Tag Archives: Pittsboro

Locavores in Oaxaca: Eat Local and Who Makes Our Food

People in the Oaxaca valley have eaten locally grown corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, poultry and fruit for centuries, long before the term locavore came into existence. The farm-to-table movement in the United States is one example of eating fresh food produced within 100 miles.

Weighing beans, Teotitlan del Valle Market

Weighing beans, Teotitlan del Valle Market

During the years I lived on an organic farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and shopped at farmer’s markets (a habit I formed early in my adulthood), we learned to eat around the seasons. I read somewhere that this is one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies.

One by-product of the CNTE Section 22 Teacher’s Union strike in Oaxaca is the intended or unintended consequences of returning to locally grown food. The blockades are preventing the big box, semi-trailers filled with imported goods from entering Oaxaca to deliver their loads to Walmart, Soriana and other giant retailers like Coca-Cola.

Magdalena with corn husks to prepare tamales

Magdalena with corn husks to prepare tamales

I’m reminded of the signs in Pittsboro, NC when I visit: Shop Local.  I’m sure you see this where you live, too.

In conversations around town, I’m hearing a mixed bag of blessings and complaints. Everyone loves Walmart, yes?, because of low prices. Others say local Oaxaca city markets like Benito Juarez, Abastos, Sanchez Pascuas, Merced stock everything they need and it’s important to support local merchants so they stay in business.

Organic corn, dried on the cob, ready for planting

Organic corn, dried on the cob, ready for planting

Yet others are inconvenienced because they can’t get a particular variety of yam, brand of toilet paper, or giant coca-cola bottles for less.

There has been a strong movement here against genetically modified corn promoted by Monsanto. I have wondered whether the blockades of the big retail semi-trailers aren’t just an extension of that.

Quesadillas with fresh corn tortillas hot off the comal

Quesadillas with fresh corn tortillas hot off the comal

I hear that by privatizing education, doors will open to international conglomerates to sell, at a profit, sugary drinks and snacks to school children, whose families are already at risk for diabetes and diet-influenced diseases.

Here in Teotitlan del Valle, I do all my food shopping locally at the daily market. Then, fill in what I need at the Sunday Tlacolula market. Yes, they sell toilet paper and paper towels there, along with all the cleaning supplies one needs.

I wonder if this blockade isn’t a good thing to help us raise our awareness for how much and what we need in comparison to who provides it for us. What we eat is important. We have asked the question: Who makes our clothes?

Now, it’s time to ask again here in Oaxaca: Who makes our food?

Yesterday, the fields next to me were plowed and planted with corn. Native indigenous corn, not genetically modified. I know that’s good.

Plowing the milpas to plant corn, squash, beans

Plowing the milpas to plant corn, squash, beans

Mexican vanilla beans, mezcal and chocolate

What to do with a Mexican vanilla bean? Why not a Groucho Marx impersonation?  Even though I recommended adding it to a bowl of sugar for flavor.


On Friday, we had a Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat mini-reunion at the Oak Leaf Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC.  Who? Robin, Debbie, Becky and me.  As soon as I presented my North Carolina friends — all professional women — with a gift of a Mexican vanilla bean, a maguey fiber facial scrub, and a package of tasty mango fruit leather, you can see what they did first. I’m not certain which one started it.  This speaks volumes about the fun we have in Oaxaca during the retreat each year!  And, there’s space for you.


I also brought along a bottle of private label El Diablo y La Sandia madrecuixe sylvestre (wild) agave mezcal to open and share.  This is only available for sale at the B&B in Oaxaca. The restaurant was to charge us a corkage fee, but their first question was, Where did you buy this?  Oaxaca, I said, waiting for them to ask, How do you spell that?  Oh, she said, wait a minute.  Then the manager came over.  We are really sorry, we can’t serve you this bottle.  Though I’d love to taste it, she confessed.  It has to have been purchased in an ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Commission) Store for us to legally open and serve it here.  She was really, really apologetic, but we had another solution.


After our delicious BLT lunch of a fried green tomato, goat cheese and bacon sandwich (minus the bacon for two vegetarians), we declined dessert at the Oak Leaf.  We had something else in mind and went next door to the Chatham Market Place.  This is our local organic grocery store and cafe.  Here we bought vegan chocolate cake dessert for each of us, and took four tumblers outside to the picnic table, where we easily broke the wax seal on the bottle, twisted off the cap and poured.


I have to confess, chocolate and this herbal earthy mezcal go really well together. We did NOT drink the entire bottle!  Not even close.  Just a little sip.  But, most of us managed to finish the cake!

Mexico’s gifts to the world include the vanilla bean, mezcal and the word for chocolate.  Add to that mole, corn and colorfast cochineal.  Anything else you can think of?

‘Weaving a Curve’ Movie Just Accepted to 100 Mile Film Series–Short Shorts

ChathamArts in Pittsboro, North Carolina, holds a series of documentary film screenings that are produced and directed by people who live within 100 miles of the “epicenter” — Big Culture in a Tiny Town!  That would be:  Pittsboro.  I submitted our short film (just under 6 minutes) to the Short Shorts screening and we were accepted!  The series coordinator is Linda Booker, a distinguished NC documentary filmmaker.

The screening is Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 7:30 p.m. at the Fearrington Barn, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC.  You can find out more on the ChathamArts website www.chathamarts.org This will be the first time the film will be shown on the big screen.

The film tells the story of Federico Chavez Sosa, master weaver of Teotitlan del Valle, how he learned to weave and perfect making the curve using the two-pedal, two harness tapestry loom introduced by the Spaniards in 1521.  Federico talks about what it means to him to be a weaver, combining the aesthetic and spiritual, the past and the present.  In Spanish with English subtitles.

I wrote, produced and directed the film with my friend Eric Chavez Santiago who shares billing with me.  Eric is the director of education at the textile museum in Oaxaca, and took the documentary filmmaking workshop with me in his village of Teotitlan del Valle last February.  We both thought it would be a useful skill to know, and this has proven correct.  Eric has gone on to make short documentaries of aging weavers, dyers, and spinners in remote villages of Oaxaca.  I am now making a documentary at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing about an innovative nursing research project that is looking into hunger and fullness feeding cues that infants and toddlers give to their parents and caregivers.  If the cues are not recognized or are ignored, it is believed that this can result in early childhood obesity which could then lead to childhood type 2 diabetes.

Erica Rothman, our workshop instructor, repeatedly said that the goal of our documentary filmmaking workshop was to provide the skills to enable people to go back to their own communities and tell their unique stories through film.  For me and Eric, I think we achieved this goal.

The next Oaxaca Filmmaking Workshop: Visual Storytelling is scheduled for February 19-26, 2010.  If you are interested in attending, see the blog post for all the details or write me at normahawthorne@mac.com