Tag Archives: North Carolina

An Immigrant to Mexico, Not an Ex-Pat

This year, I will live in North Carolina for only a few weeks. I will be here to vote. That is mostly why I bought my apartment condo in Downtown Durham, though you could say I could vote absentee ballot.  But to do that, you need a permanent address. A post office box will not do.

I’m prompted by this fact to remind myself that I am a Mexican immigrant and not an ex-pat. I will explain.

Read this important definition: Ex-Pat or Immigrant

I am here, too, because I have good friends, dear family and a need to have one toe in the water, even though the water now is scalding hot. We are getting burned.

You haven’t heard from me in a while and there’s a reason. My return to Durham was interrupted by Hurricane Florence and the aftermath of clean-up and tragedy, babies loosened from the arms of their fleeing mothers, ripped away by the torrents of rushing water, lost forever. The news captured me. Saddened me.

Then, the drama of the Senate Judiciary Committee interviews of Christine Blasey Ford and a Supreme Court Justice nominee called Kav permeated every fiber of my being. I watched the entire day of testimony from start to finish. Big mistake.

Now, I’m in recovery, big time. I’ve been in near isolation for three weeks. Not much to write about, it seems, in comparison to the big events called politics in the United States of America. I understand why people want to escape. Go on a cruise. Eat ice cream. Not vote. The aftermath disgusts me.

SOLD. intricate embroidered blouse, San Bartolome Ayautla. $265. Size L-XL

In the meantime, I was asked to write a chapter for a book about ex-pat women from the USA who moved to Mexico. Did we flee a god-forsaken nation hell-bent on self-destruction or what?

I procrastinated. Then, I finally sat down to write it. As soon as it’s published, I’ll share it with you. But the most important kernel for me is that I came to realize I’m an immigrant, not an ex-pat.

The distinction is subtle and also simple. The standard definition: An ex-pat lives outside her/his home country. The standard definition: An immigrant claims their adopted country and intends to live there indefinitely.

Immigrants put down roots and embrace the culture, consider that the place they have moved to will always be home. Makes some attempt to learn the language and interact with the local community. Realizes that humility goes much further than arrogance. Defers to local customs. Waits for acceptance.

Ex-pats in Mexico are snowbirds, needing a warm and affordable place to spend the winter. Ex-pats might also be those testing the waters of retirement, determining where to live on a fixed budget that will stretch farther. They are far away from home in the USA or Canada, but for most, replicate that sense of home in a new place, sequestered in gated communities, attached to tennis clubs and those who speak the same language.

If I am being judgmental, please share your opinions.

This discussion gave me pause to think about where I fit in the definition, and part of the ultimate question we all must ask ourselves from time to time: Who am I? Where do I belong?

I’ve been part of Oaxaca for 13 years. Not so long in the scope of my life. But long enough to know it is home and I will live there indefinitely.

Next Monday, Omar arrives. He is the youngest of the Chavez Santiago children. He is bringing beautiful hand-woven rugs for sale and teaching cochineal dye workshops. After Durham, we are going to Philadelphia together where he will be hosted at five different venues. You’ll hear more.

Then, for me, I’m back to Mexico on November 8. After I’ve voted. It won’t be too soon.

 

Long Day, Soft Landing to Oaxaca, Mexico — City Mouse, Country Mouse

Life is bimodal. I’m a city mouse in Durham, North Carolina, and a country mouse in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Federico says I’m an honorary Zapoteca although I can only say hello and raise a toast in his native language. For the time being, I travel back and forth, with roots in both places with small spaces.

Durham condo life in a restored tobacco warehouse downtown

This is my second day back at the casita in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. It was perfect timing to return. North Carolina was becoming so hot and sultry that it was impossible for me to walk just a mile to the downtown from my loft condo and live without air conditioning. I’ve only lived in the South for 30 years, unlike my native Tar Heel friend Hettie who can’t stand any temperature under 72 degrees F.

Country mouse comes home to Teotitlan del Valle

For the last two nights here, I’ve been sleeping with windows open, fresh air, cool breezes, temps in the mid-70’s. Close to heaven, so to speak.

Tia and Mamacita, always happy to walk with me

The three dogs didn’t skip a beat after my being absent for three months. I was greeted with licks and nudges for petting. Yesterday, I spent most of the time taking photos and nesting in the terrace hammock looking at views, pinching myself.

