Tag Archives: Remigio Mestas

Food Alert! Guzina Oaxaca Opens in Mexico City

Casa Oaxaca is one of our favorite go-to restaurants in Oaxaca.  Sit on the roof. Overlook the spectacular roofline of Santo Domingo Church. Indulge in a tamarind mezcalini. Follow this with a perfectly prepared seared sea bass or duck tacos. Each sauce that accompanies is an art form in its own right. Finish with something made with Oaxaca chocolate and then walk down the Macdeonio Alcala to walk it off.

Now, when you are in Mexico City you can enjoy Oaxaca food at is finest.  Chef Alejandro Ruiz has opened Guzina Oaxaca in the upscale Polanco neighborhood where Quintonil and Pujol share addresses.  Guzina, which means kitchen in Zapotec, the predominant indigenous language of Oaxaca, showcases some of Oaxaca’s finest ingredients, include mole and mezcal.

It is also pricey.  Entrees are about 350 pesos or $25-28 USD. But if you have an appetizer, a cocktail, wine, entree and dessert, you could spend about $70 USD per person. But, then, Mexico City is one of those places with European ambience and style, a bargain if your economy is the dollar.

Food writer Leslie Tellez tells her story about Guzina Oaxaca. And, you can read more on Trip Advisor and El Chilango, too.

Chef Ruiz is not the only Oaxaca entrepreneur to make a foray into Mexico City.

Remigio Mestas Ruiz, textile curator, promoter of indigenous weaving and textile traditions ,and a man with a social conscience, opened Remigio’s at Isabel la Catolica #30 several years ago  His Oaxaca gallery, Baules de Juana Cata in the Los Danzantes patio, is where Oaxaca textile lovers go to find the very best backstrap loomed garments created with Thai silk and Egyptian cotton by the finest weavers.  These are all available in Mexico City, too.

More good reasons to come to Mexico City, don’t you think?

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Art History Tour in Mexico City, November 13-17, 2015.  

Oh, and did I mention that Mexico City is safe?

This restaurant tip came from one of my readers. Got tips about Mexico and Oaxaca you want to share? Send me an email.

 

Oaxaca’s Remigio Mestas Revilla: Textiles That Feed the Spirit

Remigio Mestas Revilla is a hero to many of us in Oaxaca, Mexico, who love indigenous textiles.  For 33 years, he has worked with weavers in remote villages to revive lost traditions and preserve those that are at risk of becoming a lost art.

His collection can be seen at a new gallery he operates at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and at his shop Los Baules de Juana Cata on Macedonio Alcala in the Los Danzantes patio, both in the Centro Historico.  Everything is personally selected and made by weavers that Remigio has encouraged and supported over the years.

On Tuesday, September 18, 2012, La Jornada, a Mexico City newspaper, published an extensive feature story about Remigio and the weavers he works with.  Making a huipil (dress), for example, is a long process that can take six to twelve months of weaving intricate designs on a back-strap loom.  And, the compensation is minimal compared with the time invested.

“Some techniques have become obsolete,” says Remigio, “because they are so labor intensive.”  It is easier for people to give up this work and go to the city or migrate to the United States where they can earn more to support their families than to devote the months it takes to make a garment that might sell for $250 USD.  Many visitors come to Oaxaca looking for a bargain and don’t realize the amount of work needed to create a hand-woven or embroidered textile.

Walk into either one of Remigio’s galleries and you will see trunks filled and shelves stacked with treasures from remote villages that might be as far away as 15 hours by unpaved, mountain roads.   Huipiles, rebozos, blusas, faldas, (dresses, shawls, blouses, skirts) and other traditional garments are woven by Oaxaca’s various indigenous groups:   Mixtec, Triqui, Chinantec, Mixe, Zapotec, Huave, Chatino, Amusga, Mazatec, and Tacuate Cuicatec.  He encourages them to weave highest quality pieces and he represents them to offer the pieces for sale at an equitable price so that weavers are fairly compensated for their work.

