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Chiapas Notebook: Magdalena Aldama Weavers

Our recent textile study tour took place over nine days. We were based in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, with so much to see and do, and no time to write!. I’m going to start now with one highlight that happened in the middle: a visit to Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas.

A few of our group with hosts Rosa and Cristobal, Magdalena Aldama

Some of us know this village, about two-and-a-half hours from San Cristobal, as Magdalenas. Others call it Aldama. It is one and the same. Officially, it is known as Santa Maria Magdalena.

Indigenous justice and liberty are elemental here, as is native Non-GMO corn.

It took on the name Aldama in 1934 in honor of Mexican insurgent Ignacio Aldama. This is a Tzotzil village strongly aligned with the Zapatistas.

Rosa with Barbara, and a neighboring Chenalho blue emboidered top

Not many foreigners show up here. Without an introduction to a family, it would be difficult to know where to go to see extraordinary back strap loom weaving and intricate embroidery that the women here are known for.

Susie admires a finely woven, embroidered huipil

We pulled up to the village zocalo and parked near the church. Cristobal was waiting for us and took us to his family home where his wife Rosa greeted us. She was joined by family members who were busy weaving and doing fine stitching, surrounded by children.

Children hover close to mom when strangers show up

This would not have been possible without our knowledgeable guide who arranged the visit through an anthropologist friend who has been working here for some time.

Every garment handmade: the woven cloth, fine embroidery, seams, hem

After demonstrations and a stunning expoventa of very fine work, the family invited us into their kitchen where they prepared Caldo de Gallina over a wood fire.

Work continues with babies bundled across backs with rebozos

They make the soup from organic free-range chicken and fresh local vegetables. The tortillas come hot off the comal. We toast the day with posh, the local fermented drink made from corn and sugar cane.

It is quite tasty!

Indigenous rights are fragile. People here take a stand for themselves. Viva Zapata!

Women work hard here, staying close to home. Tending babies, preparing meals, cleaning up, weaving, sewing. Extended families live together in the same household and next door.

Fifteen enjoying a family meal, altar with Mayan cross in background

I saw no young men and assume they were in the fields tending to vegetables or herds of cows. Or, perhaps they were in El Norte USA trying to make a few dollars to send home. At 20 pesos to 1 US dollar now, it’s an economic advantage to go north to work. Regardless of what Agent Orange says, families do not like to be separated. They do it out of necessity. 

A village Mayordomo came by to check us out and stayed for lunch

Since the village is not frequented by tourists, we had a social call by one of the village leaders, a mayordomo and friend of our host family. He saw that we were supportive of the cultural norms and stayed to talk and have lunch with us. We were not a rowdy group!

Waddle and daub traditional village construction, perfect backdrop

The large kitchen space where we had lunch, the traditional outbuilding where the expoventa (show/sale) was held, and some of the surrounding cottages, were all constructed with waddle and daub. This is different from adobe bricks. It is a great insulator, keeping the house warm in winter and cool in summer.

Yes, smoke gets in your eyes, clothes, hair and lungs in traditional kitchens

The only problem was the ventilation from the smoke, which rose to the ceiling in billows but didn’t escape readily from the open areas near the rafters. In some villages, NGOs are working with locals to create better vents so they don’t breathe the wood smoke and develop lung disease.

Britt wears an elegant dress, traditional in design

Magdalena Aldama is about ten minutes further from San Andres Larrainzar, another amazing weaving village, much larger than Magdalena. There seems to be some crossover in stitching and fashion, though for the most part women like to identify with where they are born and live by their costume.

Mom and toddler, infant sleeping behind

The finely woven mesh bags you see below are hand-woven from ixtle, the washed, pounded and softened fiber of the agave cactus leaf. The finer and smaller the bag, the more costly. The shoulder straps are soft leather. Sometimes they are finished with colorful woven edging. We love them and bought lots!

Display of blouses, bags, table runners, dresses, pillow covers

Often, the difficulty for western women is to find a garment large enough to fit us. The width here is as wide as the loom, but the arm holes and necklines can be small. So small, we can’t get the blouse over our heads or arms through the sleeves. Here, it wasn’t a problem! They knew we were coming!

Rosa holds up one her group’s fine blouses. They sold out!