First limes ever this season, rooftop garden

My house sitter and dog caretaker Janie surprised me with an amazing cactus garden she designed and planted in front of the casita, and vases everywhere filled with fresh flowers. Quite a homecoming!

Fresh flowers everywhere, a welcome home gift from Janie

This is my thirteenth year here. For some reason, I expected culture disconnect but I eased right back into being here. I took the dogs for a two-mile walk out to the far reaches of the village borderlands.

Toros resting in the shade, walk through the campo

Today, after an hour stroll around our daily morning farmer’s market, I set to work in the kitchen making Korean kimchi, adapting the recipe to locally available ingredients.

In the country surrounded by green mountains, fertile valleys

I am far from the craziness of US politics but BuzzFeed keeps buzzing and the New York Times online is within reach. There will be a march here in Oaxaca on Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the US Consular Agency to protest government zero tolerance policies that ban Latino immigrants and separate families — starting at IAGO. I’ll be there.

Efficient city kitchen, Durham, NC — Mexico touches everywhere

Country kitchen clutter, Oaxaca, Mexico — US touches everywhere

I wondered when I entered Mexico through Immigration on Thursday night if I might be treated differently, more disdainfully and with suspicion because of these US policies. But, Mexicans are kinder and gentler and I was welcomed back, again.

South Bend, Indiana friends of more than 30 years

This past week was a time of reconnecting with long-time friends in South Bend, Indiana, some of whom I haven’t seen in 30 years. It’s where I lived, raised my family and started my university career.

In the Teotitlan market, $2 USD for a dozen roses

After taking a bus and then taxi from South Bend to Chicago O’Hare, I boarded Aeromexico to connect in Mexico City and take the last flight of the day to Oaxaca. This was a smooth and easy way to get from the US to Mexico. Thankfully, there were no hurricanes.

Mex dogs chilling on the patio. In Durham, outdoor life is on the streets.

My only advice in Mexico City is get to Gate 75 early and watch/listen for the boarding announcements. Most commuter flights within Mexico leave from this gate. They board and depart faster than you can say Buenas Noches.

Janie helps Juanita make fresh beet, carrot, pineapple juice cocktail, 30 pesitos

At the South Bend Farmers Market, breakfast for $4.95 … still

Omar’s Discovery Tour: A First Visit to the USA

Omar Chavez Santiago is twenty-four years old. He is a weaver and natural dyer from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. Last year, he graduated with a degree in industrial engineering after studying for four years at Anahuac University in Oaxaca. He is at a cross-roads.

Fayetteville, Lillington, Coats, NC friends give Omar a warm welcome in Durham. Thanks Becky, Robin and Debbie for your support.

Does he pursue a professional engineering career and move to Monterrey or continue in the generations-old family tradition of his Zapotec culture?

On March 1, 2017, Omar went to Mexico City for an interview appointment at the US Embassy to follow-up on his visitor visa application to enter the USA. He is male. He is young. We didn’t know what his chances would be. Slim, I thought. Very slim. So few are allowed to enter.

I wrote my Congressman G.K. Butterfield ((D-NC) to ask if they would send a message and alert the Embassy staff that Omar would be there on March 1 to present a letter of invitation from me and Wendy Sease, owner of INDIO Durham. We invited him to give a presentation and sale of the family’s 100% naturally dyed wool rugs in early April.

List to this GistYarn Podcast with Omar Chavez Santiago

Omar, age 24, has been weaving since he was eight years old.

An alert is different from a request to approve. No one interferes with US Embassy immigration decisions. An alert just says, Look out for this applicant. I guess they did. At the end of the short interview, Omar was awarded a 10-year visa. Ojala.

Discovering La Superior Carneceria y Super Tienda, Durham

Three weeks later, the paperwork arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, and Omar arrived in Durham, North Carolina on March 28.

I started calling this Omar’s Discovery Tour because everything was new to him. Exciting. Inspiring. Being here gave him the chance to see that what Galeria Fe y Lola creates in Oaxaca is linked to the home goods fashion cycle in the USA, where most of their clients come from. It connected the dots.

A walk through Duke University with Jacob and Hettie.

He discovered that design and color preferences change according to season. Texture and palette compliment. He saw traditional and contemporary side-by-side. He saw cities and farmland. Innovation and comfort. The edges where his countrymen and women live beyond the chi-chi neighborhoods, shopping in grocery stores named La Superior Carneceria or Compare or Tienda Mexicana Guadalupana, where life is familiar and safe. He heard an earful about politics, leadership void and political discontent.

