Tag Archives: Oaxaca

Artful Aprons of San Miguel del Valle Talk at OLL, January 25

The artful aprons of San Miguel del Valle are an elaborate confetti of embroidered designs. I was invited to give a talk at the Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL) on January 25, 2019 at 5 p.m. Please come! You can read more and register HERE.

Of course, you have to BE in Oaxaca, to join us!

Joining me for the talk are Jacki Cooper Gordon, who is an Envia cultural guide and Mickey Gardner, who lived in the village ecotourism cabins for a month, working with local women.

Hard to decide which one!
  • Textiles as cultural identity, and aprons in particular
  • Aprons as contemporary dress — innovation, adaptation
  • History of San Miguel del Valle and apron-making
  • Economics, production, quality
  • Cultural appropriation or cultural admiration
  • Life in a small Zapotec hill town
  • Where it is and how to get there

I got to San Miguel del Valle because I took an ENVIA tour with Jacki. She knows a lot about the history and economic development opportunities. We will talk about:

Laura and Mary in the workshop

Special Feature: We have invited embroiderers Maria Zacarias Hernandez Hernandez and her cousin Laura Miguel Hernandez to answer questions and to sell their stunning aprons. Maria is a recipient of Envia microfinancing.

Free-form, hand-guided machine embroidery

PLEASE BRING YOUR PESOS. Aprons range in price from 500-1,000 pesos, depending on complexity of design and density of embroidery. There will be about 20 pieces for sale at the OLL on the night of the talk, including bags and napkins. Sales go directly to the makers.

Traje includes two undergarments, one lacy, plus apron
Abuelas prefer a simpler style

May Your 2019 Be Filled with Sweetness: Oaxaca Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe

For the life of me, I could not find a buttercream frosting recipe that uses real, homemade Oaxaca chocolate, the kind made here in the village. Oaxaca chocolate is a dietary mainstay. The cacao beans are roasted at home and then taken to the molino (mill) to grind along with cinnamon, cane sugar, vanilla bean, almonds and perhaps chiles. Each family has their own recipe handed down by the abuelas.

During the grinding, it comes out of the mill as a warm, thick paste and is poured into pans where it solidifies, then cut into two-inch or three-inch cubes large enough to make a pot of hot chocolate (with water, of course) — an early morning and late evening staple, perfect for dipping conchas.

I decided to adapt chocolate buttercream frosting recipes I found online. Most of them call for dark semi-sweet chocolate, or cocoa powder, or chocolate chips. None included Oaxaca chocolate. I know from years of being in the kitchen that it is the cacao butter in chocolate that makes it creamy. With Oaxaca drinking chocolate, you taste the sugar granules. So, I decided to combine four cubes (about 8 ounces) of traditional Oaxaca chocolate with about four ounces of Oaxaca-made Mama Pacha artesanal chocolate for eating — the amount I had on hand. (Here’s how to buy Mama Pacha.)

Swirls of Oaxaca chocolate buttercream frosting

Making a buttercream frosting is easy. It takes about ten minutes once the chocolate is melted. You just need a hand-mixer, a spatula, a spoon, a Pyrex measuring cup and a mixing bowl. The secret is to melt all the chocolate, but cool it to the touch before adding it to the creamed butter. If the chocolate is too hot, the butter will melt and your frosting will be ruined.

Ready for chocolate cake and my homemade pumpkin pie with cornmeal crust

How to Melt the Chocolate: put all the chocolate in a 2-4 cup Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring and cooling for several minutes between each 30-second zap. The chocolate should be combined, soft and paste-like. Put a finger deep into the center to be sure the mixture is not hot.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of cubed Oaxaca chocolate
  • 3-4 ounces of artisanal 70% cacao semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2-1/2 cups of powdered sugar (azucar glace´)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 T. almond milk, plain or vanilla flavored
  • 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
  • dash of salt (omit salt if using salted butter)

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate as described above.
  2. Put butter into medium size mixing bowl. Cream with mixer until smooth and fluffy. Color should be a creamy beige.
  3. Add cooled chocolate and continue to combine into creamed butter with electric mixer.
  4. Add 1/2 the amount of powdered sugar and stir into the chocolate butter mix at lowest speed of hand mixer. Add remaining powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl until all is mixed.
  5. Add vanilla extract and almond milk. Mix in thoroughly.
  6. Chill for a few minutes.
  7. Will frost an 8-10″ layer cake or 12-18 cupcakes.

