Tag Archives: Oaxaca Mexico

Christmas Collage: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Martha, Marianne, and Judy arrive from the city for dinner on December 23 and then we gather at the house of the eighth posada.  Earlier, I go to the local morning market and find a fish vendor from the coast.  We eat organic and fresh talapia, squash, potatoes, carrots, onions seasoned with kumquats, candied ginger, carrots, prunes, dates, and raisins all cooked together in the tagine.  Later, I use the head and bones for stock.

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The posadas continue through December 24, when baby Jesus appears on Christmas Eve at La Ultima Posada, the last posada, which is the grandest and most magnificent of all.

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On the street we meet a young woman and her mother who are originally from Teotitlan del Valle, and now live in Chicago.  She tells us she and her family put their name on the list to host La Ultima Posada ten years ago.  They will welcome baby Jesus in 2014.  The cost to host is about $50,000 USD, which includes a magnificent array of food for three days — enough to serve hundreds, two bands, drinks and refreshments, candles, lanterns, decorations.  She explains to us that it is an honor and a commitment to community and God to be able to do this. They meet with the church committee twice during the year to review details that will ensure a traditional celebration.  Service and community cohesiveness is essential for Zapotec life.  They have lived in this valley for 8,000 years.

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On December 24, I make a last minute run to the village market once more to discover it packed with shoppers and sellers at eight-thirty in the morning.  This is likely the biggest market of the year! Every one presses up to buy fresh moss and flowers from the Sierra Norte to make the creche that will bring baby Jesus to their home, too.

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There is fresh pineapple, bananas, papaya, mandarin oranges, apples, and spiced guayaba (guava). Lilies, roses, and flowering cactus lay on tables ready for plucking. Live chickens and turkeys, feet secure to keep them from flying away, lay subdued, waiting.

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Children hide under their mother’s aprons or eat fresh morning bread or sip a horchata. Who can resist the blue corn tortillas?  Not me.

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Piñatas are an integral part of the baby Jesus birthday celebration.  The market is filled with them on December 24.  Children adore the rain of candy.  Me, I adore the perfectly ripe avocados, organic lettuces and eggs.

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I bump into Janet and Jan, expats from France and Holland who winter here. They eat breakfast at the stand set up in the middle of the market, quesdadillas fresh off the griddle.

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Later, I join my family for the traditional dinner at eight.  Elsa brings homemade bacalhau, there is organic salad, roasted pork leg infused with bacon, garlic and prunes, pinto beans, with plenty of beer, mezcal and wine.  Dessert?  Why tiramisu cake from Quemen bakery, of course!

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Omar entertains Christian.  Lupita entertains Christian.  The children kick the soccer ball and jump on the piles of wool waiting for the loom.  We sip spiced ponche (hot fruit punch) made with guayaba fruit sweetened with sugar cane.  Some will go to the church for midnight mass.  Others will go on to aanother supper at midnight.

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Christmas day presents another dinner feast on Roberta’s terrace, this time a potluck with organic lettuces, Annie’s garden arugula, enchiladas with green salsa, roasted chicken, red wine, fruit salad and Susanna Trilling‘s Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding that Jan prepares.  The patio is filled with flowering cactus and the sunset can’t be better.

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All is well with our world.  I hope your holiday season is spectacular, too.  Feliz Navidad! Gracias a todos.

XmasCollage-37              Our next photography workshop is this summer 2014 for Dance of the Feather.  Find out more!

 

Photography Travel Workshop–Day of the Dead 2010 in Oaxaca, Mexico

Click on the two links below for 2011 photography expeditions. Taking registrations now for

2011 Day of the Dead Photography Expedition and

Summer 2011 Oaxaca Photography Expedition: Market Towns and Artisan Villages.

COURSE DESCRIPTION–DAY OF THE DEAD PHOTO TRAVEL WORKSHOP: October 29-November 4, 2010. Explore the magic and mystery of Day of the Dead – a feast for the visual senses – a six-night, seven-day expedition that immerses you into the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico.  During this annual religious and cultural festival the city vibrates with color, music, and Mardi Gras-like energy.  You will travel with photographer and documentary filmmaker Linda Booker, and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Norma Hawthorne to visit and document the food, religious symbols, people, cemeteries and family celebrations both in the city and in the rural Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle.   By the end of the workshop, you will use your digital SLR camera for visual storytelling and cultural discovery.

