Tag Archives: Oaxaca

Bringing Oaxaca Textiles to You: Las Sanjuaneras Cooperative

Oh, dear, I thought. We have a textile tour to visit the cooperatives on the Oaxaca coast this January 2021. What if we don’t get there because of Covid-19? The best I can do now is bring them to us until we know if we hold this tour … or not. I contacted Las Sanjuaneras in San Juan Colorado, a pueblo located in the coastal mountains near Pinotepa Nacional. Why? Because they weave exceptionally fine garments AND they have no Internet presence for online sales — no website, no Instagram, no Facebook. They need our help.

Las Sanjuaneras weaving cooperative

15 Gorgeous Hand-woven, Naturally-Dyed Textiles for Sale

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

So, I contacted Ana Paula Fuentes from the CADA Foundation. She worked with the group in the past. I selected garments from photos she sent via cooperative leader Camerina Cabrera and I prepaid shipping so Las Sanjuaneras would have no out-of-pocket expenses. As soon as the pieces sell, I will send funds to them via Western Union. It’s a win-win for all of us.

SOLD. #2. Maker: Delfina Quiroz. Dyes: nanche, indigo, almond. 38″ wide x 39″ long. $295
SOLD. #4 Maker: Brisaida. Dyes: Indigo and ferrous oxide. 34″w x 41″ long. $295

Here’s some background about Las Sanjuaneras sent by Ana Paula to share with you:

Five weavers started Las San Juaneras in the year 2000 — 20 years ago, in the Mixtec village of San Juan Colorado on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica region where 80% of the women are back-strap loom weavers and spinners. Today, their membership has grown to 16 women. Most are younger, invited by the elders to join them to keep their traditions vibrant, to become stronger, to share ideas, and to encourage and support one another.

SOLD. #5 Maker: Catalina Garcia Nejia. Dyes: wil marigold, mahogany bark. 34″ w x 41″ long. $265

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

#6 by Margarita Nicolas Hernandez. Dyes: guava, wild marigold, Brazil wood, beets, ferrous oxide. 37″ wide x 43″ long. $325

In September 2017, Ana Paula with Maddalena Forcella were invited to collaborate with the group to build their creative competency, design innovation and quality. Their goal was to differentiate their weavings from others in the community and to create a more cohesive team. This included integrating the younger women and developing skills to transform lives in a positive, healthy and sustainable way. The important by-product was to revive and reinforce their traditional techniques and empower the community through shared knowledge.

SOLD. #7 by Delfina Quiroz. Dyes: Brazil wood, mahogany, guava, beet. 34″w x 36″ long. $295.
SOLD. #8 by Delfina Quiroz. Dyes: indigo and nanche. 34″ w x 38″ long. $265.

They dye the native wild cotton that grows in the region themselves using only native plant materials — flowers, fruit, wood bark. They buy coyuchi cotton and the purple shell-dyed (caracol purpura) cotton from others in San Juan Colorado and Pinotepa de Don Luis.

Sold. #9 by Brisaida Garcia. Dyes: indigo & coyuchi. 31″ w x 45″ long. $285.
Indigo-dyed cotton. Las Sanjuaneras. Photo by Ana Paula Fuentes.
#11 by Camerina Cabrera. Dyes: indigo & nanche. 31-1/2″ w x 34″ long. $195.
Sold #13 by Camerina Cabrera. Dyes: indigo & natural cotton. 35″ w x 41″ long. $195
SOLD. #14 by Aurora Nicolas. Dyes: almond bark, indigo. 35″ w x 36″ long. $225

The garments represented here are some of the finest workmanship I am aware of in all of Oaxaca state. I hope you find something you will enjoy collecting and wearing. And, on behalf of the women, thank you for your help and support.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

SOLD. #15 by Brisaida. Dyes: mahogany, marigold, indigo. 37″ w x 40″ long. $225
SOLD. #16 by Maria Ines. Dyes: mahogany, wild marigold. 36″w x 38″ long. $295.
#17 by Camerina Cabrera. Dyes: indigo, wild marigold. 21-1/2″w x 44″ long. $165.

All these garments are made with natural cotton native to the Oaxaca coast. The cotton is cleaned, beaten, and hand-spun using a malacate drop-spindle. Then the threads are dyed in the dye bath before they are put onto the back-strap loom. The process is labor-intensive and painstakingly precise. This is the work of women (and some men are now learning) that goes back centuries, millenia! Most learned to weave starting at age eight. Only a few are masters at spinning.

Las Sanjuaneras weaver. Photo by Ana Paula Fuentes

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

From My Friend Winn in Oaxaca: Inside and Out

This just came to my inbox. I can alway rely on Winn to report about what it’s like on the ground in Oaxaca. These are extenuating circumstances! I told her, “This is so beautiful. So stunningly clear. So eloquently expressed. I am in awe of your ability to write from your heart to say what you will. A reflection that expresses the feelings of many of us.” And, I asked her permission to post it here. She agreed.

