Tag Archives: San Marcos Tlapazola

Wear Your Apron: Photos From the Feria del Barro Rojo

First, the last day of this year’s (2018) Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola is tomorrow, Monday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Grammy Award-winner Lila Downs is feria Madrina, charms us all, gives her all

If you go, wear your distinctive Tlapazola apron, like I did. It’s gingham trimmed in folded ribbon that ends up looking like frosting on a wedding cake. Too much fun. And, that’s exactly what it evokes — the hilarity of a gringa (otherwise known as Huera — White Girl) wearing indigenous dress. I get called Huera a lot in these parts.

Oh, those aprons! All handmade icing on the cake

If you don’t have an apron, you can buy one at the fair.

Now, we know I will never pass as a local and even if I tried, I’d never get away with it. But, that’s not the point. The point is to honor and appreciate the local culture and one way I’ve found to do that best is to make a point of dressing like a local. Everyone in the village finds this more than amusing. They like it. They smile, giggle, laugh and wave.

Front and center, beautiful red clay pottery

They invite me to sit with them and have a tejate (not a Tecate, which is a Mexican beer). They offer an embrace and accept mine.

Lila Downs speaks with everyone, congratulates them, shakes hands

Some of the ladies I know from years of meandering and buy from them at the Tlacolula Sunday market and they recognize me.

Beribboned young women comprise the welcome delegation

I have time. I sit a while. Visiting with people and taking your time is another way to show respect. It was late afternoon and my second visit of the day after taking two friends to Mitla. (I decided to return for a more leisurely visit and to pay for a blouse I put on hold.)

Meet Paul Cohen, Lila’s husband, and their son, oh, and me

We broke open a bottle of wild agave tepeztate mezcal and shared a sip or two with fair organizer Gonzalo Artuza from the Oaxaca Government Office of Social and Economic Support in Oaxaca, that underwrote the event.

Red clay with painted design

Sometimes I like to travel solita just to experience the serendipity of what can happen by just being somewhere with no other plan than to just BE.

My apron, bought last year, gives my friends a giggle

Many of the women here are the pottery makers whose work is distributed by and sold under the name of others more famous. Few of them get personal recognition. The fair is a great way to collect this beautiful ware and to offer much-needed economic support in this Zapotec village of about 3,500 people, while directly supporting the women makers.

Sometimes the only roadblock is a bull and a bunch of cows

How to get there: Drive through the main street of Tlacolula and go southwest, toward the coastal mountains. Follow the main road out of town. There are no road signs. In the distance you will see a village straight ahead — that’s San Bartolome Quialana. Don’t go there. Tlapazola is the village to the far right, so as you get closer to Quialana, there is a road (unmarked) that will take you to the right and directly to Tlapazola. This road has curves, straightaways, potholes and some smooth pavement. If you use GPS, it’s pretty accurate. Just look for the church with the rounded red dome off to the right in the distance!

Many farmers are giving over their corn fields to the planting of espadin agave for mezcal production. It is now a high-paying cash crop. The road goes through these fields and it’s gorgeous.

Who can stop taking photos of beautiful, talented Lila Downs? Not me.

And, our last laugh! They are acculturated to be serious!

I want to recommend Maria Aragon Sanchez and Gloria Cruz Sanchez for their excellent red clay dinnerware. Privada del Porvenir #1, San Marcos Tlapazola, Cel. 951 281 3329 and email: lucinam@live.com.mx

 

 

 

Feria del Barro Rojo del San Marcos Tlapazola 2018: Red Clay Pottery Fair

Who wants to join me for lunch in San Marcos Tlapazola tomorrow, Saturday, July 14? I’ll be there by 11 a.m. in time to see Lila Downs, the madrina (patron) of the celebration, cut the ribbon for the official opening.

This is the third year of the festival and each year it grows bigger. In addition to selling the specialty ceramics of the village — the beautiful red clay dinnerware and accessories — you can dance, eat, take photos, drink atole and mezcal, buy aprons, and just overall enjoy the festivities.

My own Teotitlan del Valle kitchen has a shelf of red clay dinnerware made by Macrina Mateo Martinez, one of the more famous artisans.

San Marcos is located in the hills about 20 minutes above Tlacolula. You could combine this with a visit to the Sunday market, too.

I took the photos below in 2015, the year I separated from my wasband, still deciding how I would spell my new last name which is a derivative of my mother’s maiden name (in case you were wondering why the names don’t match!).

Red clay pottery, San Marcos Tlapazola, photo by Norma Schafer

Fueling the kiln at San Marcos, photo by Norma Schafer

Portrait of a potter, San Marcos Tlapazola, photo by Norma Schafer

Mujeres del Barro Rojo, San Marcos Tlapazola, photo by Norma Schafer

 

Red Pottery of San Marcos Tlapazola, Tlacolula, Oaxaca

My dad was a potter and I grew up with a potter’s wheel and an electric kiln in our garage.  Tools were piled on the table, where also sat clay forms drying to the leather hard before he put them into the oven.

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This is where he would go to work when he came home from work.  For him, I think, putting his hands on the clay of earth and forming it into something beautiful or whimsical or functional was his joy, more fun than work.

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I always have a special feeling for people who put their hands on clay.  In San Marcos Tlapazola, just 8 kilometers behind Tlacolula, in the foothills, the Mateo Family women work with an organic low fire clay body that becomes unglazed, utilitarian and decorative pieces for hearth and home.  It is lead-free and safe to eat from and cook with.