This workshop is limited to six participants.

The workshop focuses on the use of color digital photography to capture, record and document the traditions and practices of this ancient pre-Hispanic celebration that has its roots in Aztec culture, mixed with Catholic ritual.    During our week together, we will roam the markets where preparations for home altars and gravesites are made: an abundance of candles, chocolate, bread, candies, fruit, flowers, the favorite food and beverage of departed loved ones.  We will visit the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery to capture elaborately decorated resting places and family revelers, meander city streets to come upon masked parades, visit homes, archeological sites, and enjoy a cooking demonstration.

This workshop is for beginning and intermediate-level amateur photographers who want to learn more about their digital SLR cameras and move more comfortably beyond the automatic setting.  Topics covered include using natural light, composition, night-time photography, capturing emotion, focusing on details, and taking the time to set up your shot.  Learning documentary-style photography is different from walking around and being a tourist!  It means immersion, looking for opportunities to see things from the participant perspective.  You’ll capture people in their natural state, experiment with rituals, family environments, and sense of place.  During the workshop, you will review each other’s work, give feedback, encouragement and gentle critique, as we mix class instruction with being out on the streets.

About Your Workshop Instructor, Linda Booker

Linda Booker is a documentary filmmaker with a keen and creative eye.  Linda’s recent documentary film, “Love Lived on Death Row,” has received high praise from lay and academic audiences when it screened at film festivals and universities across the country.  She is the recipient of a grassroots community screening tour grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and has produced documentary-style videos for North Carolina non-profits and musicians.

After graduating from Florida State University in Tallahassee with a degree in visual communications, Linda Booker spent the next thirteen years as a graphic designer and art director for major publications, including Yacht Vacations, Palm Beach Illustrated, Toy & Hobby World, and Triangle Business Report.  As feature photographer for Yacht Vacations, she traveled to capture images that were published in the magazine.  Her work and interests have taken her to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rica, England, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Grenada, and many locations throughout the United States.

In 2005, after completing the Certificate in Documentary Studies Program at Duke University (Durham, NC), Linda became founding president of By the Brook Productions.   She created and coordinates the ChathamArts Sustainable Cinema Series, a highly regarded and innovative program, along with a local at-risk youth filmmaking program, Shooting4Change.  Her Web site is:  www.bythebrookfilms.com An example of the Shooting4Change project is at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlXbGGj1O6o

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One, Friday: Oaxaca.  Meet at our hotel and gather for an early evening orientation, followed by a welcome dinner. (D)

Day Two, Saturday: Oaxaca.  Meander Oaxaca on foot in the morning, visiting splendid churches and art galleries, photography, graphics arts museums, including Centro Fotographico Alvarez Bravo http://www.cfmab.blogspot.com/.  After a group lunch, you will have the option to travel to the craft village of Arrazola to visit a famous wood carver or continue to explore Oaxaca on your own.  Meet on the Zocalo for evening refreshments.  Dinner on your own.  (B,L)

Day Three, Sunday:  Oaxaca.  After an early breakfast, spend the morning at Abastos Market, then travel to Monte Alban, the extraordinary Zapotec archeological site, followed by an afternoon in the pottery village of Atzompa.  At 7 p.m. we will depart for the majestic Xoxocotlan Panteon (cemetery) for an incredible Day of the Dead experience.  This is a very late evening; we may be out until at least midnight.  Perfect for night photography.  Dinner on your own.  (B,L)

Day Four, Monday:  Teotitlan del Valle. Morning is on your own after breakfast. Depart at noon to Teotitlan del Valle and check-in at your bed and breakfast.  Lunch in the village.  Afternoon visit to the home of Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas, for a rug weaving and natural dyeing demonstration, followed by a visit to famed painter Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez for a discussion and demonstration of his art. Dinner on your own.  (B, L)