24 July 2020

And life goes on … in the time of cholera, no, Coronavirus. We will all remember this time, and mark our milestones as “just before lockdown,” or “during our time at home,” or “once we could finally travel again,” certainly.

My time continues in Oaxaca. Been here since the first week of February. My phone app tells me I’m still booked to fly back to NM [New Mexico] on August 19, the first day that international flights are promised in and out of Oaxaca. But now, when I check for updates, it is with a shrug of the shoulders and a “we shall see what we shall see” attitude.

In my Jalatlaco house, I have my “entertainment stations.” There’s the comfy red chair with its lamp and a spot for the cup of coffee, for reading. (My pile of books-in-process right now includes Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer, Paul Theroux’s On the Plain of Snakes, and Jane Smiley’s Moo.) There’s the splayed-out cardboard duct-taped together to make a smooth flat surface and laid atop the twin bed in the downstairs bedroom, for puzzle-making. There’s the lawn chair in the driveway-garden area with a turned-over wooden box for the bottle of water, for playing solitaire or listening to podcasts or checking news, email, or WhatsApp messages on my phone. There’s the table for breakfast or playing Cribbage with Phyllis or more reading. There’s the other comfy red chair with remote controls and laptop close at hand for the hours of binge-watching (love those Korean series!) and dining alone in front of the TV. There’s the outdoor garden where I water and trim plants that are bursting forth in this lovely weather. And I just move among those stations throughout the day, after my morning walks out into Centro for necessities (mostly comestibles and cash). Upstairs, my stations are for daily-elementals tasks—toothbrushing, showering, laundry, and of course, sleeping.

The other day, my neighbor Judi drove me to Home Depot to get a new pump for the garrafon (the 5-gallon water bottles that everyone uses for drinking-cooking water). It was my first time in a car since Judi and I went grocery-shopping in early June, and only the third or fourth outing since mid-March. Never again will I take for granted the luxury of being able to drive wherever I want to go, and the feeling that everything I want or need is within reach because I can simply get behind the wheel and go get it or see it or visit it. Yes, of course, I could get a taxi, but they are high-risk ventures these days, possibly loaded with contagion, so I walk … and walk … or just stay home, where I have control and feel safe.

The other day, as I walked across Llano Park toward the neighborhood grocery store, I saw a lone man doing tai chi. An old man, moving with some stiffness but with beauty and tranquility. I slowed my pace, and then as we made eye contact, I Namaste-ed him and he back to me. The group of women with whom I’ve been doing tai chi in that park for some years now has not met since mid-March, and still cannot do so. Oaxaca is in code-red again, according to Mexico’s red-light/orange-light/green-light classification of Covid danger zones, so the yellow tape has gone up again around all the parks and plazas and no groups can gather in any public places. But a lone tai chi practitioner, or a walker, can duck under the yellow tape and proceed without hassle from the ubiquitous police, who are mostly a benign presence here. Even the lone runner I see often, who runs around that same park with seven or eight dogs—of all sizes and shapes—can get his exercise and make a little money keeping those dogs entertained and healthy, without hassle.

But oh, how I miss my tai chi ladies, mis Reinas de Tai Chi and our regular sessions, which give a sweet structure to my schedule. I miss seeing the families who come to the parks together. I miss the bounty and energy of the open-air markets. I miss the long, chatty coffee-dates with friends. And outings to nearby villages on market day or for a museum show or a festival. July is typically a riotous month in Oaxaca; it’s the month of Guelaguetza, with vendors and dancers and parades and fireworks all over town. But it’s been quiet this month, eerily quiet. The church in Jalatlaco, a block from my house, has been broadcasting music on Sunday mornings and then a loudspeaker mass, for the neighbors who are afraid to come to the church for services, but then the churchyard, typically a place for gatherings and food vendors and weddings or quinceanera celebrations, goes quiet again for the week. Only the morning bell of the garbage truck, the distinctive cries or sounds of the street vendors who pass by, the jingle of the gas truck, the barking of a neighborhood dog, or the occasional late-night bass-playing from a nearby house break the prevailing quiet.

I love it here, still, even in this long time of sequestration. I can stay safe here and feel strangely content. I send vicarious support to the Wall of Moms in Portland and other brave folks like them, to folks in the States enduring the shameless failures of the Orange one and his administration, to those out of a job or worrying about finances or the survival of their business, to my neighbors and friends in Taos and elsewhere. But here, in this time of solitude and introspection, and in the long run, I know that, if I (and we all) survive it, there will be value in what we are learning now.

