Tag Archives: Oaxaca

Mexico in Santa Fe, Nuevo Mexico—International Folk Art Market

Tonight the famed Santa Fe International Folk Art Market opens on Museum Hill to the thrill of all of us who embrace the work created by indigenous people as an expression of self, culture and community. It will continue through the weekend.

On Thursday afternoon, skirting a dramatic downpour of rain, the IFAM officially began with the Parade of Nations around the Santa Fe Plaza. Outstanding artisans from Mexico represented the best of the entire country and her dedication to craft preservation and culture.

From Oaxaca, Isaac Vasquez, and behind Don Jose Garcia and Teresita Mendoza Reyna Sanchez, ceramic sculptors from San Antonio Castillo Velasco

It takes a village. It takes the ingenuity, dedication, years of creative work without the promise of recognition. It takes collectors and appreciators who reward talent by purchasing amazing pieces. It takes the support of NGOs and individuals who give time, energy and resources to step in to help artisans, most of whom speak no English, or may speak some Spanish, and who prefer to communicate in their indigenous language, which is probably their first language.

The International Folk Art Market brings people together from all around the world to celebrate native craft and creativity. It offers a forum to appreciate, understand and applaud.

From Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca, Dreamweavers Cooperative—Txinda Purple Snail Dyes

The parade around the plaza brought tears to my eyes for many reasons. This joining, this coming together in celebration is a marvel. I recognized so many faces from the artisans I know in Oaxaca and Mexico. We waved. We embraced. The crowd responded.

The Market is juried and space is limited. Many talented people from Mexico apply and are not accepted. Space is limited. Most wouldn’t even dream of coming this far because it requires about $2,000 US dollars to fund the travel and expenses for one person. There is an application fee and artisans pay a percentage of sales to the organization, too. And, then, of course, there is the huge obstacle of getting a Visitor Visa to enter the USA.

From Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Porfirio Gutierrez and sister Juana Gutierrez

So this is a special group in many ways.

To be here is to have pride in Mexico, what her people do and create, the tenacity required to get this far, the savvy to be able to translate creative work into an application, the perseverance to risk ridicule and jealousy by peers who wish they could have achieved.

From Pátzcuaro, Michoacan, Nicolas Fabian Fermin and Maria del Rosario Lucas, potters

There are joys for all us derived from being in a community of like people from around the world.

Bienvenidos. Welcome to Santa Fe.

Taking Big Leaps–Dance of the Feather, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Wednesday, July 10, 2019–This group of new dancers start their three-year commitment to church, community and family this year. The most touching moment for me was to be in the home of the Moctezuma, the lead character in the Danza de la Pluma just before they set out to the church plaza to dance for three hours until sunset on July 9.

Grandma raises her hand to make the sign of the cross in blessing

Here I witnessed loved ones bestow their blessings on him. It was like anointing their son and grandson with the benediction of all the generations who came before, offering God’s favor and protection. It was as if all the young men over decades who participated in this sacred dance were present, too. It is an honor and a commitment to perform this service. I am told it is life-changing.

The ritual is repeated year after year, but the first year is a special test for a new group of dancers for their faith, endurance, strength, passion, dedication, coordination and precision. It is also an important exercise in mutual support. Dancers are not individuals. They are part of a team, and it is their team effort that underlies the essence of how this Usos y Costumbres community self-governs.

The Dance of the Feather, which tells the story of the Spanish Conquest from the indigenous point-of-view, is meticulously choreographed. The village symphony orchestra/band knows exactly what to play as the story unfolds. As each step is taken down the cobbled streets to the church, there is a cadence that is repeated in the retelling.

Parents of La Malinche help her prepare

In the altar room at the Moctezuma’s home, family members help each member of the group dress in their costume. This takes time since each element of the dress is an elaborate undertaking.

Dad attaches silk scarves that will fly like wings
Doña Marina, age six, fortifies herself to prepare for three hours of dancing
Grandmothers peel onions and garlic for the barbecue stew

Behind the scenes, another type of choreography takes place. It is the work men, women and girls and boys who do the food preparation and service. Every bit is made by hand. The chickens are slaughtered, boiled and the meat is shredded for tamales.

Each made by hand memela is the blessing of a woman’s hand
Drinking tejate — muy rico — a pre-Hispanic tradition

The toro (bull) is slaughtered and prepared for barbacoa de res. The tejate is stone ground by hand, with home roasted cacao beans. Can I talk about the memelas? I’ve never tasted anything so good — comal toasted corn patties, slathered with bean paste, fresh salsa, shredded Oaxaca cheese, a drizzle of shredded lettuce.

Natividad serves memelas to a guest

We feed each other because we take care of each other. Our survival and continuity depends on it.