A walk through Duke Gardens with Jacob

Omar thinks we are organized, tidy, friendly, and open to opportunity. (Of course, we know this is NOT a universal truth in the USA.)

Lime bikes propagate in downtown Durham. Take a ride.

He likes that people here greet him with a smile, that cars stop for pedestrians, and he can ride a Lime Bike on the American Tobacco Trail all afternoon for a few dollars, followed by beer and bonding at Ponysaurus with Jacob and Kathryn. He likes that we recycle (some of us). And, he can put on his jogging shoes and run for miles on groomed paths and streets.

Wow, there are REALLY good goat tacos here, just like in Mexico

It got to the point after the first week that he could rank order the best hamburgers in Durham after tastings at many restaurants. In retail shops, he was invited to sit down in a comfy chair or sofa, offered refreshment, and an invitation to kibbitz informally. He saw that deep friendships can be formed well beyond the inner circle of family.

A talk and cochineal dye demo at Echoview Fiber Mill, Weaverville, NC

Then, we went to Asheville and Weaverville, where the fiber arts community welcomed Omar for a cochineal dye demonstration and exhibition. We ate at Buxton Hall Barbecue and White Duck Tacos, and walked the downtown going in and out of fine art and craft galleries. He was mesmerized by the creativity. We slept in a cozy Arts & Crafts Cottage on the Blue Ridge Parkway hosted by Laura and Bryan.

100% naturally dyed churro wool rugs from Galeria Fe y Lola

Omar began to imagine that his dreams could become a reality. He began building new dreams. By the time he went home on Saturday morning after almost three weeks here, he was excited and inspired to create new designs, incorporate new business ideas, capture on cloth that which captured his imagination, and incorporate elements of traditional Zapotec motifs with new energy.

I wish we could give this opportunity to other talented young Mexicans who have dreams, who want to create and add value to their country.

Making the presentation at Echoview Fiber Mill, in collaboration with Local Cloth

Cochineal dye demonstration at Echoview Fiber Mill

I feel much this way when I go to Mexico. I see that families are tightly knit, where ancient ritual gives meaning to life, how reverence for the elderly shapes  continuity, how people take time to be with families and celebrate together.

Art at the Durham Museum Hotel

Travel broadens and opens us up to more than new experiences. It gives us something intangible, a new neural pathway to exploration, learning, becoming. It gives us an opportunity to befriend, to connect and to live expansively with meaning.

Taking a break at Ponysaurus Brewing Company, Durham

It was twelve-and-a-half years ago when I met Omar’s brother Eric and sister Janet in the Teotitlan del Valle rug market. They were both students, not knowing where their paths would lead. Omar was not quite twelve. Through mutual support and effort, our lives were changed.

Thanks to all who supported Omar with a purchase!

Laura and her family with Omar in Asheville

There are many people to thank for making Omar’s Discovery Tour possible: parents Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellenas in Teotitlan del Valle; Wendy Sease, Hettie Johnson, Jacob Singleton, Kathryn Salisbury, Karen Soskin, Steve Haskin, Nick and Rochelle Johnson in Durham; Laura and Bryan Tompkins, Judi Jetson with Local Cloth, Grace Casey-Gouin at Echoview Fiber Mill in Asheville and Weaverville, and our friends everywhere.  Thank you.

We are talking now about when he may return.

 

Galeria Fe y Lola Oaxaca Rugs + Tapestries in Durham, North Carolina — All Weekend

A snapshot of Galeria Fe y Lola rugs and tapestries on exhibition today through Sunday at INDIO in Brightleaf Square, Durham. Color. Quality. Sustainable. 100% natural dyes. Meet Omar Chavez Santiago and hear about how they are made in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. Please Share!

Zinacantan, Chiapas Flowers at North Carolina Textiles Trunk Show

We would appreciate it if you would SHARE on Social Media and send on to your friends. I have over 100 garments and 30 pieces of jewelry to sell in addition to 22 fabulous Galeria Fe y Lola tapestry rugs and Montaño Family handbags.

We will be at Echoview Fiber Mill, April 12, 4-8 pm — Weaverville, NC, presented by Echoview and Local Cloth!