We are still here! Covering Faces in Oaxaca

I must confess it is difficult to be away from Oaxaca for so long. I have peripheral news to give you about daily life other than what we all read. I’m in the same boat as you … depending on others to tell me what’s going on!

Mostly, it’s the same story. The Orange Light is now on. Which means that businesses are opening up and people are back on the streets and in the markets — except for those who are disbelievers. It’s important now to continue to question the common sense of business as usual, here or there. (Name your location.)

Lucina and Kalisa with 60 masks

Kalisa tells me that she is still in hiding for the most part, and stepping cautiously and quickly in and out of Benito Juarez Market. Most of our guera friends continue to isolate, wear masks and keep distance when out and about. My family in Teotitlan del Valle is doing the same.

About the Photo Above: On the left is Alvin Starkman’s goddaughter Lucina. He and Arlene have been supporting her education for many years and she has just finished medical school. She will be taking 60 of our masks to a remote village (TBD) where she will do her public service at the end of the month. Kalisa has a repository of our masks that she keeps on hand to give to those in need. Alvin and Lucina picked them up the other day.

We continue to make and distribute masks.

A friend told me the risks in the villages are still high and people are dying, especially the vulnerable elderly. Numbers, I’m told, are in high double-digits, for some villages where commerce is a way of life.

Still accepting gifts. To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

We continue to make and distribute masks, albeit as I said earlier, at a slower pace. But, your gifts continue to be welcome.

Representative weaving examples from new project

I am working on a new project.

Soon, I will receive a shipment from a remote Oaxaca coastal village. The women there grown their own cotton and use natural dyes to color it. They formed an outstanding 16-member cooperative, but they have no Internet presence — no knowledge of technology and limited marketing savvy. I will help them sell during this time of scarcity.

Photo by Ana Paula Fuentes

The box contains a dozen beautiful hand-woven textiles fashioned into garments that are a perfect weight for summer. Here in North Carolina, it’s been over 90 degrees and this will continue for another couple months. Clothes that breathe are essential for this climate and many other parts of the USA.

I will post photos and prices here as soon as the box arrives.

Made by hand, indigo and wood bark fine gauze blouse

Continuing Thanks from The Oaxaca Mask Project: Alvin Starkman and Eric Zapotrek

We continue to make and distribute masks, although at a less frenzied pace! This week, Alvin Starkman from Oaxaca Mezcal Educational Tours picked up 60 masks from Kalisa Wells in El Centro. He gave 20 to folks he knows in San Dionisio Ocotepec. Villagers in San Pablo Guila asked Alvin if he could get them more masks, so he brought 20 there, too. Twenty more will go toa small village TBD where Alvin’s goddaughter, La Doctora Lucina, will do her servicio social.

Mask recipients in San Dionisio Ocotepec made by Telarcito Lindo

We had funded the making of 100 more masks in Tlacolula de Matamoros under the supervision of Eric Ramirez, the English-speaking owner of Zapotrek. Eric is a knowledgeable adventure guide who has a superb knowledge of history and archeology, among other things. Early in The Project, he asked how he could help. He identified a seamstress who needed support. We sent money via Western Union.

We make masks, pay the sewists, and give the masks to those in need for FREE. The project is funded by donations.

Eric handing out masks in Tlacolula

This week, Eric gave more masks to vendors and customers in the Tlacolula Market.

Now, Oaxaca has gone from Code Red to Code Orange, using the traffic-light (semiforo) system of identifying the severity of C-19 spread. Many of us think this is done for the reason of boosting the economy, not because the disease risk has diminished.

Masked recipients in Tlacolula

Kalisa reports that on her masked forages to the Benito Juarez market, most are now wearing masks inside.

In the barbecue dining section, Tlacolula Market

But, we can see in Tlacolula that the story is different. There are still maskless vendors and shoppers. It’s no different there than it is in the USA. Some people want to protect themselves and others. Many are “non-believers” as if mask-wearing was one form of religion.

Still accepting gifts. To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Sewn masks with hang tags for use and cleaning

Here, in my own Durham, NC, apartment condo building, where there are 90 units in a historic downtown repurposed tobacco warehouse, despite the signs, many are not wearing masks in public spaces. It is so frustrating and I find myself getting angry at the mask-less who ignore the printed and email messages that masks are required in the public spaces.

What are their excuses when I ask, Where’s your mask?

The mask-less in Tlacolula

Oh, I left it in my car. I forgot. It’s in my apartment. I just went out for a quick errand. Oh, it’s in my pocket. I was just out for a bike ride. Or, it’s dangling around their neck. What to do? Steer clear. Make a wide arc around them. Take a deep breath.

Tortillas and bread, Tlacolula Market

Meanwhile, all over the world, rates of infection are increasing, deaths are on the rise, and I’m still scared and being super cautious.

Tia (left) and Butch, taking it easy in Teotitlan del Valle

And, I’ve been worried about my dogs. But, they are well-fed and cared for by my host family in Teotitlan del Valle. Mostly, I guess, I’m missing them — our daily walks in the campo with the vast landscape of mesquite and cactus, purple mountains casting shadows on the valley, the green of summer rains. You know that smell of rain when everything is fresh.

When will I be able to return? A gnawing question that has no answer.

Please tell everyone you meet to wear a mask! Stay safe. We are in this for the long-haul.

Covering Faces: Oaxaca Mask Project Summary*

I left Oaxaca on March 12, 2020, for what was to be a two-month return to the USA, first to visit family in California for a week, and then to check on my North Carolina apartment. I landed in Los Angeles to see my son and brother, with a plan to visit my sister in San Francisco next.

On March 15, the California stay-at-home order started.  I was with my son for two months in a one-BR apartment. In the beginning, I ordered face masks for us as we walked in the wildlife preserve wetlands along the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach. Then, I turned my attention to Oaxaca.

What could I do to be useful to help the place I call home for most of the year? That’s when I decided to start The Oaxaca Mask Project to offer face coverings FREE for anyone in need. This was accomplished with help from many Oaxaqueños and gueros who live in and remain in Oaxaca. From April 14 to today (July 3, 2020), I have raised a bit over $20,000 USD through 283 individual gifts. We made and distributed 3,223 face masks throughout the city and villages.

We covered 5 de Febrero taxi syndicate faces, Oaxaca

At the request of the Teotitlan del Valle Community President and the Public Health Committee, we purchased and mailed a high-quality vital signs monitor, and donated funds to purchase pulse oximeters, gallons of alcohol and hand-sanitizer. The vital signs monitor helps assess blood oxygen levels as a way to detect covid-19. I asked for designated donations for the very costly monitor and received gifts from Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Dr. Deborah Morris, and Boojie Colwell. 

My thoughts are always with Oaxaca regardless of where I am physically located. I continually plug into the public health information to know how our people are doing, and to also help me determine when I will return. I should have been back by now. My plan was to be in my Teotitlan del Valle casita by the first of July. Now, there is no certainty about much and my first concern is to stay safe and have access to excellent medical care, should I need it: Ojala! 

The entire fleet of drivers took masks

I’d like to tell you a little more about the project. 

We employed mask sewists in Oaxaca City, Santa Maria El Tule, Tlacolula de Matamoros, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, San Miguel del Valle and Teotitlan del Valle, providing a needed income, in some cases sending 100% cotton fabric when none was to be procured.  We sent mask-making instructions and a pattern in Spanish. We crafted the language for hand-tags to be attached to the masks to instruct wearers on use and care. We depended on amazing volunteers on the ground to help with distribution: Kalisa Wells, Alvin Starkman, Cristy Molina Martinez, Kari Klippen-Sierra, Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras, Gail Pellett, Malena Jimenez, Rachael Mamane, Alan Goodin, Eric Ramirez Ramos, Luvia Lazo, Jacki Cooper Gordon and Samuel Bautista Lazo.

We also relied on help from friends in the USA, Canada and Mexico who made masks and sent fabric in late March and early April to jump-start the project. Janet Blaser wrote about the project in Mexico News Daily, too. That helped spread the word and raise more needed funds.

Rachael Mamane helped us get these to Jorge Toscani, fleet chief

These folks put masks (often repeatedly) in the hands of market vendors, shoppers and villagers in the city and far-flung villages. We covered faces in San Marcos Tlapazola, Santiago Matatlan, San Dionisio, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, San Andres Huayapam. San Agustin Etla, San Martin Tilcajete, Santiago Ixtaltepec and more. With help from the Episcopal Church, we covered faces of people who glean from the Zaachila dump. We covered faces of women entrepreneurs who work with EnVia and taxi drivers and farmers who work with Puente and the healthy food-sourcing project Food-for-All. We got masks into the hands of at risk-youth from Casa de Kids, and IMSS doctors and nurses in two Oaxaca hospitals. 

Everyone in the fleet was proud to wear a mask!

This project has preoccupied me for the last months. I am waiting now for Oaxaca to move from Code Red to Code Green (semiforo system of measurement), as are all of us. We want to return, to live, to visit, to support artisans, and to freely enjoy all that beautiful Oaxaca has to offer. Oaxaca is not ready for us yet. We will go when it opens up. Most importantly, we wish for the health and safety of all our friends. 

When will I begin to offer textile tours and workshops? My best answer is, I don’t know. Life now is an improvisation and we are all getting used to it.

Best wishes,

Norma

*Note: The Oaxaca Lending Library is collecting accounts from members and friends about how we are dealing with Covid-19. This essay was my contribution.

To see more photos, search Oaxaca Mask Project on the site for prior posts.

Taxis have been vectors of disease spread from city to village