Upcoming Textile Workshops

Los Baules de Juana Cata and the textile museum shop represent the work of 350 experts who are spinners, dyers, and weavers from the eight regions of Oaxaca.  Garments range in price from about $25 USD to fine collector pieces that can be as much as $30,000 USD.   Walking into either shop is like being in a museum, too.  Here we find blouses and dresses woven from silk, Coyuchi cotton (“Coyuchi” is a word used in southern Mexico for naturally colored brown cotton. It is originally derived from the Aztec language and refers to the color of the coyote), wool, sisal, and Egyptian cotton.  The materials might be dyed with cochineal, indigo, coconut, or snail (purpua) from the Costa Chica. Designs include shawls, wedding dresses from the Sierra Norte, and floral costumes from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

 

This is a great place to discover and explore the textile traditions of Oaxaca, learn about the complexity of creating fabric and natural dyes, and discern quality differences.  I recommend that you visit these two shops first before you make any buying decisions.  You may decide, as I have, that buying one great piece is worth more over time than buying several of inferior quality.   How can you tell?  By the uniformity and closeness of the weave, by the soft touch of the fabric, and by its  natural smell.

Remigio’s Textile Shops

Los Baules de Juana Cata, Macedonio Alcala in the Los Danzantes Patio, Oaxaca

Galeria at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca Galeria, corner Hidalgo and Fiallo, Oaxaca

Remigio’s, Historic District, Mexico City — Calle Isabel la Catolica #30, 2nd floor in the Azul Historico

About Remigio Mestas Revilla

Remigio was born 40 years ago in the village of Yalalag Zapoteca.  From the age of five, he went with his mother to Oaxaca to deliver the shawls she wove.  The people she sold to would always negotiate the price.  If they would pay her 500 pesos when she asked 1,000, she told Remigio she would make a piece that would  fit the price they would pay her.  She bought fabric factory and embroidery thread rather than making her own.

The decline of Oaxaca textile quality happened over the past 40 years, as weavers began cutting costs to meet the market demand for lower prices. Quality suffered.  Some could not earn enough and stopped weaving.  After Remigio earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting, he decided to devote his life to changing the economics of weaving, which results in cultural preservation.

He has formed an autonomous weaving guild to continue the work and retain the culture.  They are not interested in politics or religion.  The guild is a mix of Catholics, Protestants, peasants, students, everything, he says.  The goal is to promote the weaving traditions with the next generation through training and education, to offer health care services and financial management advice, and to reinvest in the future.

It took years for Remigio to get a Visa to the United States.  He was repeatedly turned down until the World Bank invited him to exhibit in 1997.  He has been an exhibitor at the juried, distinguished Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.  He knows what is lost through out-migration and is committed to helping the Mexican migrant community in the United States return to their roots and re-ignite their pride in hand weaving.

Remigio is opening a new Mexico City store at La Calle de Isabel la Catolica, 30-7 in the Centro Historico to broaden the knowledge of indigenous arts throughout Mexico.  He wants people to understand textile symbolism, that flowers on a Triqui garment represent fertility, that the Quetzalcoatl is there for protection.

“We do not weave in bulk.  We make pieces that feed the spirit,” Remigio says.

Where to Buy Fabulous Oaxaca Textiles

Once in a while a question shows up on my blog that is part of a key word search that I am compelled to write about, even though you can find this information through a search on this blog.   And the answer is, it depends on what you are looking for.   Oaxaca galleries and shops have abundant selection.  If you go, please let them know you read about them here.  The other option is to travel to particular villages and search out the finest craftspeople — an exercise that can take a lifetime!  As a point of information, I write these reviews based upon my own knowledge and personal preferences, and am not compensated for any of these opinions.  If you have suggestions for others, please feel free to comment.  

Favorite shops for handwoven clothing and table linens:

