My sister and I have assembled these pieces from our collection and to offer for sale. Many are earrings. Some are small and go well in this time of mask-wearing as they won’t get hung up on the ties. The larger pieces are perfect for social distancing al fresco dinner parties with one or two others (who are as careful as you are) with at least six feet separating each of you. I’m picnicking from time-to-time with a trusted friend and feel comfortable removing my mask when I’m sitting at a safe distance. Then, I wear my big earrings and lipstick! Many of the pieces were collected over the past 20 years from various places we have visited in Mexico — Oaxaca, Mexico City, Puebla, Chiapas, Michoacan, and even New Mexico. We want to offer them to you at very attractive prices.
To Buy: Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, and item number. I will send you a PayPal invoice to pay with credit card, adding on $12 for USPS mailing to anywhere in USA. Happy to combine multiple items with one mailing fee.
I left Oaxaca on March 12, 2020, for what was to be a two-month return to the USA, first to visit family in California for a week, and then to check on my North Carolina apartment. I landed in Los Angeles to see my son and brother, with a plan to visit my sister in San Francisco next.
On March 15, the California stay-at-home order started. I was with my son for two months in a one-BR apartment. In the beginning, I ordered face masks for us as we walked in the wildlife preserve wetlands along the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach. Then, I turned my attention to Oaxaca.
What could I do to be useful to help the place I call home for most of the year? That’s when I decided to start The Oaxaca Mask Project to offer face coverings FREE for anyone in need. This was accomplished with help from many Oaxaqueños and gueros who live in and remain in Oaxaca. From April 14 to today (July 3, 2020), I have raised a bit over $20,000 USD through 283 individual gifts. We made and distributed 3,223 face masks throughout the city and villages.
At the request of the Teotitlan del Valle Community President and the Public Health Committee, we purchased and mailed a high-quality vital signs monitor, and donated funds to purchase pulse oximeters, gallons of alcohol and hand-sanitizer. The vital signs monitor helps assess blood oxygen levels as a way to detect covid-19. I asked for designated donations for the very costly monitor and received gifts from Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Dr. Deborah Morris, and Boojie Colwell.
My thoughts are always with Oaxaca regardless of where I am physically located. I continually plug into the public health information to know how our people are doing, and to also help me determine when I will return. I should have been back by now. My plan was to be in my Teotitlan del Valle casita by the first of July. Now, there is no certainty about much and my first concern is to stay safe and have access to excellent medical care, should I need it: Ojala!
I’d like to tell you a little more about the project.
We employed mask sewists in Oaxaca City, Santa Maria El Tule, Tlacolula de Matamoros, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, San Miguel del Valle and Teotitlan del Valle, providing a needed income, in some cases sending 100% cotton fabric when none was to be procured. We sent mask-making instructions and a pattern in Spanish. We crafted the language for hand-tags to be attached to the masks to instruct wearers on use and care. We depended on amazing volunteers on the ground to help with distribution: Kalisa Wells, Alvin Starkman, Cristy Molina Martinez, Kari Klippen-Sierra, Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras, Gail Pellett, Malena Jimenez, Rachael Mamane, Alan Goodin, Eric Ramirez Ramos, Luvia Lazo, Jacki Cooper Gordon and Samuel Bautista Lazo.
We also relied on help from friends in the USA, Canada and Mexico who made masks and sent fabric in late March and early April to jump-start the project. Janet Blaser wrote about the project in Mexico News Daily, too. That helped spread the word and raise more needed funds.
These folks put masks (often repeatedly) in the hands of market vendors, shoppers and villagers in the city and far-flung villages. We covered faces in San Marcos Tlapazola, Santiago Matatlan, San Dionisio, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, San Andres Huayapam. San Agustin Etla, San Martin Tilcajete, Santiago Ixtaltepec and more. With help from the Episcopal Church, we covered faces of people who glean from the Zaachila dump. We covered faces of women entrepreneurs who work with EnVia and taxi drivers and farmers who work with Puente and the healthy food-sourcing project Food-for-All. We got masks into the hands of at risk-youth from Casa de Kids, and IMSS doctors and nurses in two Oaxaca hospitals.
This project has preoccupied me for the last months. I am waiting now for Oaxaca to move from Code Red to Code Green (semiforo system of measurement), as are all of us. We want to return, to live, to visit, to support artisans, and to freely enjoy all that beautiful Oaxaca has to offer. Oaxaca is not ready for us yet. We will go when it opens up. Most importantly, we wish for the health and safety of all our friends.
When will I begin to offer textile tours and workshops? My best answer is, I don’t know. Life now is an improvisation and we are all getting used to it.
*Note: The Oaxaca Lending Library is collecting accounts from members and friends about how we are dealing with Covid-19. This essay was my contribution.
To see more photos, search Oaxaca Mask Project on the site for prior posts.
