Tag Archives: Teotitlan del Valle

A Visit to Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: More Than Rug Shopping

So many visitors come to Teotitlan del Valle, brought by tour guides to go rug shopping, but never know the other treasures that the village has to offer. In and out of rug galleries on the main road, off they go to the next destination without ever coming into the center of town. I recommend you don’t make that mistake!

You really need a few hours here or more to explore this wonderful Zapotec pueblo.

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Church Built Atop Ancient Zapotec Temple

Did you know there is an ancient pre-Hispanic archeological site behind the Iglesia de Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (Church of the Precious Blood) in Teotitlan del Valle?  It’s not a high pyramid like those at Monte Alban or Mitla because the Spanish conquerors used the temple stones to build the church foundation and edifice. You need to walk around to the back side to see the remains and then go inside the church courtyard to see stone carvings recovered from the original structure that are embedded in the walls.  Look closely and you will see the rain god Tlaloc and the plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl.

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Community Museum: A Living History of Zapotec Life

The community museum, known as Balaa Xtee Guech Gulal or translated from Zapotec to mean In the Shadow of the Old People, is located across from the rug market.  Next to it is the village government building called the Municipio or Palacio.  The entire square was redesigned and rebuilt several years ago into a modern public gathering space and there is ample parking.

In the community museum you can purchase important documentary videos produced by Metamorfosis Documentation Project that explain the history and culture of the village through its very important of Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma.  All sales of the video benefit the ongoing non-profit projects of the museum to preserve and explain traditions. Museum exhibits include old photographs, dioramas, textiles and archeological findings.

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Daily Market: Sustenance of Village Life

You can find market vendors as early as seven or seven-thirty in the morning setting up stalls.  There really isn’t an official time for the market, but it’s going full blast by eight-thirty in the morning and begins to slow down two hours later. By eleven in the morning, only a few fruit sellers are left.  It’s worth it to come into town the day before, spend the night at one of the lovely and basic posadas/hostals, and get up early to get to the market.  I often sit at the periphery just to watch the ladies with their woven market baskets made from bamboo (called canastas) crooked through their elbows, as vendors weigh out the produce and deposit the purchase into the basket.

Here you can get fresh squeezed organic juices. My favorite is beet, carrot, pineapple and orange juice.  Belly up to a comal for a breakfast quesadilla or pick out a savory tamale Teotiteco-style — bean, amarillo, chipil — from one of the women who sell out in the open air. Peel back the husk and use your fingers to eat, just like the locals.  Then, of course, there are the handmade aprons, the uniform of local Zapotec women, sold near the bread vendors.

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Smell the fragrant lilies. Take in the piles of roses. Pay attention to the grandmothers whose braids, interwoven with ribbon, hang down their backs. Catch a whiff of the copal incense coming from the church. Feel your feet on ancient cobblestones.  Immerse yourself and take your time.  The life here is rich and rewarding.

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A Walk to the Presa: The Reservoir Awaits

Egrets, heron, grazing cattle and sheep, herders on horseback or walking with staff in hand are part of everyday life here.  From the village market, walk along Avenida 2 de Abril toward the sacred mountain called Picacho.  When you come to the T, which is Avenida Revolucion, make a right turn and continue along the wide dirt road until you come to the reservoir and dam.  This is the water source for the village’s agricultural endeavors. It is also very scenic and a perfect place for an afternoon picnic.  Did you remember to buy cheese and bread the market?  If you do this, please don’t forget to pack out your refuse!

Gracias y adios!

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Wandering Oaxaca and Teotitlan del Valle

Casita Roof Sunset-3 Casita Roof Sunset-2 After our Art Huipil Workshop ended, I retreated to the rooftop terrace where I live in Teotitlan del Valle to finish The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The views of the surrounding Tlacolula valley are glorious from there, especially at sunset. Casita Roof Sunset-4It’s winter, the dry season. The night air is clear and cold. The star field is glorious. During the day, sun provides enough heat that we have to hide from it by walking on the shady side of the street. So many northerners are here to seek shelter from the winter cold in the warmth of Oaxaca’s sun.Art Huipil Workshop-9Around and about Teotitlan del Valle, the daily village market, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., gives us bread, fresh vegetables, meats and poultry, handcrafts and the essentials of daily life, like soap and bathroom tissue! The space is a source of constant fascination and appreciation for me. It’s where my food comes from! Art Huipil Workshop-99 For those without vehicles and sturdy legs, the tuk-tuks (or moto-taxis, as some call them) are an essential for getting home from the market with the daily bundle that always includes fresh flowers for the altar.Art Huipil Workshop-111 When the market closes at 10:30 a.m. not much happens there until mid-afternoon when the nieves (ice cream) vendors come to open their stalls. Ices made from tropical fruits like mango, papaya, strawberry and pineapple are muy rico. And, yes, they are made with purified water.Art Huipil Workshop-22After resting for a few days, I went to Oaxaca city to meet up with friends for a series of lunches and dinners. Social life here during the season can be intense. But not as intense as the color of this yellow flowering tree that punctuates the skyline throughout the city.

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Everyone along the cobblestone sidewalks have their heads lifted skyward to take in the brilliant yellow blossoms of the Primavera tree of the genus Tabebuia, also called Ipe or Trumpet tree.  Not me, though. With my new knee replacement only two months behind me, I’m very careful to step lightly. If I want to take something in, I stop and plant myself on terra firma.

ArtHuipilMezcalChoc-2 Late afternoon brings us to Santo Domingo Church where vendors gather and weddings and quinceañieras are scheduled throughout the day. Bring it on!