The Cake:

In Oaxaca we have a Mexican supermarket called Chedraui. The best one is in Colonia Reforma. It has a complete selection of imported products, too, including those that are gluten-free. I am experimenting with a gluten-free and milk-free diet, so I did buy a Betty Crocker gluten free chocolate cake mix and substituted almond milk for cow milk. It turned out to be delicious.

My Zapotec friends raved that this was the best frosting they ever had, too! I confess it doesn’t look like much. Not smooth as silk (because of the granulated sugar). But it is delicious.

Happy New Year.

Winter in Oaxaca, Dog & House Sitting Opportunity

It’s going to be 81 degrees Fahrenheit today in Oaxaca with a low of 55. I have no complaints now after returning here four days ago from very chilly North Carolina, which is not as cold as where many of you live! My bones are warm. Am I trying to tempt you? Yes.

I am seeking a reliable, clean and tidy, culturally sensitive, respectful and mature (this has nothing to do with age) person to stay in my Teotitlan del Valle casita and feed my three adopted dogs two-times daily, morning and night. This opportunity is for ONE person. If I know you, all the better!

Contact me for more information.

I have a Tip Sheet to share with those who are interested. If I don’t know you, then I ask for three references.

Set 1 Dates: Arrive January 30, depart February 14

Set 2 Dates: Arrive February 26, depart March 7

During this time, I am away in Michoacan and Chiapas leading textile and folk art study tours. The dogs must be fed!

Teotitlan del Valle is an indigenous Zapotec village about 40 minutes outside of Oaxaca city in the Tlacolula valley. It is home to 6,000 people, most of whom are tapestry rug weavers. This is a great opportunity to explore Mexico’s amazing weaving culture and live with people who have inhabited this region for 8,000 years. The city is accessible by private taxi, colectivo and buses.

I live on the land of my host family who are weavers. They work exclusively with natural dyes. I do not own the land I live on — they do. I built the casita I live in. And, because this is a Usos y Costumbres village, my casita is legally owned by my family. Being understanding and respectful of this environment is a key ingredient to being here. Relationship and communication are everything.

I am also seeking a dog/house sitter for March 13 to April 13 and April 28 to May 15, 2019

Casita rooftop terrace

Reasons to Come:

  1. Warm your bones!
  2. Giving care to loving animals: Dog-lovers know why!
  3. Practice your Spanish
  4. Explore weaving and natural dyeing
  5. Immerse yourself in local Zapotec culture
  6. Find peace and solace in amazing, pristine, high desert beauty
  7. Write, hike, meditate, retreat
  8. Cost-effective opportunity

This opportunity is for ONE person.

The casita where I live in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Itzel Guadalupe Weaves Her First Rug

Itzel Guadalupe is my sobrina and I am her tia. We have adopted each other. In truth, this fourteen-year old is the daughter of my friend Ernestina who lives down the lane from me. Her name Itzel translates as Star throughout Mesoamerica. Her namesake is the Virgin of Guadalupe, and she goes by Lupita.  There must be millions of women named Guadalupe in Mexico, but this one is very special!

Lupita just finished weaving her first complete rug. Because I am her madrina, Ernestina came to me first to ask me to buy it. This is what happens here and I was happy to say yes as a way to encourage her to develop her artistry, craft and skill. I’d say she did a very good job for the first one. 

SOLD and going to Canada!

My friend Scott, a California expert in tapestry loomed rugs here in Teotitlan del Valle, and one of the original exporters of Southwest Style, said that the weaving is very good and the color palette very pleasing. It is natural color Churro sheep wool with synthetic dyes. 