Lots to report since the last time I wrote about The Oaxaca Mask Project.
The recent 7.5 earthquake in Oaxaca eclipsed news about Covid-19 last week. Fortunately, in the city and surrounding villages, damage was light. The quake was centered near Huatulco along the Pacific Coast, where indeed, some villages suffered.
This week, the Welch-Allyn Vital Signs Monitor arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, a Usos y Costumbres village. Armando Gutierrez Mendoza, a member of the village health care committee, took it to Municipio President Andres Gutierrez Sosa, who received it — our gift to them. Señor Andres sends his thanks to all of us!
Here are photos of the committee opening and using it at the public health clinic.
Four donors made this vital signs monitor possible: Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Boojie Colwell and Dr. Deborah Morris.
A special thanks to Larry Ginzkey who organizes Hoofing It in Oaxaca hiking group. His group of hikers collected and donated $250 USD for The Oaxaca Mask Project.
If you live in Oaxaca or the pueblos and you want to receive and distribute masks to those in need, please let me know: email@example.com
Rachael Mamane from Food for All took 70 masks to Jorge Toscani who is part of a Oaxaca taxi fleet. He told us that they disinfect the taxis regularly and has distributed our masks to all 15 drivers for themselves and passengers. She also took 150 masks to Puente. Rachael is looking for a contact in Ocotlan where she thinks there is an on-going need for masks.
Mama Pacha chocolate is some of the best in the world, I think. It is tempered, which makes it so smooth and creamy — fine eating chocolate rather than the Oaxaca chocolate we know for making the hot drink!
We continue to send masks where requested. We had another request from Macuilxochitl for an additional 100 masks, so Cristy took them over there.
Cristy’s cousin Catalina Martinez, who operates the folk art gallery WA’HAKA, has organized a food pantry in Teotitlan del Valle to help 50 older people. We gave her 80 masks to distribute.
We are slowing down as requests for masks subside. Lately, we are waiting to sew and distribute based on whether we hear there is more need. So far, we have made and distributed 3,119 masks.
I’ll give you more tallies of what we have accomplished in coming days.
Berle Driscoll is moving from New York City to Florida this week. She wrote to ask if we could use more fabric for Oaxaca mask-making — she had a lot of unused cloth! It’s hard for me to turn down an offer like this. I received two boxes yesterday and will consolidate to include colorful elastic cording I will donate to the cause.
Kari Klippen-Sierra has helped immensely. For the past two months she has worked with us to get masks to families and the health clinic in San Andres Huayapam, where she lives with husband Rudy Sierra. She has also made sure that two non-profits operated by the Episcopal church to help at-risk families receive masks. She repeatedly picks-up and distributes!
We need color in our lives right now. I dress up for Zoom and FaceTime calls. It feels good to wear something special and put on a little lipstick! When I go out to walk or to the market (always with mask and social distancing), I put on a colorful Mexican top or dress. Today, I’m meeting a friend for a picnic (six-to-eight feet distance) on a blanket at the North Carolina Museum of Art sculpture park. We then walk in the fresh air along the trails, mindful of others. I’ll wear one of my Oaxaca pieces today, too.
I have listed 23 items from my collection for sale. In addition to clothing, the selection includes napkins, woven bags, coin purses, tea towels.
To Buy: Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, and item number. I will send you a PayPal invoice to pay with credit card. Once I receive your funds, I will mail via USPS to anywhere in the USA. I will add on $12 for mailing to the invoice. Thank you VERY much.
First, a bouquet of flowers for all the dads out there — past, present and future!
The Oaxaca Mask Project is percolating along. We have made and distributed 3,110 masks so far throughout Oaxaca, and continue to do so.
This week Kari Klippen-Sierra will take 150 masks to two IMSS hospitals (public health) in Oaxaca for doctors, nurses and staff. She also gave masks to her village veterinarian who rides around town on a scooter, and to the Juves family. She sends thanks to Dave and Rocio for meeting her for mask transfer.
Alan Goodin continues to distribute masks to Santiago Ixtaltepec where he lives. We have provided almost 100 masks there.
Yesterday, I talked with Jacki Cooper Gordon using Facebook video messenger. She tells me that Envia director Viviana asked us to provide funds to seamstresses in the villages Envia works with sew more masks to distribute. They may need 200 or more.
The Teotitlan del Valle public health clinic received the vital signs monitor on Friday, June 19, that we shipped 10 days ago. They have promised to send photos with the doctors using the equipment.
I have just sent more money to Eric Ramirez in Tlacolula to make and distribute more masks, since the need is still acute.
If some of our distribution channels sound repetitive, well, they are! We continue to give masks to the people who continue to tell us they need more! And, we are happy to do this as long as funds are in the bank! We are getting low, so if you are so inclined, please help.
To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
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Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle