I’m back in North Carolina for a while and it’s time to go through my collection of Mexican folk art, jewelry and contemporary American art pieces. I’m beginning to consider what I no longer use or wear and offer them for sale to you. I’ll be listing an eclectic mix of pieces over the next weeks. Keep your eyes open! They are one-of-a-kind!
Taller Spratling Monkey (Taxco, Mexico) Copper Pendant inlaid with turquoise, with hand-woven copper chain made by a North Carolina artisan. Pendant is 2-1/4″ long by 1-3/4″ wide. Chain is 20″ long. Newer piece. Priced at $145 for both, plus shipping USPS.
William Spratling inspired the Taxco silversmith industry. He researched iconic pre-Hispanic Mexican designs, of which this is one. This is a newer piece with the stamp of the current owners who use the original molds. Shows some wear. Needs polishing.
2. SOLD.Huichol Lime and Turquoise Hand-Woven Cotton Shoulder Bag. This is a double-faced weave, which means you can turn the bag inside out and it becomes reversible. The bag is 9″x 9″ (approx.), with a 1-1/2″ gusset that continues into a 44″ long strap. Bag is woven on back-strap loom by Jalisco Huichol women. $85 plus shipping.
3. A la Frida Kahlo, Handmade Sterling Silver Filigree Earrings with Garnets from Patzcuaro, Michoacan. 2″ long and 7/8″ wide. Length measured from where hook affixes to earring. Add length for hook into earlobe. $95 plus postage.
4. Designer Jay Strongwater freshwater pearl, glass beads, sterling necklace, 16-1/2″ long, and Majorica 10mm black pearl studs, from Saks Fifth Avenue. Sold together. $185.00 plus mailing.
5. Frida Style Handmade Sterling Silver Earrings, hands with drop flowers, rose quartz centers, from top Oaxaca jewelry shop purchased over 10 years ago. They don’t make them like this any more. Size 1-1/2″ long from where hook meets hand and 3/4″ wide. $158.00 plus mailing.
6. Turquoise and Red Huichol Shoulder Bag, handwoven in Jalisco, Mexico, double-faced on a back strap loom. Bag body measures 8″ x 8″. Gusset and strap are 1-1/8″ wide. Strap is 42″ long from where it meets the body of the bag. Turn the bag inside out and it becomes reversible. Inside pocket and tassels on this one. $98.00 plus mailing.
Questions? Send me an email. Want to buy, send me an email with the number of the item, date of this blog post, plus your mailing address. I will send you an invoice that includes mailing costs.
Now that I’m back in my Durham, North Carolina, apartment, people are asking, “What happened to the mama dog and her puppies?”
I guess I need to write an update!
Mamacita. She is a tender, loving puppy mommy and becoming very loyal.
I named the mama dog Mamacita, for lack of any other creative moniker coming to mind. I call her Cita for short. She was a street dog. Cast out. That’s what happens to female dogs. They are unwanted because owners don’t want repeated pregnancies. They also don’t want to neuter their dogs — a financial and cultural issue.
Mamacita has a bad left eye with partial blindness. I presume someone chased her away with a rock and she took a hit.
Sombra (left) and Luz (right) growing up.
Mamacita‘s two babies, just a fistful at birth almost five weeks ago, were white and dark brown. I called them Luz and Sombra, light and shadow.
For the first few days after birth, they lived wild on the land behind my house, nestled in the tall grass shaded by a young guaje tree. Then, I cajoled them into a dog house provided by my friend, Merry Foss, who runs a spay and neuter clinic in the village. By the end of the first week, puppies and mama were living protected in my gated patio.
Dear, wonderful Sylvia, who came to my dog care taking rescue, with Luz.
I fattened up bony Mamacita with twice-a-day doses of chicken soup, beef stock, cooked bones and meat. It was like taking care of a sickly child.
Soon, I had to leave because of work commitments. I sent out the word via Facebook and a blog post. The universe provided.
Dog lover Sylvia Johnson Feldman from Connecticut volunteered to come and house sit, mostly to take care of the dogs. She arrived on July 19. I left on July 20. Sylvia will stay until August 17.
Curious puppies roaming the patio. Sylvia got them colorful collars.
In the next week, the pups will get their first inoculations. Sylvia is making an appointment with the veterinarian who comes from neighboring Tlacolula. Cost for the house call and medications is about 250 pesos.
I’m getting updates from Sylvia along with photos showing how the puppies are weaning, lapping pulverized puppy food and milk. Mamacita seems pleased and domesticated, though Sylvia says she bolts the patio through the iron grill work to run during the early morning hours.
Puppy love, a little nipping, a little biting, dog acculturation.