On our way back to San Cristobal de las Casas, we made a quick stop in Larrainzar to check out the street scene.  On the way, we passed a family of sheep herders. While the animals grazed, the women tied their looms to the trees. No one here is idle.

Looms tied to trees. Always something to weave.

In San Andres Larrainzar, we stopped at a commercial cooperative outside of town. I was disappointed in the quality and offerings, though a few of us managed to find a treasure. It’s best to find a private group!

San Andres Larrainzar main street. Hard to find a huipil for sale here.

Local women buy the embroidered bodice pieces and then stitch their own cotton or poplin (cotton/poly blend) to make the complete blouse. They like the polyester because it dries much faster. So, it’s getting more difficult to find a pure cotton garment. The embroidered pieces cost 1,000 to 1,500 pesos before being made into the blouse.

Embroidered blouse pieces, Larrainzar. White area is for head opening.

Back in San Cristobal, I wore the Magdalena Aldama blouse I bought from Rosa and Cristobal on the following day. People stopped me. Where did you find that? I told them. I visited a local Mayan coop and the manager said, “We don’t carry anything that fine. It’s hard to find and too expensive.”  Well, not really. Not for us at the current exchange rate!

The weaving group in black and white.

Making a trip into the village to meet the family, share a meal and support their work was one of the highlights of this trip.

Weaving on the street, Magdalena Aldama

We are going to offer this again at the end of February 2018. Contact me if you are interested and I’ll put you on the list to let you know dates and cost. This study tour will be limited to 9 people maximum!

Games little boys play, in the doorway to the kitchen.

 

Mexico Travel Photography: Day of the Dead Photo Challenge, Norma’s Picks

Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group of 287 members just finished up submitting a photo a day as part of a five-day photography challenge. Here are the statistics:

STATS: Last week’s 5-Day Photo Challenge, Day of the Dead. 39 people participated all week. They posted 136 photos total. 15 people posted 5 days in a row. Congratulations to all.

Panteón de Romerillo, municipio de San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, by Ana Paula Fuentes

Panteón de Romerillo, San Juan Chamula district, Chiapas, by Ana Paula Fuentes

Special thanks to the 15 people with 5-day staying power: Karen Otter, Ann Conway, Maité Guadarrama, Diane Hobbs, Martha Canseco Bennetts, Betsy McNair, Mary Anne Huff Shaw, Aurora Cabrera, Gail Schacter, Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Cristina Potters, Nick Hamblen, Kathryn Leide, Geri Anderson, Karen Nein.

San Martin Tilcajete cemetery, by Karen Nein

San Martin Tilcajete cemetery, by Karen Nein

I selected a few to show you here. Why these? All selections, of course, are personal judgment. I happened to like the light or composition or subject matter. I’m also attracted to blurred images lately, as well as a high contrast black and white photography.

La Señora de Recycling, Toluca, by Betsy McNair

La Señora de Recycling, Toluca, by Betsy McNair

Sometimes, a photo is innovative — the photographer shot from an unusual angle or perspective, came in close or got the sky exactly right.

Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato cemetery, by Nick Hamblen

Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato cemetery, by Nick Hamblen

You can see from these that the subject does not have to be looking right at you. The photo can be crisp or slightly out of focus.

Getting into the spirit early in San Miguel de Allende, by Laura Bly

Getting into the spirit early in San Miguel de Allende, by Laura Bly

Ihuatzio, Michoacan cemetery, by Florence Leyret Jeune

Ihuatzio, Michoacan cemetery, by Florence Leyret Jeune

Setting the scene matters. Telling a story counts.

Oaxaca Bachillerato Comparsa (parade) 2013. Her costume is embellished with natural plant materials. By Diane Hobbs

Oaxaca Bachillerato Comparsa (parade) 2013, by Diane Hobbs

Etla Comparsa by Karen Otter

Etla Comparsa by Karen Otter

I bet hundreds of people took photos of the suspended marigolds at the textile museum and not many saw the juxtaposition of orange against blue sky.

Museo Textil de Oaxaca, by Gail Schacter

Museo Textil de Oaxaca, by Gail Schacter

Oaxaca children's procession, by Barbara Szombatfalvy

Oaxaca children’s procession, by Barbara Szombatfalvy

Oaxaca, bringing flowers to the grave, by Kathryn Leide

Oaxaca, bringing fragrant marigolds to the grave, by Kathryn Leide

San Felipe, Chiapas cemetery, by Ann Conway

San Felipe, Chiapas cemetery, by Ann Conway

As you can see, Dia de los Muertos is one of my favorite holidays, right up there with Thanksgiving in the USA. I’m having a hard time letting go the the days behind us, but soon, we’ll be showing images leading up to the Christmas celebrations in Mexico.