This is a hallmark for Teotitlan del Valle and other Usos y Costumbres communities in Mexico. They function so well because of this bond. Mutual support is about respect for heritage and relationships. You do it because it is a value to the self, the other and makes the whole stronger.

Moctezuma flanked by La Malinche (L) and Doña Marina (R)

The dancers who participate in the Dance of the Feather embody these values, embrace them, practice them and model them for others.

Taking big leaps — the strength and prowess of the dancers

The dancing will resume again in the church courtyard on Friday, July 12, at 5:00 PM. Check Oaxaca Events for schedule and other festivities around town.

Village officials and guests offer support — feather crowns on the patio during a rest

As I said goodbye to family members of the dance group, they asked me to tell you how important their culture is to them, how they want to communicate the beauty and friendship of Mexico, and how strongly they are committed to preserving traditions, and extend an invitation to visit.

Church is symbol of faith — but the commitment comes from the heart
Clowning around with the Clown character — symbol of Aztec spy

There are two clown figures included in the Dance of the Feather. They serve multiple functions. Primarily they are the dancers’ helpers, holding crowns when a scarf needs to be retied, bringing water and rehydration drinks, communicating with the officials when a bio-break is needed. They also are jesters that provide fun, frivolity and antics to the story — a diversion of sorts.

They will tease and cajole audience members, like me. Jajajajaja. In the original story, they are the Aztec spies who disguised themselves to get close to the Spanish conquistadores and bring information back to the Aztec generals. There were two battles with the Spanish. The Aztecs won the first.

The Dance of the Feather Begins in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Today is the official start of Teotitlan del Valle’s Dance of the Feather, or Danza de la Pluma. It is a perfect example of how our village celebrates community with a promise and commitment by young people to their people, their church, their history and their culture.

The celebration honors the 16th century church, Templo de la Preciosa de Sangre de Cristo and its central part of village life.

16th Church rises above Zapotec temple base. Stones used for church walls.
Sacred mountain Picacho seen from church steeple
A beautiful day from the top of the Teotitlan del Valle church

5 PM on Monday there was a convite (procession) that began at the home of the Moctezuma and went to the church courtyard. It then processed through all five sections of the village and returned to the church. Highlights included young women dressed in traditional traje (garments) holding canastas (baskets) on their heads adorned with religious images.

Corona (crown) of the Moctezuma with turkey feathers, representing Quetzalcoatl

The young men and two girls who form this new Dance of the Feather group are dressed in their plumed headdresses, carry rattles, and wear clothing that suggests the syncretism of Mexico, the mix of indigenous, Aztec and Spanish conquerors. The dance itself is a representation of the conquest from the indigenous point-of-view.

A procession around the church courtyard before entering the church for blessings.

On Tuesday (today, July 9) at around 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. (I’m told), the dancers will begin in the church courtyard. On Wednesday, they will start around noon and continue until about 8:00 p.m.. Festivities continue throughout the week with a carnival fair surrounding the market.

The Mexican ram

By luck and serendipity, several events happened before the official celebrations begin. It happened because we set out from my casita Saturday on foot instead of traveling by car. In the church courtyard, a group of musicians were forming. They invited us to join them on the church rooftop for a symphonic concert. We climbed up the narrow, winding carved stone bell-tower where they would play to mark the official start of the celebration.

360 degree views of the Tlacolula Valley and Teotitlan lands
A slice of life from the winding stone church stairwell — escalera de caracol

From the top of the church, one can see and be heard for miles. Everyone knows what these annual rituals mean. It is embedded in life here.

Traditional and ancient Zapotec flute, sounds like a clarinet … sort of

After walking down to Tierra Antigua for lunch, we made a stop at Casa Viviana before heading home. Viviana Alavez is a Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art, known for her ornate hand-made beeswax candles. My friend Chris wanted to buy some to take to her new home in Ajijic. The longer, thicker ones weren’t available. They are for the Danzantes celebration, we were told.

Chris and Ben at Casa Viviana candlemakers

As we were leaving, my friend Natividad appeared in the doorway with her baby daughter Esmeralda. I asked her what was going on down the street under the big tented courtyard — always a signal for a fiesta. It’s the home of the Moctezuma, the lead character/dancer for the Dance of the Feather, she said and invited us to come over. Another grand surprise, my comadre Ernestina was there with daughter Lupita, and lo and behold, Viviana was participating in the food preparation, too.

Making masa mixed with cacao for tejate — at it for five hours

We were invited to the Sunday morning mass to bless the dancers at the church and then come back to the house for breakfast. What a surprising and great day!

