and #3 Flouncy Apron (for sale)

These are aprons with lots of gathers, pleats and tucks embellished with flowers and birds, scallops and pockets. They take hours to make even though they are machine embroidered. They take a seamstress of considerable skill to manipulate and change the threads, follow the curvature of the pattern drawn on cloth. No two are alike.

Work in progress on the sewing machine

I made my second visit to San Miguel just a few days ago with friend Merry Foss. I was on a quest to find an apron for Barbara Anderson. My first visit was a couple of weeks ago on an Envia Tour with Jacki Cooper Gordon, and I decided I needed to go back on my own, take my time to meander the streets and discover other apron-makers. Merry likes to meander just like me.

Barbara Anderson’s apron — SOLD

When Barbara saw that Envia post, she wrote to ask me if I would find her an apron. I did at Epifania’s workshop. Fani and her husband both sew and embroider. This one, that I knew would be a perfect fit for Barbara, was sold. Someone in the village had given Fani a deposit to hold it for her. I said, sell it to me and make another one. She did. A bird in the hand, as they say.

SOLD. #1 apron for sale, size M, $95 USD plus mailing.

Now, full disclosure: The beauty is in the embroidery work. The cost is in the time to create the design and work it at the sewing machine. The fuller the embroidery, the more expensive the piece.  Though, the finish work leaves much to be desired! Across all the workshops and on the best embroidered pieces, seams are unfinished and ragged. No pinking shears or sergers here. The pieces are sewn together quickly, it seems.

SOLD. #2. For sale, size S-M. $85 USD plus mailing.

How to Buy

  • Send me an email. norma.schafer@icloud.com
  • Tell me your name and mailing address
  • Tell me the Number of the Apron that you want to buy.
  • I will send you an invoice that includes apron and USPS priority mailing cost.
  • I will ship between September 17-20, after I return to the USA

Finished seams and dangling threads are a problem for quality control throughout our Oaxaca region. But, these garments — as in many other towns — are made for the local women. It’s the embroidery that matters most to them. Many of these pieces are used for daily wear — washing, cooking, baby-tending, cleaning, going to market. So they get used up fast. Another version of FAST FASHION? Perhaps. Is it up to us to influence the quality of something in order to meet a global fashion demand? What changes in the process?

SOLD. #3 apron for sale, size M-L, $95 USD plus mailing.

Perhaps it’s only gringas like me who want a piece to last, with finished seams, edges that match, dangling threads clipped.

I must confess, this type of fanciful, flouncy stitching is a departure for me, but it has also captivated me. Fun to wear. Frivolous. Brings a smile. The fabric can be a cotton-poly blend, or pure polyester or maybe even rayon. Not the best. Shiny — brillo — is what the women here like. Wash it, dry it fast, wear it again. My tendency is to go for natural dyes and hand-woven cloth. But, I’m smitten.

#4 apron for sale, size S-M, $70 USD plus mailing.

A beautiful hill town with a corner chapel

We arrived in San Miguel del Valle around 2 p.m. Just in time for comida — afternoon lunch. The fare of the day at Comedor Tere — an Envia supported enterprise — was fish. Mojarra to be precise. A whole fish, deep fried but not greasy, served with nopal salad, delicious black bean puree, rice, salad and homemade tortillas, plus a pitcher of fresh guava juice. Total cost for two, 100 pesos (that’s about $5 USD total, $2.50 each).

Tere disinfects everything and I eat lunch with confidence.

Meal of the day, mojarra, tender and moist.

Tere used her interest free Envia loan to expand her hours and offerings, opening a family-style restaurant beyond the carry-out service she used to do exclusively.

Recycled bottle recycling bin. Now that’s creative.

In Mexico and anywhere, I find it’s important to have time to wander villages, meet people serendipitously and see what one can discover. Time and being open to a new experience gives us a chance to explore possibilities beyond the beaten path. It’s the approach I like to take on my tours, too. Keep enough open time to see what and who pops up!

Niche in the church wall. How old is this? Centuries.