Oaxaca Comparsa by Erin Loughran

Oaxaca Comparsa by Erin Loughran

Kids' parade, San Miguel de Allende, 2013, by Gina Hyams

Kids’ parade, San Miguel de Allende, 2013, by Gina Hyams

Tlacolula market Muertos flower vendors, by Christophe Gaillot

Tlacolula market Muertos flower vendors, by Christophe Gaillot

Hope you like this curated selection. To see them all, go to Mexico Travel Photography.

In two weeks, I leave for India. Look for posts about the textiles I find there. Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful autumn season.

From Los Angeles, con abrazos, Norma.

 

Mexico Travel Photography: Colors of Mexico, My Set of Five

Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1810.

Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1810

We had a five-day photo challenge on the Facebook page I moderate, Mexican Travel Photography. I thought I’d publish the set of five photos I submitted here. Except that I couldn’t find FIVE. I only found FOUR. Oops. Lo siento.

Tlacolula Market Candy Cart

Tlacolula Market Candy Cart

I must have been too preoccupied commenting on others’ beautiful posts. So I’m adding one here, but I disqualify myself from posting for five days in a row! Counting is such a challenge.

Birthday pinatas and papel picacho, Teotitlan del Valle

Birthday pinatas and papel picacho, Teotitlan del Valle. iPhone photo.

Mexico Independence Day is coming up on September 16. It marks Mexico’s liberation from Spain after four hundred years of occupation. So many streets throughout Mexico, in all the little towns and villages, in all the big cities are named 16 de Septiembre. For good cause.

Colorful plastic woven baskets, Tlacolula Market.

Colorful plastic woven baskets, Tlacolula Market.

And, not to be confused with the Mexican Revolution of 1920-1920, or Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla, the fight again the French that became a cry for freedom by African-Americans and Mexicans living in the U.S. during the American Civil War.

Oaxaca Red casita color. With Gar Bii Dauu. Local endangered succulent.

Oaxaca Red casita color. With Gar Bii Dauu. Local endangered succulent.

I recently repainted the casita this intense red. I guess this was the photo I forgot to post to make up the Set of Five. Disculpeme.  Gar Bii Dauu is an indigenous succulent found in Oaxaca. It is a Zapotec word and endangered specie.

Coming Up: Next Mexico Travel Photography photo challenge. Join and weigh in with your choice for what subject you want represented next. Or, join and just enjoy the photography by people who share our enthusiasm for Mexico.

 

 

Mexico Travel Photography: Five Day Photo Challenge Editor’s Choice

Last week, I posted a Colors of Mexico photo challenge on Mexico Travel Photography, a Facebook group I moderate. We had 45 people take part. I didn’t count the total number submitted, but it was a 5-day challenge. We saw a lot of beautiful photographs of Mexico.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Mexico is where anything goes! Vibrant color is everywhere. The photographs in this post run the gamut from people, buildings, food, clothing, festivals, markets, street life, re-engineered cars that would have become junk in the USA, and then some. There are literal and figurative photos, abstract and impressionistic.

David Taylor.

David Taylor shared this photo of live dress-up dolls.

As this blog’s writer/editor, I took the liberty of selecting photos to post here that I thought were especially dramatic for the choice of color (or not).

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

As editor, I also took some artistic license to crop the original photos submitted on Facebook and do some photo editing enhancements. I used my judgment in this process. Why?

Day 5, Mexico Colors Photo Challenge. "Day of the Dead" celebration in Zinacantán, Chiapas. (In tzotzil language is called "Sk`in Ch`olelai")., Ana Paula Fuentes

Ana Paula Fuentes. Day of the Dead, Zinacantán, Chiapas. “Sk`in Ch`olelai”in Tzotzil.

Sometimes the subject of a photo reveals itself by getting in closer. Cropping is all an experiment and depends on each person’s preference. Some people are afraid of doing this, but you can always revert to the original. Nothing lost by trying. If I altered your photo and you don’t like it, please forgive me!