As soon as puppies are fully weaned, we will spay her. This will likely happen during Kalisa Wells’ watch. She arrives on August 16 to take over for Sylvia.
Both Luz and Sombra have both been spoken for, again via Facebook. Luz will go to a family of alebrijes makers in San Martin Tilcajete. Sombra will go to the sister of a friend who lives in Oaxaca, and will eventually return with her to Washington State. We will send them on their way at about 10 weeks old.
I’ve read it is so important to keep mama and puppies together for at least 10-12 weeks so they have a chance to model behavior. So many are adopted out too early.
An early photo of Luz, under one week old.
I will keep Mamacita if she chooses to stay. With my travel schedule, I’ll have to figure out how to keep her and feed her when I’m not in Oaxaca. All suggestions welcome!
Sombra and Luz are spoken for, will go to good homes. So happy about this.
I’d like to urge you to DONATE to the spay/neuter clinic that Merry Foss operates in Teotitlan del Valle. This is tax-deductible and goes a long way to support dogs and cats, especially the females. With this attention, we can help the animals avoid pregnancy and cut, maybe even end, the proliferation of street dogs, a tragedy throughout all of Mexico.
Spay/neuter costs about $25 USD per animal
Feeding a foster dog costs about $100 USD a bag for 2 months
Flea and parasite treatment costs about $20 USD per animal
Puppy vaccinations cost $20 per animal
No cost for care giving and providing a permanent or foster home!
For me, I took this dog in because of her helplessness, because she is a female, I identified. She has no voice, and there were these two tiny babies depending on her. She could not nurse and hunt for food and water. Not ever having been a dog owner, I learned to give care and compassion to an animal living paw-to-mouth.
Thanks to many of you who have already made a contribution to Merry’s clinic. Thanks in advance to those of you who will.
FYI: Merry has gotten support from Teotitlan del Valle El Presidente Panteleon Ruiz to hold the spay/neuter clinic at his house! This is a major milestone for the village, recognizing the need to control animal reproduction.
Christmas in Oaxaca is magical. In ancient villages throughout the central valleys, indigenous Zapotec people celebrate with a mix of pre-Hispanic mystical ritual blended with Spanish-European Catholic practice.
A moment’s rest. Christmas Posada, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, 2015
They retrace the Census pilgrimage (Roman command to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for Cesar’s census) of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. The posadas in Teotitlan del Valle are held for nine nights, culminating with the last posada on Christmas Eve. Each host family serves as innkeeper for the night, throwing a big party, and welcoming guests into the home.
Cradling Baby Jesus at the altar, Teotitlan del Valle
The procession is elaborate and takes the pilgrims and the litter carrying Mary and Joseph from one inn to the next, through the winding cobblestone streets of the village, touching each neighborhood. Women carrying beeswax candles and children with sparklers guide the way. Altar boys illuminate the streets with candle-topped stanchions.
The last posada, Christmas Eve, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
Copal incense leaves an aroma trail. Church officials send firecrackers skyward to announce the coming of the pilgrims to the next neighborhood. It is solemn, festive and spiritual.
Wishing you season’s greeting with health and joy always.
What could be better than to experience one day of this celebration through the eyes of your camera, with those who lives here? This is a walking study tour, so be prepared to walk, and then walk some more!
When: Friday, December 22 — One Day ONLY
Time: 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. (approximate end time)
Where: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico
Cost: $125 per person includes late afternoon supper
Who is this one-day study tour for? Amateur photographers who have a range of skill, from no experience to mid-level experience, and anyone interested in photo tourism and who wants a more personal travel experience.
Group Size Limited to 8 People: We welcome children and young adults ages 12 and over.
Parking lot, Tlacolula market sky, Sunday before Christmas
You will follow me into the homes of Zapotec families to talk about and observe the celebrations and decorations. You will have plenty of photo opportunities to capture images of people and place. You will take home memories that cannot be duplicated, to be treasured and shared for a lifetime.
Nochebuena flower or poinsettia, native to Mexico, Christmas full-bloom
What You Will See:
Behind the gates, behind the walls, honest village life
Food preparation for special occasions
Homes and altar rooms elaborately decorated for Christmas
Candlelit processions, complete with incense and mysticism
During the day, we will visit several family homes to see how they celebrate Christmas. We will bring chocolate and bread to the altar in greeting, a tradition.
Blessings before the altar at the home of the Patron.
After dark, we will take part in the procession that will carry Mary and Joseph on litters from one home to the next on their recreated journey to Bethlehem.
Photography Opportunities–What You Will Do:
Attend to natural and artificial lighting to get the best shot
Practice street photography on-the-hoof
Request permission from people to take their photos
Discuss photo-taking etiquette, When to ask or not?
