Tag Archives: Teotitlan del Valle

Mask-eR-Aid and More for Oaxaca

Lots to report since the last time I wrote about The Oaxaca Mask Project.

The recent 7.5 earthquake in Oaxaca eclipsed news about Covid-19 last week. Fortunately, in the city and surrounding villages, damage was light. The quake was centered near Huatulco along the Pacific Coast, where indeed, some villages suffered.

This week, the Welch-Allyn Vital Signs Monitor arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, a Usos y Costumbres village. Armando Gutierrez Mendoza, a member of the village health care committee, took it to Municipio President Andres Gutierrez Sosa, who received it — our gift to them. Señor Andres sends his thanks to all of us!

Here are photos of the committee opening and using it at the public health clinic.

Four donors made this vital signs monitor possible: Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Boojie Colwell and Dr. Deborah Morris.

All set up and ready to use!

A special thanks to Larry Ginzkey who organizes Hoofing It in Oaxaca hiking group. His group of hikers collected and donated $250 USD for The Oaxaca Mask Project.

Clinic nurse reading blood pressure and oxygen levels
Pulse oximeter measures oxygen levels in blood, can help detect Covid-19

If you live in Oaxaca or the pueblos and you want to receive and distribute masks to those in need, please let me know: norma.schafer@icloud.com

Jorge Toscani wear a mask

Rachael Mamane from Food for All took 70 masks to Jorge Toscani who is part of a Oaxaca taxi fleet. He told us that they disinfect the taxis regularly and has distributed our masks to all 15 drivers for themselves and passengers. She also took 150 masks to Puente. Rachael is looking for a contact in Ocotlan where she thinks there is an on-going need for masks.

Masks also went to Mama Pacha Chocolatier, Oaxaca. Thank you, Antonio!

Mama Pacha chocolate is some of the best in the world, I think. It is tempered, which makes it so smooth and creamy — fine eating chocolate rather than the Oaxaca chocolate we know for making the hot drink!

Cristy Molina Martinez sent this photo of a Macuilxochitl woman

We continue to send masks where requested. We had another request from Macuilxochitl for an additional 100 masks, so Cristy took them over there.

A family of mask-wearers in Macuil

Cristy’s cousin Catalina Martinez, who operates the folk art gallery WA’HAKA, has organized a food pantry in Teotitlan del Valle to help 50 older people. We gave her 80 masks to distribute.

We are slowing down as requests for masks subside. Lately, we are waiting to sew and distribute based on whether we hear there is more need. So far, we have made and distributed 3,119 masks.

I’ll give you more tallies of what we have accomplished in coming days.

Fabric for mask-making to Oaxaca

Berle Driscoll is moving from New York City to Florida this week. She wrote to ask if we could use more fabric for Oaxaca mask-making — she had a lot of unused cloth! It’s hard for me to turn down an offer like this. I received two boxes yesterday and will consolidate to include colorful elastic cording I will donate to the cause.

Hang tags for our masks–how to use and wash!
Kari Klippen-Sierra brings masks to the Santiago Family

Kari Klippen-Sierra has helped immensely. For the past two months she has worked with us to get masks to families and the health clinic in San Andres Huayapam, where she lives with husband Rudy Sierra. She has also made sure that two non-profits operated by the Episcopal church to help at-risk families receive masks. She repeatedly picks-up and distributes!

Words of Gratitude for Masks: Oaxaca Mask Project

Cristy Molina Martinez is my eyes, ears, hands and feet on the ground in Oaxaca. She is a teacher who lives in Teotitlan del Valle. She has been working to make and distribute masks throughout the Tlacolula Valley for the past two months. She writes me almost daily with updates.

We are making and distributing more and more masks as the virus spreads and is likely infecting many people, though there are no tests to prove it, unless, says Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras in San Jeronimo Tlacochuhuaya:

People are only tested if they are exhibiting strong symptoms. By then, it will have already infected friends and family members, too.

Last night I got this message of thanks from Cristy, who is paraphrasing a Teotitlan del Valle woman who came to her house in search of masks:

“People are still coming to my house asking for masks. A woman came and told me, really please, let the people who are making this possible, say thank you, you are so kind and helpful for this problem. We need more people like you. She was really really grateful for the masks. ‘We are so grateful,’ she said.

“She took 12 masks and she was so happy. I know she will use them. Because she told me that two older people came to her house to ask where the masks were being given out. She was really thankful. I didn’t ask her name.”

To contribute, click here:

The woman who came for 12 masks, two for an elderly couple

“I am still working on getting masks made and distributed. Two people died last night. We have had eight losses. We don’t know the reason. Yesterday morning the president told the village that the market will close for a few days. We will just have market on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday now. We will see how this works.

“Yesterday, we gave the village president a document telling him we are helping with the cause. We continue to produce information materials and videos about prevention and how to use the masks.

“I took 120 masks and gave them to the president so he knows the project and if he needs more, he can come to my house and ask for more. We told him that the paper masks are only good for one use and are making garbage. He was really happy with this donation.