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

For example, I didn’t crop this chicken in the market photo that Miles took. It’s so close you can see the pin hairs.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

And, I bet Donna got right up to this young boy judging by his expression. Zoom. Zoom.

Please share this post!

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

This is exactly as Mary shot this picture. I confess I bumped up the color a bit. Such a beautiful Mexican landscape. They are growing healthy food, here.

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

I got in closer on Kathy’s photo so we could see the juice of that orange slice, and yes, says Kathy, the mouth-watering ceviche. Thank you. What’s for dinner? Anyone have a good recipe?

Hollie Taylor Novak. Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. Its what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.

Hollie Taylor Novak. Funky, Rusty, Junky.

Hollie says, “Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. It’s what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.”

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers at the Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers, Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

A Oaxaca desfile is a joyous parade. We have them here all the time, and it’s wonderful. Shannon got up close to get the intricate embroidery on the dresses. It’s what Oaxaca is known for. Don’t stay away!

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

I wrote to Diane that this looks like a Luis Barragan design. Intense primary colors. Gorgeous. I didn’t touch this one. Love how the right angles contrast with the round trees. Ah, Mexico.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

The subject is holding a bull that spits fireworks. It’s a traditional part of Oaxaca celebrations. We see these at Christmas, especially. Not for the faint of heart, but dazzling.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Ok, I did a big crop on this one to get our eyes focused on the glorious indigo dyed cloth at Oaxaca’s textile museum, and that amazing red-orange wall in the background. Love that splatter of indigo blue on the floor tiles.

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Gad, do you think Mexico could be any more colorful than this? Not likely!

Please share this post!

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago sent this one in on the last day of the Challenge. We all loved the sky! Omar is age 22 and is graduating from university this December. He has an eye!

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market... // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market… // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

And, Moises sent us this one of the ubiquitous embroidered apron worn by all traditional Zapotec women who live in the Tlacolula valley. And, where do you buy these? Why at the Sunday Tlacolula market, of course! I enhanced the color and did a crop so you could see the embroidery detail.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen sent us this terrific masked man whose garments are covered in bells!

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge - Hualulco

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge – Huatulco

Good enough to eat. I bet it was tasty, fish head and all. I cropped in closer. Such a great color. Wonder what the seasoning was? Squash? Carrots? Huatulco is Oaxaca’s beach resort. Flights go there direct from the USA.

Betsy McNair. I have no idea where this was taken.

Betsy McNair. She says, “I have no idea where this was taken.”

Old here is very beautiful. The textures and layers are a sight to capture. Thanks, Betsy.

Claudia Brewer Michel. How to make the colors of Mexico. Studio of Jacabo Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia Brewer Michel.  Studio of Jacobo & Maria Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia says, “This is how to make the colors of Mexico.” At alebrije carver-painter Jacobo and Maria Angeles‘ studio, visitors see how natural pigments color carved animals. I cropped to get in closer to the hands. A slimy, beautiful mess.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

This is the season for Chiles en Nogada, the traditional dish that celebrates Mexico’s Independence from Spain. Red, white and green! Eat it through September.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Another take on fish, this time a graphic adorning a wall. Peeling paper and paint. Such great texture. I bumped up the yellow and contrast.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Sunset in the Tlacolula valley. Such a beautiful silhouette. Thanks, Araceli.

Please share this post!

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick sent this one among several over the week. I loved the shadows, the rust, and the color contrasts. I couldn’t decide between this one and the Mexico City subway scene. It was the blue that did it.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail sent us this one on Day 2 of the challenge. I cropped in to get us closer to the faces of the children, and highlighted the color. Wanna red lollipop?

Bob Ward.

Bob Ward.

Maybe Bob will tell us where he took this photo. It’s the stippled walls that really pop along with those beaten down doors that might have a few more years left in them. What stories these buildings could tell if they talked.

Please take a look at Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group to see the work that everyone submitted. We’ll do another challenge soon. If you aren’t yet a member, please join. Most of us are amateurs who just love to take photographs of Mexico, her places and people.

Thanks for reading and following!

Norma

How to Correct the Image and Crop a Photo: Download your photo. For simplicity, take a Facebook photo and download it. I use a MacBook so I click on the download and it opens in Preview.