Create portrait opportunities with the people you meet
Gain access to family compounds
Point out great photo opportunities
Explore night photography challenges and opportunities
Go home with a portfolio of your experiences
The pilgrims entering the altar room, Teotitlan del Valle
We DO NOT give instruction on how to use your camera. This will not be about camera settings or technical information. You will want to know your camera before you arrive. We will not offer an editing session or instructions on how to edit.
Food preparation area for posada participants
We DO provide a rich, cultural immersion experience, with all types of cameras welcome: mobile phone cameras, film, DSLR and mirrorless, instant, Poloroid, etc.
What to Bring:
Your spirit of discovery and adventure
Extra batteries and charger
Extra storage disks
Optional tripod, if you wish
Notepad and pen
Lodging Options: You may wish to make this a day trip and return to Oaxaca city on the same night. Or you may wish to spend the night in Teotitlan del Valle (or perhaps several). Choose Casa Elena,Las Granadas B&B guesthouse, or La Cupula. Make your own reservations and pay your hosts directly.
Watching the procession go by, Teotitlan del Valle
About Your Photo Walking Tour Leader:Norma Schafer is an experienced amateur photographer who enjoys taking portraits as much as capturing the pulsating world of Oaxaca village life. Her photographs have been exhibited at Duke University, The Levine Museum of the American South, and featured in two chapters of the award-winning book, Textile Fiestas of Mexico (Thrums). She is most interested in the aesthetic of photography, rather than the technical details, acknowledging that to get a good photo, one must know how the camera works first!
The musicians always lead the way, announcing the coming of the procession
How to Book Your Reservation: Send Norma an email to let her know you want to participate. We will send you an invoice to make a PayPal payment to secure your place.
Cancellations: If, once you make your 100% prepaid reservation, and you find you are unable to attend, you may cancel up to 30 days in advance and receive a 50% refund. After that, refunds are not possible. You are always welcome to send a substitute in your place.
Even a blurry photo evokes mood and sense of place
Trip Insurance: We strongly encourage you to take out trip cancellation and medical evacuation insurance. We cannot emphasize enough how important this is when traveling in any foreign country. Since this is a one-day excursion, trip insurance is not mandatory, but highly advisable.
The Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma — is a cultural phenomenon in the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca — Oaxaca’s central valleys. It’s especially true here in Teotitlan del Valle where the church feast day celebration is perfected to an art form.
Leaps and fancy footwork define Teotitlan del Valle’s Dance of the Feathers
If you are in Oaxaca now through the weekend, you will want to come out either today, July 5, or Saturday and Sunday, July 8 and 9, from 2 until 9 p.m. when the dancers will act out the complex story of the conquest, and the battle between the Aztecs and Spaniards.
I’m told that it’s the indigenous people who always win in this version of the story!
Dancing in front of the Moctezuma, who is flanked by Dona Marina and Malinche
Doña Marina/La Malinche represent the same woman and syncretism of modern Mexico. Yet, this is a personal story about conquest, slavery and how a woman became maligned as part of the cultural history.
Skill, athleticism, concentration for dancing
I’ve attended this annual festival almost yearly since 2006, when cousins and nephews of my host family made their three-year commitment to dance in honor of community, religion and customs. Their last dance was in 2009.
They dance this way for up to 12 hours, with few breaks.
This is the second year for the group that is dancing now. They have one more year, and then the feather headdresses are passed along to the next set of young men. This is not a performance, it is a serious act of commitment.
In the church courtyard with sacred mountain Picacho watching over us.
As I sat and then stood, and then wandered around the periphery, I was reminded how much energy goes into this endeavor. And, how energizing it is to give witness to this tradition that has gone on here for decades, maybe even centuries. The entire pueblo comes out to pay tribute and applause.
La Malinche, represents Cortez’ indigenous slave who becomes Dona Marina, convert
This is a pre-Hispanic tradition that was incorporated, like many others, into the Catholic church saint’s day celebrations. In reality, it is an oral history through dance and mime and music.
All come to watch, the abuelos (grandparents) and ninos (children)
Inside the inner church patio, the canastas (baskets) sit, ready to be stored for another year. Young girls wearing traditional dress carried them on their heads the night before. The parade through the streets touches every neighborhood.
Canastas, with notations about neighborhood, mayordomo (sponsor), when made
Onlookers take seats under the corridor for shade
On the other side of the church wall, on the streets surrounding the permanent village market, is a different scene. It’s a carnival. Games, rides, food stands, music compete for entertainment.
Juxtaposition of contemporary and traditional life
This experience is mesmerizing for children. It’s like a circus mid-way or a Midwest USA State Fair.
The kids love it, pure fun, cotton candy, fast, fast.
Take a seat. Grab and go tacos al pastor. Win a teddy bear. Oh, yes, the pastries, ice cream and candy are divine.