I took Lupita with me on Sunday for the opening of the Virgin of Guadalupe textile exhibition at the Museo Estatal del Arte Popular in San Bartolo Coyotepec to expand her perspective. It was her first visit to this village.

The show featured finest woven tapestries from Teotitlan del Valle.  In the main floor galleries was an exhibition sponsored by FOFA (Friends of Oaxaca Folk Art) featuring the work of talented young artisans ages 10 to 30 in all media.

Children start playing with yarn here very early. By the age of six or eight, their parents have turned a chair upside down and a child starts weaving warp and weft using the four legs. By the time they are pre-teens, many of them can weave a small rug.  They learn more complex techniques with practice, perseverence and dedication. Weaving on a floor loom where one stands for hours requires stamina. 

At the exhibition, Lupita and I paid special attention to the weaving work done by the young people of her village. We talked about their designs and I asked her if she knew any of them. She does. My hope in taking her was to give her confidence that she could aspire to reach for more.  

I’ve known this young woman since she was two years old. I’ve watched her curiosity and intelligence develop. Perhaps she will go to college and/or become a very accomplished weaver or teacher. She told me her New Years resolution for 2019 was to go to the USA and to make more rugs to sell.

Would you like to buy Itzel Guadalupe’s first rug? $200 plus $15 mailing. I’m bringing it to the USA tomorrow in my luggage. I’ll be in North Carolina for a medical procedure and then return to Oaxaca on Christmas Eve. 

Permanent Resident of Mexico: Green Card Equivalent

Today, after my third trip to Migracion in as many weeks, I picked up my official Residente Permanente card granted by the federal government of Mexico. I was surprised at myself: I couldn’t stop smiling.  I’m thrilled, in fact, to now be an official part of this country I call home most of the year.

That’s not to say that the USA is not my home. I am a citizen, I vote, I take part in my community, I own property that I return to often, my family is there and I have a deep friendship network. I know my final resting place — in Santa Cruz, California, in a redwood grove, next to our mother, the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

There is much to appreciate in these two worlds — Estados Unidos Mexicanos and the United States of America. Neither is perfect. At the moment, I am happy to have focus here away from the turmoil of nationhood that has gone awry in my home country. As a friend recently said, we live in an imperfect world.

There is solace living in a small Zapotec village thirty minutes from a smallish town that is rich in cultural heritage and indigenous traditions.

I made this decision to apply for a permanent residence in September after I was invited to contribute a chapter to a book featuring the voices of women in the United States who have chosen to live in Mexico. I wrote almost 4,000 words about how I first came here, what kept me coming back, and the difference that living in Mexico has made in my life.

As an exercise in self-reflection, I realized how meaningful life here is for me, my relationships with people who come from an 8,000 year old heritage, and how my creativity is energized by the experience.

When I got to North Carolina in October, the first thing I did was contact the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh to make my application and arrange a personal interview. I was welcomed and treated with respect. I know that Mexicans do not have a similar experience when they appear for their appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to apply for a simple tourist visa.

The paperwork required is extensive: one year of printed bank records documenting income to meet a threshold to qualify for this type of visa. I did not tell them anything about me in advance and I did not bring a resume. They must have found this blog and while at the interview invited me to meet with the cultural attache to talk about ways we could work together to educate Carolinians about the artistic and cultural richness of Mexico and her people.  I received the preliminary approval with a stamp in my Passport within two hours.

That was just the beginning. Then, in Oaxaca, on recommendation from friends, I hired German Osorio, a very helpful English-speaking attorney who facilitated another application, payment of a fee, and the series of meetings with officials to complete the process that took several weeks. This included surrendering my Passport for several days, surrendering my Tourist Visa permanently. Without the Tourist Visa, I could not leave the country until the Permanent Resident Visa process was complete.

Not much will change for me with this Permanent Resident Visa, except that the official approval solidifies my commitment to people and place.