Image Correction: You then use your cursor to open Tools on the Toolbar above. Click on Adjust Color. A screen pops up. Use your cursor to slide the levers to change exposure, contrast, shadow, highlights, saturation, and sharpening.

To Crop, put your cursor on the photo and click the touch pad. A square will come up that you can adjust to decide the area you want to cut. It’s all an experiment and you won’t ruin anything. You can always revert to the original and start over!

 

 

Oaxaca Hand-crafted Condiments: Suculenta Food Gallery

Food design gallery Suculenta, on Porfiirio Diaz, Oaxaca

Food design gallery Suculenta, on Avenida Porfiirio Diaz #207-G, Oaxaca Centro

You might walk by the unmarked building painted sky blue and not even notice what’s inside.  Down the street from Boulanc bakery on Av. Porfirio Diaz, closer to Morelos than Murguia, is Suculenta.

Unmarked store front with hidden delicious secrets inside

Unmarked store front with hidden delicious secrets inside

The food gallery is an off-shoot of the bakery where hand-crafted jellies, jams, edible oils, cheeses, herbs and fresh wild mushrooms from the Sierra Norte are featured prominently on custom-built wood shelving and in commercial refrigerator cases.

Pink wild mushrooms fresh from the Sierra Norte, Oaxaca

Pink wild mushrooms fresh from the Sierra Norte, Oaxaca

This is where Paulina Garcia Hernandez works her culinary magic in a small space that yields big — and delicious — results. By her side is Daniel Lopez Gonzalez who attends to procuring deliciousness from the best purveyors.

Daniel weighs wild mushrooms that grower has just brought in

Daniel weighs wild mushrooms that grower has just brought in

Not much more to say, other than a great gift for self or another

Not much more to say, other than a great gift for self or another — to drizzle or spread

Jars of succulent condiments to top, marinate and savor

Jars of succulent condiments to top with, marinate and savor

Shelves are stocked with wild mushroom marinated in vinaigrette, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and vegetable mix. Here you can find organic honey infused with cardamom, too.

Natural light illuminates the interior of Suculenta

Natural light illuminates the interior of Suculenta where Paulina works

All the cooking and canning is done on the premises using fresh organic fruits and vegetables that are local to Oaxaca. Purveyors are selected for the quality of what they produce. Paulina and Daniel establish personal relationships with each.

Paulina's hand-crafted hibiscus (jamaica) jelly

Paulina’s hand-crafted hibiscus (jamaica) jelly

Sibestre cultivates wild mushrooms and brings them from three-hours away

Sibestre Perez Hernandez brings wild mushrooms to Oaxaca from three-hours away

Silbestre Perez Hernandez comes to Oaxaca from Pueblo Manzanito Tepantepec, in the municipality of Santa Maria Peñoles in the Mixteca mountains west of Zimatlan. Here he harvests the most gorgeous mushrooms I’ve ever seen. He delivers them to Suculenta weekly. I was there on a Tuesday morning to watch the harvest come in.

Top shelf, my favorite: kefir cheese in olive oil, bay leaf, whole black pepper

Top shelf, my favorite: kefir cheese in olive oil, bay leaf, whole black pepper

The artisanal cheese is wonderful for omelets, on top of toast or to eat as a post-dinner course with fresh fruit and a glass of mezcal.

A sampling of hand-crafted roibos tea, from XXXX

A sampling of hand-crafted rooibos tea, from Andres Alquiara

Andres Alquiara developed a recipe for rooibos tea that he brought to Suculenta for sampling. I smelled it. Delicious. Succulent! Andres is a barrista and his full-time job is at La Brujula. He has a passion for great food and beverage.

This mixed vegetable medley has onions, chiles and spices -- top on sandwiches

This mixed vegetable medley has onions, chiles and spices — top on sandwiches

This creative food gallery endeavor reminds me of a time past when I owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school.  I, too, once made and sold jams, jellies, cheesecakes, and catered meals. Now, I prefer to support those who believe that good food is an essential part of living a quality life.

Flavored oils for eating and cooking!

For example, flavored oils (sesame) and vinegars (apple) for eating and cooking!

Scallions in vinaigrette

Pickled scallions in vinaigrette — another dill pickle version

Suculenta, Porfirio Diaz #207-G, Centro Historico, Tel: 951-321-3756 (closed Sunday)