Breakfast is hot chocolate and sweet bread — dunk in the chocolate for yummies

This is the early part of the celebration, when the family and closest friends come together in private ceremony. The abuelas enter the altar room to offer their special benedictions to the young people — another way to carry-on tradition, handing it from generation-to-generation, in a tribute to succession and respect.

Home altar here is more important than the church for Zapotec ritual of thanksgiving and appreciation. After the church ceremony, the head of household gathers everyone in the altar room for prayer in both Spanish and Zapotec, thanking God for family, community and continuity. This is cultural preservation at its best!

The cooking fires — how food is made in Teotitlan del Valle
Amulets, rattles and feathers on the altar, an offering to God, community and church

We then sit down to a breakfast of homemade everything — in abundance: black beans seasoned with epazote, hot chocolate, bread, fresh from the comal stone-ground tortillas, salsa. Later for lunch at 5 p.m. there will be Seguesa de Pollo, a tasty stew of organic chicken mixed in a seasoned mole amarillo (yellow chile sauce) thickened with toasted and rough ground maize (corn).

It takes a village to cook for the minions, including famous Viviana (right).
Eating Seguesa de Pollo. We use tortillas for spoons here!

Let the festivities begin.

The abuelitas — the little grandmothers, friends for a lifetime
At 4 a.m. men start the toro slaughter, to become barbacoa and consumé on Wednesday
We know where our food comes from — teaching the children (Arnulfo, left, Rodolfo right)

It is an honor and privilege to live here and participate in these rituals. Tomorrow I leave to attend and volunteer at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in New Mexico, and meet up with long-time friends. Then, I’ll continue on to California to visit my son, sister and brother. I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Thank you for reading and following! I’ve been writing this blog for 12 years. It’s been an amazing process, always filled with new experiences to share.

Teotitlan del Valle daily market from the church steeple

More … My Oaxaca Tienda Sale

I’m leaving for the USA on July 10 and I’ve made a second loop through my collection to offer a few more pieces for sale here. I’m now a size small-petite and most of these artisan made clothes are size large and extra large. Most are new, never worn, bought directly from artisans who asked me to help them. Personally curated!

Purchase must be made by Monday, July 8 to get into my luggage. I will mail from USA.

How to Buy: I have numbered each garment with price. Please send me an email norma.schafer@icloud.com and tell me which piece you want by number. Include your mailing address. I will send you an invoice and then bring the piece with me to mail to you after July 11. Mailing cost of $8 USD per package will be added. For Canada shipments, add $30 USD.

#1. Las Sanjuaneras, San Juan Colorado huipil, soft hand-spun native creamy white and coyuchi cotton woven on the back-strap loom, $325 USD
#2. Blusa, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, hand-embroidered collar, back-strap loomed, $115
#3. San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas, blusa, $85
#4. SOLD. Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas Gala Blusa, $225 USD, finely woven
#5. Michoacan, needlepoint cross-stitch, $185
#6. SOLD. Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, white on white gauze weave. Small head opening. $95.
#7. SOLD. Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Hand-embroidered, $125
#8. SOLD. Amusgo, Oaxaca, $75 USD
#9. Amusgo, Oaxaca. Gauze weave with supplementary weft, $145.
#9. Khadi Oaxaca Quechquemitl, native coyuchi brown cotton, handwoven, $95

My Oaxaca Tienda: Sale

I’m leaving for the USA on July 10 and as is my custom before I go back, I loop through my collection and offer a few pieces for sale. I’m now a size small-petite and these beautiful clothes are large-extra large. They are never worn or gently worn, perhaps a couple of times.

How to Buy: I have numbered each garment with price. Please send me an email norma.schafer@icloud.com and tell me which piece you want by number. Include your mailing address. I will send you an invoice and then bring the piece with me to mail to you after July 11. Mailing cost of $8 USD per package will be added. For Canada shipments, add $30 USD.

#1. Santiago Jamiltepec blusa, backstrap loomed, cotton with embroidery, $68 USD
#2. SOLD. Las Sanjuaneras huipil, San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, hand-spun and woven cotton, natural dye with oxidized pomegranate, $285 USD
#3. SOLD. Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca, from Dreamweavers cooperative, woven by Amada, with coyuchi native cotton, indigo and caracol purpura shell dye, $325 USD
#4. SOLD. From Remigo Mesta’s shop Los Baules de Juana Cata, back-strap loomed, cotton gauze, shimmering turquoise and rich brown colors, $165
#5. SOLD. Amantenango, Chiapas, cotton blouse, smocked, embroidered, $65 USD
#6. SOLD. Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, machine embroidered traditional blouse, $135 USD
#7. Puebla Mountains, embroidered and smocked blusa, fine detail, $155 USD
#8. SOLD. San Juan Colorado cooperative Jini Nuu, back-strap loomed blusa, $110 USD