Pink Hummer-3 Later that same night, with Pink Hummer stretch limo in waiting, a fifteen year old princess emerges from Santo Domingo complete with her men in waiting to escort her into the cavernous vehicle. There’s lots of poverty in Oaxaca and visible wealth, too. I see many more Audi’s, Mercedes and BMW’s on the streets now than ever before.

ArtHuipilMezcalChoc-4As we emerge from a delicious dinner at La Zandunga on Garcia Virgil, we stop in to Casa Crespo for a Oaxaca chocolate tasting. I think my favorite is the one flavored with chipotle chili. Trees on the avenue are illuminated in changing colors of red, green, yellow and purple. It’s a warm and festive evening for strolling.

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So we stroll on over to Mezcaleria El Cortijo for a nightcap of my favorite reposado, an aged mezcal that goes down smooth and easy.  Ellen sniffs the bottle while our host Raul Mendez talks about mezcal culture.

Anri Okada Artist-4 Anri Okada Artist-2Oaxaca is pretty quiet most Sundays, and in my meanderings I notice an artist through an open doorway painting what appears to be a sign.  Meet Anri Okada. She has been in Oaxaca for six months, is an artist from Japan who studied painting. She speaks Spanish and English and is delightful.  Curiosity is what keeps the world exciting and imaginative.  You never know who you will meet next!Art Huipil Workshop-89Back in Teotitlan del Valle, weaving continues, surrounded by the paraphernalia of the craft — bags of wool, unwarped looms, cotton warp thread, a baby’s rocking horse and a dog’s water bowl.

Pochote_CKnox-2 Ultimately, it’s time to eat and what could be better than blue corn tortillas on the comal with your choice of chorizo and cheese, beans, or potatoes and spinach topped with a fresh egg. The health of Mexicans depends upon unadulterated non-genetically modified corn. It’s a constant battle here between the small farmers and the mega-producers like Monsanto. Indigenous corn, grown in the Oaxaca valley for 8,000 years, is laden with nutrition.

As we say in Mexico, buen provecho!

Two spaces open now in the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing & Yoga Retreat. And, you may want to come with me as we go Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in April in Mexico City.

 

News: Two Spaces Open for Women’s March Writing Retreat

We have been SOLD OUT for months, but today I received two cancellations for the 2015 Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat that starts March 6, 2015.  That means we have TWO SPACES OPEN now. If you have been thinking about expressing your creative self and escaping winter, this could be the workshop you are looking for.  Let me know if you are interested in registering!  We would love to have you with us.

Looking for Secundino and His Textiles, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

On Monday around noon, I pick up Ester at her brick bungalow nestled under the shadow of Picacho, Teotitlan’s holy mountain.  We drive down the cobbled hill, across the small bridge over the Rio Grande, now a trickle in the dry season, to get Janet, an expat friend who lives here during the winter months.

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We are on our way to visit Secundino, Ester’s eighty-seven year old father who still weaves cloth in the old serape style.  His blanket weight wool is soft, very soft, not suitable for rug use. He uses undyed sheep wool that he cards, cleans and spins himself. His is a lost art.

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Ester says he has a couple of textiles finished and for sale, so we are eager to see them.  Secundino only produces about six pieces a year.

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We arrive midday to discover that the rugs are gone, bought up by an exporter. Secundino is not at home. He is out in the countryside in his fields of corn. Though we are disappointed, we make the best of it, stay to visit with Ester’s mother, sisters and nephew with his pet chicken.

This is another opportunity to use my just acquired used wide-angle Tokina 11-16mm lens. I’m liking the results!

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Secundino was the drum major in the village band for decades leading the way in all the processions.  His drums hang like trophies on the wall above his bed. Ester tells us that he joined the village band this year at Las Cuevitas and the family was so happy he could take part again.  A mended broken hip and advanced age doesn’t hold him back.

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We hope Secundino will keep weaving and we’ve put in our order for another one of his wonderful textiles.

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Two years ago, Secudino was the subject for our portrait photography workshop. We have space this year for you, starting January 30, 2015.

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Three Kings Day and Rosca de Reyes, Oaxaca, Mexico

Rosca de Reyes-3It’s January 6, Three Kings Day in Mexico, that marks Christmas celebrations in Latin America and Spain, culminating in the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The children especially gather around to open gifts, sip hot chocolate made with water, no milk, and dig into tamales and Rosca de Reyes.

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Everyone loves Rosca de Reyes. And, everyone tries to avoid getting one of the little plastic baby Jesus figures baked into the sweet dough.  Why? Because if you get the baby, you must host a tamale party for your family and friends on Dia de la Candelaria. This is the official ending of the Christmas season and the transition into Easter. Good tamales, like the women make here in Teotitlan del Valle, are very labor intensive.

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This morning I set out for the Teotitlan del Valle market in search of Eloisa. Last night I bought a rich round egg bread made with pure butter, studded with dried fruit and topped with crab apples. She bakes them in the clay oven tucked into the corner of the courtyard, one at a time.  The outside is crusty and the inside soft, sweet, melt-in-your mouth magic.

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A group of us from the village gathered and after mezcal and tamales, we gobbled up Eloisa’s cake. I wanted more. As I drove to the market early, there she was walking back home, empty basket in hand. But, she had an extra one stashed away at home and I happily gave her 80 pesos to tuck it into my shopping bag.

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Then, in the market bakery section there were any number of bakers selling their own versions of Rosca de Reyes.  I bought two more to give as gifts to friends, another lovely tradition of sharing that comes with living in Mexico.

I’m experimenting with a “new” wide-angle Tokina 11-16mm lens I bought used from B&H Photo to fit my Nikon D7000.  Fun to get a different perspective.  I’m practicing and getting ready for our Portrait Photography Workshop coming up at the end of the month.

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