Day Five, Tuesday:  Before breakfast, walk to the local village market where Day of the Dead preparations unfold.  After breakfast, travel to Mitla, late Zapotec-Mixtec archeological site and visit village weavers.  After lunch, in the late afternoon, enjoy a special cooking demonstration. Walk to the village Panteon (cemetery) for Teotitlan observance.  Group dinner optional.  (B,L)

Day Six, Wednesday: After breakfast, enjoy the morning to explore the village and surrounding countryside or take a taxi to Oaxaca for a final day of shopping or sightseeing.  This is a free day.  We will meet for a farewell dinner either in Teotitlan or Oaxaca (group choice).  (B, D)

Day Seven, Thursday:  After breakfast, we say our goodbyes and depart.

What You Should Bring

1)     Your energy and enthusiasm

2)     Digital SLR camera

3)     Laptop computer

4)     Software for organizing and presenting images (such as Photoshop Express)

5)     Batteries and battery charger

6)     Memory card(s)

7)     Pen and notepad

Plus, sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat

(Upon registration, you will receive a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list and other useful information.)

Lodging/Accommodations

To keep this trip affordable, we have selected accommodations that are clean and basic.  For the first three nights in Oaxaca, all rooms will be shared, two people to a room; each room with private bath.  The Oaxaca hotel is conveniently located one block from Santo Domingo Church in the central historic district and steps away from great shopping, restaurants, museums and galleries.

For the three nights in Teotitlan del Valle, you will have the option of having a double room with shared bath for the base price of the trip; single supplement with shared bath (add $100); shared room with private bath (add $200); single room with private bath (add $300).  Please indicate your preference.

Cost:  The basic cost for the trip is $1195.00 USD. This includes six nights lodging double occupancy, six breakfasts, five lunches, two dinners, transportation to villages and archeological sites, entry fees to ruins, and all instruction.  Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

It does NOT include airfare, taxes, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals and transportation.

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit ($600) is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by September 1, 2010.  Payment may be made by check or PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After September 15, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before September 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit or $300.  If you cancel between September 1 and September 15, we will refund 50% of your registration, or $600.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com or call (919) 274-6194

Please make your deposit payable to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, and mail it to: Norma Hawthorne, 110 Blue Heron Farm Rd., Pittsboro, NC 27312.  Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  For more information, see:  http://oaxacaculture.com

Norma’s Oaxaca Favorites: A Baker’s Dozen

1.     Museo Textil de Oaxaca, corner Fiallo and Hidalgo, closed Tuesdays.  Ask to meet Eric Chavez Santiago, director of education, for a personal tour.  Take a class if you are in town for a while.

2.   Federico Chavez Santiago Family Weavers for authentic, masterful, naturally dyed rugs at fair trade prices, Francisco I. Madero #55, Teotitlan del Valle, 52-44078 (call ahead to be sure they are home)

3.  Shiatsu massage with Annie Burns, Teotitlan del Valle, 951-1313 009.  She will also come to Oaxaca city.  By appointment.

4.  Remigio Mestas’ Arte Textil Indigena, Macedonio Alcala #103, in the Los Danzantes Restaurant Arcade, for the best Oaxacan textiles handwoven, handspun and naturally dyed by Zapotec, Mixtec, Mixe and Trique tribal groups.

5.  La Olla Restaurante, Calle de Reforma

6.  Nieves Anita in the Teotitlan del Valle market.  Closes at 4 p.m.  Nieves is local ice cream made from fresh fruit, nuts, and grated vegetables.  My favorite  flavor is the one that combines the coconut ice cream with chopped pecans, pineapple chunks, and fresh grated carrot.  Tuna, by the way, is the fruit of the nopal cactus and there is an ice cream flavor for that, too. Second choice:  nieves in the Tlacolula market.