“On Sunday, I gave 30 masks to Alan Goodin for Santiguito. Rosario just finished making 200 masks and Matea will complete another 100 masks today. My friend in Macuilxochitl is handing out masks and the next 100 will go there!”

We could not do this project without Cristy. We could no do this project without YOU. We could not do this project without the mask makers and friends in Oaxaca who are helping to distribute. Thank you!

To contribute, click here:

Epidemiologists say that we must be wearing masks for at least 3-12 more months. I don’t know how long we can keep this project going — as long as we have support from people like you and as long as there is a need!

Donors Help Send Medical Supplies to Oaxaca Health Clinic

We branched out from masking making and distribution last week by raising funds from four donors to buy a Welch-Allyn vital signs monitor for the Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, health clinic. Village volunteer officials contacted me with this special need.

I reached out to readers and received immediate response from Kate Rayner, Toronto, Canada; Claudia Michel, Portland, Oregon; Boojie Cowell, London and Mexico City; and Deborah Morris, M.D., Coates, North Carolina. Debbie advised me on brand and helped make a selection from a hundred or so used models available on eBay.

The vital signs monitor was a big purchase, and we are so grateful to these four women for their generosity to be able to say YES, WE CAN.

This piece of machinery will give doctors the tools to check oxygenation and do continuous monitoring with accurate temperature and blood pressure checks, according to Claudia Michel, who is also an RN. Oxygenation is an essential reading for early detection of Covid-19. When oxygen levels decline, that is a sign there is illness. I have a portable pulse oximeter at home and use it regularly to monitor my own levels.

Mask woven by Arte Textil Orozco and sewn by Stephanie Jeronimo

To contribute, click here:

We also used funds to purchase gallons of hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol and two portable pulse oximeters for the village clinic to take into people’s homes. This is in addition to giving the clinic hundreds more masks to distribute as an official appeal to the village to wear them and keep social distancing.

Yesterday, Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras picked up 100 more face masks in El Tule for the health officials to distribute to the people of his village, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya. The masks were the second order I placed with Arte Textil Orozco, the workshop that wove the cloth that was then sewn by Stephanie Jeronimo.

Since Phase II of the The Oaxaca Mask Project started on May 23, 2020, we have ordered, sewn and distributed 1,810 masks. This includes 100% cotton fabric donated by Patrice Wynne, Abrazos San Miguel, and more from Karen Nein in Eldorado, New Mexico.

Moto taxi driver accepts face mask funded by The Oaxaca Mask Project

We’ve sent money via Western Union to mask makers in Oaxaca, San Miguel del Valle, and Teotitlan del Valle. We are also using PayPal to send money because it is fast and direct for those who use it.

Rocio Arecely Garcia Lopez and husband Pedro Hernandez Antonio, Bordados Xime

Bordados Xime, a fancy apron-making workshop in San Miguel, has shifted over to making masks and we are supporting them. We paid for our first order of 100 that will be distributed to the residents of this Zapotec village.

Face masks from Bordados Xime, San Miguel del Valle

The map of Mexico shows RED. There is a high rate of infection everywhere. People are now asking for masks as infection rates rise in Oaxaca. Stay-at-home orders from the Governor are in place until June 15. We have orders out now for 500 more masks that have not yet been paid for.

To contribute, click here:

News this week is that markets are closed and will only be open on a rotating basis. (Some on a Oaxaca listserv are saying markets are closed for the next 10 days. I’m not there, so I don’t know.) Masks have been required for entry. Officials taking temperatures and requesting shoppers to use hand-sanitizer often.

There are official three-diagnosed Covid-19 cases in Tlacochahuaya. Our mask recipients on Sunday were taxi drivers, moto-taxi drivers, and the general public. Here, too, health officials were grateful to have the masks and participated in distributing them.

Moises, a Zapotec language activist who lived in Santa Monica, California and worked for Verizon before returning home to Tlacochahuaya, tells me that the real issue is testing for all of Oaxaca. “Testing is only performed when symptoms appear, but by that time there have been contacts, and it might be too late.” He is recording a video in Zapotec for his village to explain Covid-19, symptoms and prevention measures.” Testing is run by the epidemiology department of the state government, Moises tells me.

Mask made by Arte Textil Orozco and Stephanie Jeronimo in El Tule

Public health messages are essential for Zapotec communities of the Oaxaca valleys. Many of the older people, those who are most vulnerable, do not speak much if any Spanish, and hearing warnings in their indigenous language is essential.

Thanks to Alan Goodin, a resident of Santiguito (Santiago Ixtaltepec), who picked up face masks today from Cristy Molina Martinez at the crossroads. Alan will give them out to friends and neighbors who need them.

Meanwhile, we are doing what we can, and we know that mask wearing can reduce infection by as much as 80 percent. Masks don’t just filter air. They promote social distancing. Epidemiologists are telling us that this virus will not go away and that to stay safe mask-wearing will be part of life in the foreseeable future.