  1. Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  The museum shop (closed Tuesdays and for afternoon lunch between 2-4 p.m.), features a small collection of very fine handwoven huipiles, scarves and shawls (silk, cotton, wool), pillow covers, handbags and jewelry.  Prices are high, but so is the quality.
  2. Remigio Mestas —  Gallery Shop in the Los Danzantes courtyard on Macedonio Alcala features clothing and bolts of handwoven textiles. Remigio is the “go-to” man for all the major collectors.  The array of textiles is mind-boggling.  He encourages the best indigenous weavers from remote villages all over Oaxaca to use highest quality materials.  The prices are premium and worth it.
  3. Tally.  This small, eclectic shop on Av. Cinco de Mayo between Abasolo and Constitucion, offers a small selection of huipiles.
  4. Malacate by Silvia Suarez.  She is a textile designer and friend of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca director Ana Paula Fuentes who selects high quality huipiles and embroidered fabrics and works with local seamstresses to create handbags and pillows, too.  The shop is located on Gurrion, the short street that borders the side of Santo Domingo church, around the corner from El Che restaurant.  Pricey and worth it.
  5. The shop inside the La Biznaga restaurant courtyard on Garcia Virgil.  They have changed owners and I don’t know the name.  There are excellent textiles here at fair prices.  You need to be able to discern the higher quality from the rest.  Great gifts and contemporary jewelry at excellent prices, including alebrijes and stuffed animals from Chiapas.
  6. Sheri Brautigam, La Lucita Imports, Oaxaca.  (Not a shop, an individual designer). Sheri is a San Francisco textile designer relocated to Oaxaca, where she uses Tenancingo ikat woven cotton fabrics to fashion traditional  quechquemetls, an indigenous shawl that is fabulous for throwing over your head to cover your shoulders.  Contact Sheri directly at lalucita@yahoo.com or Mexico cell (044) or (045)-951-151-1557
  7. La Mano Magica, Calle Macedonio Alcala pedestrian street between the Cathedral and Santo Domingo Church.  Wide array of high quality folk art handpicked by Mary Jane Gagnier and textiles woven by Arnulfo Mendoza.

What to look for:  uniform weave, tightly woven, strong seams, no fraying, finished edges.

Favorite shops for highest quality handwoven rugs using natural dyes:

  1. Galeria Fe y Lola, Av. Cinco de Mayo between Constitucion and Abasolo, in Oaxaca city
  2. El Nahual, Av. Cinco de Mayo next door to Galeria Fe y Lola, in Oaxaca city
  3. Chavez Santiago Family Weavers, Francisco I. Madero #55, Teotitlan del Valle
  4. Demetrio Bautista, Av. Benito Juarez, Teotitlan del Valle
  5. Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez, Constitucion #12, Teotitlan del Valle
  6. Bii Dauu Cooperative, Av. Iturbide, Teotitlan del Valle
  7. All the young Teotitlan del Valle weavers who exhibited at the anthropological museum at Monte Alban I wrote about on this blog — not all their weavings use natural dyes, so you need to ask

What to look for:  tight weave, double weft chords on each side, 10-12 threads per inch for traditional tapestry weave, 22 threads per inch for Saltillo weave, authentic use of 100% hand spun wool and natural dyes, straight edges so rug lies flat, securely tied fringes.

They Speak Huave Here: A Day in San Mateo del Mar

It is difficult to hear Francisca Palafox Herran speak over the sound of the wind.  She is the weaver, one of the last of the great Huave backstrap loom artisans, who we have come here to interview in her home village of San Mateo del Mar, on the southern coast of Oaxaca beyond Salina Cruz.  In this small fishing village, Huave women have been weaving on backstrap looms for generations.  Traditional huipils from here are finely woven cotton decorated with motifs of the beach and sea: turtles, fish, crab, palm trees, shrimp, birds, butterflies, stars, fishermen, dancers.  Sometimes a fox will appear in a textile, too.  It is hot and humid here and the airy fabric would have provided women with covering that breathes.  The village, however, has adopted the dominant Tehuana style of dressing, so Huave origins are not immediately evident by the traje (local costume).

Francisca Palafox is 33 years old, the youngest in a family of many children.  She was “discovered” by Remigio Mestas, who searches for master weavers in remote villages and encourages them to preserve their craft by representing them in his shops in Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende, and by offering them national and international exhibitions.  Francisca learned to weave from her oldest sister who learned from their mother.  Their sister, Telofila Palafox is also an excellent weaver.

San Mateo del Mar is a humble, isolated village, dependent upon fishing for mojarras (a type of fish) and camarones (shrimp), which is sold in the local street market and exported to Tehuantepec and Juchitan.  But mostly, the catch of the day provides food for the family.  We did not see many young people.  An aging populations implies out-migration to bigger cities for education and job opportunities not offered here.  This is a simple, and by all appearances, difficult life.  My impression is that this small group of Huave are at risk of being absorbed into the larger culture.  This is part of what makes Francisca’s work so important.