We work with our hands. We bring the mud from our fields. It takes a week to dry it.  We wet it. Stir it, strain it and mix it with sand.  Finally, we let it dry under the sun to make it. We are ready to work with it. 

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The vessels are made on a simple turning wheel as the women sit on the floor.  They use pieces of wood, stone, coconut shell, gourds and corn cobs to shape and polish.

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You might recognize them as they sit on their knees, on petate woven grass rugs at the Sunday Tlacolula market. You might notice them as they pass through the restaurants and food stalls calling out their wares for sale. Their dress is distinctive and colorful.  They sell comals of various sizes, bowls and plates, platters and large vessels perfect for cooking soups and stews.

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But, the best, largest and most impressive pieces are in their San Marcos Tlapazola home workshop studio. Here, tall jugs are decorated with chickens and roosters, pot lid handles might be dancing dolphins or turkey heads or pig snouts. You might even come across a national award-winning bowl sitting regal on its clay pedestal throne. The selection is enormous and often you can see the black fire flash in the red clay form, giving it an elemental connection to the earth, wind, fire.

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When we got there, we came into the courtyard filled with smoke.  It was firing day.  The pots were hidden under corrugated metal sheeting, piled with tree branches, dried corn husks, discarded bamboo sticks, twigs, brush, and protected by a ring of broken pots to keep the heat in at ground level. We arrived just in time to add our bundle of brush and branches to the fire.

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Here at Matamoros No. 18, in San Marcos Tlapazola, live the parents, sisters, cousins and nieces of the extended family of Alberta Mateo Sanchez and Macrina Mateo Martinez.  The home phone number is 951-574-4201.  The Cel is 951-245-8207.

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Their mother Ascencion is ninety years old.  Almost as old as my own mother who just turned ninety-nine.

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Call to make an appointment to be sure they will be home.  Maybe you will be lucky enough to come during a firing, as we did.

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As we shopped, the rains came and the wind whipped. It wasn’t a heavy downpour but a light Lady Rain drizzle that causes the smoke to curl through the courtyard and burn our eyes. As we left, the rains made a mist and droplets coated the car window through which I took these ethereal photos below.

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Thanks to Merry Foss, Oaxaca folk art collector and dealer, and Sara Garmon of Sweet Birds Mexican Folk Art, Santa Fe, NM,  and Christopher Hodge for taking me on this adventure.

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How to get there?  Go toward the hills behind Tlacolula, following the road that goes through the center of town.  There will be a crossroads at 4km.  Turn right and continue another 4 km until you get to the village.  You will see the traditional church in the distance as you wind to the right through high desert.  The main street is Matamoros and the sisters’ house is on the left past a couple of blocks past the church.  Look for the sign: Mujeres del Barro Roja.

 

Another Tlacolula Market Sunday: Guajolote Shopping

We didn’t set out to buy two cute, baby guajolotes. It just happened. An impulse purchase, you might say. My impulses tend to center around clothes, jewelry, or maybe a larger than necessary size ice cream cone. My Zapotec neighbors, on the other hand, covet what they can add to their barnyard.

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Where I live in Oaxaca, one sign of a woman’s wealth and independence is how many pigs, goats, guajolotes, or chickens she owns. Raise them to plump and they convert to pesos in a year or so. Pocket money she can do with as she pleases.

What is a guajolote, you may ask?

This is a pre-Hispanic wild turkey indigenous to Mexico, named by the Aztecs, and preferred to domesticated turkey by locals in the know!

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I had no particular goal in mind on Sunday, my last day in Oaxaca until June, but to pick up some little clay dishes made in San Marcos Tlapazola for my sister. She uses them as handy soap dishes. Some people use them for salsa.

The ladies of San Marcos ply the market with bundles of little clay vessels and figures wrapped in their rebozos held close to their bosoms. They also set up shop on the street, displaying platters, clay pitchers, tortilla griddles, and other kitchen essentials. I’m especially fond of their primitive figures.

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My neighbors had no particular goal in mind either. We wandered for a while. Then, they went shoe shopping. We stopped for nieves at my favorite Tlacolula purveyor Nieves Rosarita, one of the many stalls that line the street near the Banamex bank ATM.

Nieves means snow in Spanish, is like ice cream but with less cream and more intense flavor. My favorite is Besos de Angel with cherries, nuts, and fresh grated carrots. Truly yummy.  Especially when topped with tuna aka the fruit of the nopal cactus, not the fish. Next, we followed the abuela through the labyrinth to find the seller of Atzompa green pottery, and finally began to make our way out of the market back to the car.

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Then, there they were. Love at first sight. None of us could walk away, though I must confess we tried. I even reached out to touch their silky smooth feathers. After a heavy bargaining session, not one, but two guajolotes had a new home. We could tell by their chortles and cries that they needed to be together and this was, in part, a guilt purchase, too.

On the way to the car, many people stopped us along the way in envy. Envy is when another admires something you have and then asks, how much did it cost. The humble reply is to always understate the value. This is not a boastful culture.

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As they settled comfortably on the lap of their new owner in the front seat of my car, I reached out to stroke their long skinny necks. Their eyes closed and they fell asleep on the ride home. Definitely a first for La Tuga and me!