Now, we hear that Teotitlan is limiting funeral attendance to 10 people and has put up a blockade at the entrance to the village to limit access to people who don’t live there. Yes, there have been funerals. Few people believe they are Covid-19 related; some do. Without tests, there is no proof. We do believe that the doctors who asked for the vital signs monitor understand how this infection is transmitted and want every tool at their disposal for prevention.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for contributing. Thank you for caring.

Generosity Knows No Boundaries: Oaxaca Mask Project II

We put out the call on Monday, May 25, that we were starting Phase II of the Oaxaca Mask Project. On Tuesday, May 26, an article in Mexico News Daily featuring the project appeared, written by journalist Janet Blaser. Oaxaca blogger Shannon Pixley Sheppard, View From Casita Colibri, reposted our Monday cry for help.

You responded.

We send you our sincerest, most grateful thanks. Special thanks to Janet and Shannon!

Your generosity gives us the wherewithal to go into mask-making overdrive. Even more important now that the virus is spreading to the villages and more cases are identified.

100 masks went to Macuilxochitl, adjacent to Teotitlan de Valle

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We have cried this week. There were seven (7) funerals in Teotitlan del Valle, two on one day. There are cases diagnosed in neighboring villages and towns. For every published case diagnosed, the multiplier is eight (8) for the underrepresented numbers. If five (5) cases are known, the likely total is 40. The curve is no where in sight.

Mexico’s health care system is in disarray. Upon taking office, President AMLO (Lopez-Obrador) started dismantling the system to reorganize. There is little PPE and health care workers are taxed. The New York Times reports today that 25% of Mexico’s coronavirus cases are health care workers.

In all this, we are hopeful that the masks we offer FREE to people will mitigate the spread of disease in the Oaxaca valleys. Thank you for your generosity, your big heart and your gifts.

It takes a village to protect a village. You and I do this because we have a connection to people and place. We do this because we respect the creativity and hard work of Oaxaqueños. We understand. Thank you, again!

Since Monday, May 25, 2020:

  • 108 donors made gifts
  • $6,746 USD received
  • 1100 masks ordered
  • 4 distribution partnerships formed
  • 8 mask-makers employed
  • Expanded mask-making and distribution to San Miguel del Valle apron-making village
  • More to do!
Rocio Arecely Garcia Lopez, left, San Miguel del Valle, will sew masks for us

The Oaxaca Mask Project Report #6: The Final Push

This is our final push for now to make and distribute masks in Oaxaca and surrounding villages. We need your help. Will you make a donation today to give us the means to get 300-500 more masks made this week? To do this, we want to raise $1,250 more. To date, we have made and distributed 2,355 masks. Please use this link to give:

paypal.me/oaxacaculture

We want to wrap up receiving donations for this project (for the time being) by May 15. That means we want to contract and pay for more mask making by this Friday and have all the distribution complete by May 30.

My doggie and casita caretakers, family of Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista, Teotitlan del Valle

Then, we are going to take a break and assess our successes and where we could have made a greater impact. Perhaps there will be another wave coming and we will be better prepared to move faster and cover more faces.

Disease will plummet if 90% wear masks! study shows.

And, the New York Times reports that Mexico is underreporting number of cases and deaths. A sad situation that is also true in the United States of America! Of course, some are disbelievers, too.

La Merced Market Story

Reports from Kalisa Wells in Oaxaca City are promising. The streets are empty. And, she says:

“This morning at La Merced Market: To enter, one must wash hands with soap and water, under supervision. Then a temperature check, followed by a gel squirt. The inside was bustling with fully-masked customers and vendors. No way to stay distanced, but big bottles of gel everywhere… at each station. I felt very comfortable! This market got it right!!!!

“Not ONE mask-less person. But it gets better ….. here is where The Oaxaca Mask Project comes in.

“While waiting to wash my hands, a very young (15- 17 years old) couple was trying to get in to pass the hat and play the accordion. They were very rancho, indigenous, poor, with a baby in tow. An official came out to talk to them. She said they may wash and enter and pass the hat, but they must wear a mask.

“Voila ! I gave them one flowered and one plain, and they were admitted. I do not carry a camera, it so wished I could send you a pic of them in masks made [here in Oaxaca] by Rocio Bastida Cruz and Telarcito Lindo [made possible through donations to The Oaxaca Mask Project].

“I carried a couple of masks with me this morning in a plastic bag… for this! But who knew! Thank you Norma. I imagine they made enough today to eat and maybe buy a few groceries to take back on the long bus ride home.”

Note about the above photo: Left to right is Rodolfo, then Arnulfo Menor (Jr.), mom Natividad Ruiz Vasquez, and two-year-old Esmeralda. Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista is taking the photo. They are my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, friends who are wearing masks made possible through this project. Arnulfo comes to my casita twice daily to feed my dogs in my absence. I’m eternally grateful to them.

Wear Your Mask. Love, Norma

Sam Robbins, mask-maker, who contributed 150 masks to this project