This is an intricate web of bamboo scaffolding. See the Dancer, top left.
Back inside the church courtyard, the men are setting up the scaffolding and fireworks for the 10:00 p.m. show. It’s called a Castillo or castle.
It’s a complex structure of bamboo with spinning parts, explosives attached!
And the dancing continued until sunset — puesta del sol — when the church bells rang and the dancers set their headdresses down on the brick floor until the next day.
Dusk brings the snack vendors to feed the fireworks watchers
I couldn’t stay up that late! But, I watched from my rooftop in the distance.
A mile away, I can see the church and flags, hear the delight
About 500 years ago the Spaniards conquered the Zapotecs of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. Many indigenous people died, and it is said that the population was reduced by 90% during the two centuries that followed. From the stories of the battle, this beautiful dance emerged, which is carried out in certain cities in the center of Oaxaca, and is also a part of the Folkloric Festival called Guelaguetza in late July.
Dancers catch their breath, walking in a circle, rattles shaking
LA DANZA DE LA PLUMA, is originally from the town of Cuilapan de Guerrero, a municipality adjacent to the town of Zaachila and the municipality of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan. The dance is as old as Oaxaca culture and still preserved. The main characters are a Moctezuma, a Malinche and the converted Malinche who became known as Doña Marina, plus the two jesters or mockers.
Women watch relatives from under the corridor
Children grab a birds-eye perch to get a better look
Yagul is one of those magical places in Oaxaca that not many people visit. When I first went there in 2005, it was mostly rubble, secreted away up a hill beyond Tlacolula, on the way to Mitla. Access was (and still is) a narrow, cracked, pot-holed macadam pavement.
Stunning view of the Tlacolula valley and beyond
In those intervening years, there has been progressive archeological restoration, with good signage, uncovered tombs, and vistas of the Tlacolula valley that are unparalleled.
Over the rock wall, the valley below
I guess I love this site most because of the caves where the remnants of early corn (maize) was carbon-dated to 8,000 years ago. It tells the story of human kind in Mesoamerica, the resourceful people who developed the edible kernel from teosintle.
Yagul has a ball court, too. About the same size as Monte Alban.
There are cave paintings here, but they are not open to the public. One can only enter by arrangement with INAH and go accompanied with an archeologist.
How old is this cactus? Others, the size of trees, dot hillsides.
I also love it because of the peace, tranquility, the wind on the mountain top, the open spaces with extraordinary views, the ability to walk and climb unfettered by masses of visitors piling out of tour vans, unbothered by vendors selling replicates and fake jewelry.
Judy and Gail descend from the highest platform
Climb to the top of the mountain to discover another tomb. Imagine that you are standing sentry, guarding the trade route between north and south, protecting your Zapotec territory. Once a foot path, the road is now called the Pan-American Highway.
A recently uncovered passageway beneath a mound
Yagul is only about seven miles from where I live. I take friends there who come and visit. In June, Judy and Gail went with me. As I roamed the land, I realized that there has been more unearthed there in recent months: Two entry ways at the top of one of the mounds.
Where recent dig uncovered an entrance
There are lots of mounds in this valley. Most of them are said to be archeological sites waiting to be unearthed. They have been covered for centuries by dirt, rocks, weeds. The Mexican federal government does not have the resources to uncover them all.
Original limestone plaster walls of Yagul
There are a handful of small sites under restoration along this route from Oaxaca to Mitla. Near Macquixochitl is Dainzu, a significant site undergoing restoration.
Wild flowers in rock outcroppings, rainy season
Close to Tlacolula is Lambiteyco with a small museum. When I drive along the road, I see foundations of platforms that could once have been temples.
Courtyard of one of the ancient residences, Yagul
Few stop at these sites. Why? Perhaps because they are not as fully developed as Mitla or Monte Alban. Perhaps because they are not as famous or promoted as heavily. They offer tourists an opportunity to explore and imagine what lies below.
Frog sculpture near the tomb, where you can climb down and enter
Yagul is a great destination for families where most of the area is accessible to walking, hiking and climbing. If you are so inclined, bring a picnic or a snack. Sit under the shade and think about life here centuries ago.
Cactus trunk, woody, strong enough for shelter
It’s worth it to come out here and stay a few days to explore the region — a nice contrast to the city. Stay in Teotitlan del Valle, at either Casa Elena or Las Granadas B&B. Both offer posada-style hospitality at reasonable cost. Hosts can arrange local taxi drivers to take you around to visit the archeological sites.
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of experience developing and delivering award-winning programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, George Washington University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Study tours are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's most stunning artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized, live and work at home where it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited to 12 people for the most personal experience.
Workshops are scheduled according to your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.