A group of us from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca have traveled over 6 hours through mountainous Mexico Highway 190 to come here to interview and film Francisca in preparation for a documentary the museum is making to accompany an upcoming exhibition of her work.  We watch as Francisca and her cousin Sabina demonstrate the techniques of weaving on a backstrap loom, and talk with Francisca’s children, a son Noe, age 15, and two daughters, Jazmin, age 13, and Liliana, age 11, as they weave and continue the traditions.  There is a risk in this small Huave village of losing the craft.  Most women are no longer weaving, and if they are, the quality of process and product are generally basic.  Lili coats the warp threads of the backstrap loom with atole (a corn drink) to make it easier for Francisca to dress the loom and separate the threads.

Museum director Ana Paula Fuentes, textile preservation director Hector Manuel Meneses Lozano, and education director  Eric Chavez Santiago ask questions about weaving process, culture, values, design, history, impact on Francisca as an individual, her family and her village, the future of Huave weaving.  Eduardo Poeter, a Mexican multimedia artist in incorporating stories of transborder migration in her upcoming exhibition, is also with us.  We are there for five hours.

In the next courtyard, separated by a green chain link fence and a gate, I see an elderly woman finishing the fringes on a piece of textile.  This is Antonina Herran Roldan, Francisca’s mother, age 73.   Her husband is asleep in a hammock in the next courtyard.  The village is hammocks, palm thatched huts, tin covered palapas, sand, salt, wind, intense heat.  In another section of the courtyard, shaded by ancient lime trees, a man weaves a fishing net and ties weights to the border.  Everyone is weaving.  Floral huipils and children’s t-shirts flap on the clothes line.  Two bird cages are filled with green, blue and white exotic warblers.  Antonina shows me her work, including a hanging basket she has adapted from fishing apparatus as container for fruits or vegetables.

When the filming is complete, we are invited to sit down for the afternoon meal together.  The big table is covered with brightly colored laminated cloth.  We are served a first course of thick, pancake-like tortillas, eggs, limes and fresh water to drink.  A bowl of sea salt is on the table.  We use a soup spoon to bring salt to bread and squeeze lime on top.  It is VERY hot and salt is essential to retain body fluids.  (We are told it does not rain much here.) Salt is also used to cure the chunks of fish that is float in the fish soup that is our next course.  There are commercial salt flats in nearby Salina Cruz, and indigenous peoples have been bringing salt from the sea and drying it here for millenium.  The soup is seasoned with pepper, salt, fresh squeeze lime and a spinach-like green herb called epasote.  It is delicious.

After the meal and a few textile purchases from Antonina (everything that Francisca weaves is only available from Remigio Mestas), we decide to walk through the village market.  This is not a tourist location.  There are no beach palapas or hammocks for rent.  We all agree that we will pass on the only hotel in town that is neither clean nor hospitable, and travel to Juchitan for dinner and lodging.

You can see from the photos that the day was extraordinary and Francisca and her family were most welcoming.  It was an incredible adventure.  The 45 minute ride to Juchitan was easy, and we found comfort in the patio of Bar Jardin, on Cinco de Mayo, just off Av. Efrain R. Gomez a couple of blocks from the Zocalo, with beers, Margaritas, and salsa fresca shrimp ceviche.

Remigio Mestas Describes a Handwoven Textile: Video

I’m experimenting with iMovie and made the subtitles tonight.  Here is a discussion I had with Remigio Mestas when I was in Oaxaca in December 2008.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3Z53c-pulA

See complete explanation of Remigio’s work on this blog post:  http://oaxacaculture.com/2008/12/21/catching-my-breath-and-catching-up-posadas-remigo-mestas-indigo-tie-dye-workshop/

With me was Martha Sorensen from Santa Fe, NM, a good friend of Remigio, and Eric Chavez Santiago, the director of education at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca.  Remigio works with over 200 weavers, spinners and dyers throughout the State of Oaxaca to create the finest quality textiles that many consider to be museum quality.  Many are located in the remote mountain villages of the Sierra Madre del Sur.  Remigio helps many who need health care, education for their children, and specialized medical treatment.

You can visit Remigio’s shop on Macedonio Alcala in the central historic district of Oaxaca in the patio next to Las Danzantes restaurant.  There you will find extraordinary handwoven and naturally dyed textiles using exquisite traditional patterns and designs that are kept alive by Remigo Mestas.