7.  Grill your own carne for lunch in the Tlacolula Sunday market.  Walk back deep into the bowels of the market into the covered building beyond the church where you will find the meat vendor stalls and an aisle of charcoal grill stoves.  Meander and buy a bunch of onions, avocados, a few tomatillos, limes, and fresh tortillas (choose from blue, yellow or white).  Then, buy your meat.  Ask for suave (soft) for the most tender cut.  Put all this on the grill in front of the stand (except for the avocado and lime).  Peel the avocado.  Assemble all into the tortilla, sprinkle with fresh lime juice, roll up and eat standing using one of the vacant stalls for your table top.  If you like, use fresh baked rolls instead of the tortilla (ask for pan por tortas) found just down the long aisle.  Total cost is about $1.75 per person.

8.  Definitely Monte Alban.  Take the tourist bus from Calle Mina.  Ask the Zocalo tourist police how to get there.

9.  Mitla for the ruins and for great, inexpensive handloomed cotton tablecloths, blouses, napkins, shawls.  The REAL market is down the hill from the church and ruins.  The market in front of the church is too turistica.  The Mitla archeological site is different from Monte Alban because it incorporates both Mixtec and Zapotec designs in the carvings.  It is a treasure.

10.  Bertha Cruz woodcarver in Arrazola, Justo Xuana woodcarver in San Martin Tilcajete, and Dolores Porras potter in Atzompa.

11.  Handmade paper jewelry from the Francisco Toledo taller in San Augustin Etla can be found at La Granen Porrua on Macedonio Alcala.

12.  A cooking class with Pilar Cabreras at Casa de Los Sabores.

13.  Comida at El Gran Gourmet Oaxaqueno on Calle Independencia.  Be sure to order the Agua de Pepino con Limon (fresh cucumber and lime juice).

Valentina’s Garden

My friend Annie, known locally as Ana del Campo, lives on the hillside on the other side of the river Rio Grande that runs through town from the presa (dam) throuh the cleavage between two mountains.  We came to visit her some years ago and that is how we got to Teotitlan del Valle.  Annie was the second gringa to connect with a local Zapotec family and be invited to build a home on their land.  A former psychologist, she is an expert Shiatsu massage therapist and has a loyal clientele in the village and in Oaxaca.  One of the treasures and pleasures of coming back to Teotitlan is to enjoy time with Annie, sipping tea, catching up, looking out over the village below from her hillside perch, and then laying down on her mat to give myself and my body over to the expert pressure touch of her hands and fingers in her sublimely tranquil space.  This evening was my third massage of the week — a totally relaxing experience, and I feel I can splurge with this expense because the cost is 200 pesos (about $18 USD) per hour.  As I walked up the winding rocky drive to her brick and stucco casita, the stars sparkled in the sky and were mirrored by village lights below creating a seamless vision of dancing stars with no horizon.   Annie has asked me to visualize who I am in the form of an animal to take as my talisman as a form of meditative relaxation.  I am a gazelle, sleek, agile and grazing.  Annie tells me that my body will respond and become the form that I visualize.

After the massage and to honor my gazelle,  Annie makes me a plate full of salad containing at least four different lettuces, fresh grated beets, cherry tomatoes and bright red nasturtiums from Valentina’s garden.  This is for grazing, she says.  Valentina, who was once Valerie, moved to Oaxaca some years ago from somewhere in el norte and started an organic garden.  She sells her bounty every Friday and Saturday at the Pochote Market in the Arcos, just beyond Santo Domingo Church on Macedonio Alcala.  Annie sprinkled goat cheese and pecans on the salad and topped it with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I followed her lead.  This is the ONLY way I will eat lettuce in Mexico — organically grown and washed in purified water by someone you know and trust.  To top it off, Annie brings to the table a red tortilla, handmade by Esther (Ess-tare) her neighbor, who ground the village grown red maize herself.  Below us, the band is playing its posada repertoire, drum beats, tubas, and saxaphones call out to the night sky.  A firecracker rocket is a shooting star.  I imagine the tables full of revelers eating fiesta tamales with amarillo mole, downing shots of mezcal followed by beer chasers, sucking limes and salt, dancing the slow Zapotec two-step far into the night, men in one line facing the women opposite them, never touching.  The firecrackers pop and the dogs bark in response.  The bray of a donkey punctuates it all.  Tomorrow, Mary and Joseph will move to another home where the cycle repeats the harmony.