Tag Archives: Teotitlan del Valle

Centro Cultural Communitario Teotitlan del Valle: Tribute to Cultural Heritage

It’s been a week since the new Community Cultural Center debuted on August 18, 2018 with a grand opening event. It was spectacular! What I love about the new Centro Cultural Communitario is it’s tri-lingual explanation of village life and values in Zapotec, Spanish and English. I also love the simplicity of PRODUCTORA’s architectural design that brings past into present.

Bringing food for the celebration, a traditional feast

The center explanations begin with a discussion about what is on display, exploring three core themes: indigenous customs and uses (usos y costumbres), artisanal production, and celebrations and ceremonies.

When we think of Teotitlan del Valle, tapetes or rugs, come to mind

Most importantly, the curators raise the question, What is cultural heritage?  We need a context for this center and what it means. It is not a museum, per se, but a gathering place, an educational space to share, discuss, and learn. They explain that “Cultural Heritage includes tangible goods — works of art, historical and archeological monuments, urban and natural landscapes — as well as the intangible practices of a people — expressions, beliefs, knowledge or techniques, that which are cherished and passed down by the community generation to generation.”

[The Dance of the Feather, video above,  is one key ingredient to cultural heritage. The dancers make a three-year promise to community and church that is a serious undertaking. This is not a folkloric dance, as many think, but essential to identity.]

The grand plaza that joins old adobe and modern concrete.

I don’t think we can talk about cultural heritage without addressing the issue of cultural appropriation. This is an important topic in Oaxaca and worldwide when the dominant culture adopts elements of the minority culture, often for commercial benefit without recompense to the originators.

Designed by PRODUCTORA, Mexico

“The array of tradition-based creations such as worldview, mythology, usos y costumbres, language, literature, music, dances, games, ceremonies, and crafts, among others, constitute the intangible cultural heritage also known as a living heritage,” they say.


The Grand Opening featured traditional dances, including the Jarabe del Valle from this Tlacolula de Matamoros ensemble. The dance is part of every village festivity, especially weddings, quinceanera’s and birthdays.

Ernestina in the comparsa with traditional basket of sugar flowers

Ultra-modern edifice sits between traditional rug market and municipal offices

For me, an important reason to live and celebrate life in Teotitlan del Valle is all bundled up in an ancient, deeply rooted history of thousands of years. More than having survived, Teotitlan del Valle has thrived because her people have innovated, adapted, changed and evolved while continuing to honor and respect tradition. At the core of this is the family and community.

Lila Downs and Paul Cohen are madrina/padrino of grand opening

Abigail Mendoza of Tlamanalli Restaurant* fame wove her skirt, is committee head

[A Note About Abigail Mendoza: Anthony Bourdain discovered her and she became famous. Abigail and her sisters operate famed Tlamanalli Restaurant in Teotitlan del Valle. She has made a two-year volunteer service commitment to head up the cultural center committee, part of usos y costumbres traditions. She told me this responsibility may have an impact on how often the restaurant will be open. Abigail is also the sister of the famous artist/weaver Arnulfo Mendoza who died in 2014.]

Carved wood arrow holder on display with woven strap

The curators continue by saying that: ” Teotitlan del Valle is characterized by its remarkable artisanal production of tapestries and carved candles, the elaboration techniques of which are passed down through generations within the nuclear family.  The workshops are located in households, meaning that the profession plays a part in everyday life.  Making yarn, dyeing, weaving and carving candles are learned from childhood.  The manufacturing of handicrafts is the embodiment of community and family tradition which comes from its origins in the ancient Zapotec people.  It is the vehicle to express their individual creativity, their emotions, and worldview. Additionally, for most of the people of the town, this is their main source of income.”

Hand-made beeswax candles are a core part of celebrations

On display are the hand-made beeswax candles from the family of Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art Viviana Alavez Hipolito. The work passes through the generations. Women who marry into the family learn and do it, too. It is not merely decoration. It is part of ceremonial life. Church and home altars are festooned with these candles. Only three candle makers remain in Teotitlan del Valle.

Traditional beeswax candle making

Cochineal and pigment samples on wool

A highlight of the space are videos of traditions, practices and examples of life. All the videos have English subtitles, a nod to the value and importance of English-speaking visitors to Teotitlan del Valle. It helps us understand more!

How well do we teach our children who we are, what we value?

In many traditions, continuity depends on how well we inculcate values and practices in our children. The community cultural center does more than show and tell visitors — nationals and foreigners — about essential practices. It says to local children that they can be proud of their heritage and make a commitment to carry it forward.

Library, learning and workshop spaces

Indigo and pigment samples on wool

The process of using natural dyes on wool to weave tapestries on the two-pedal loom is part of the cultural center exhibit space. This is an intense and time-consuming process, much more complex and expensive than using aniline (chemical) dyes. Only about a dozen families in the village of 6,000 people work in natural dyes, though many more know how to give the demonstration.

We took a break to go to Arte y Seda for sopa de guias lunch. Que rico!

Visitor Hours:  Quien sabe? Who knows?

Even the handrails are a visual delight

I’ve been privileged to live with a Zapotec family in this village for thirteen years. I live on their land in a casita that I built that will revert to the family when I no longer live here. This is also part of usos y costumbres traditions. No foreigners can own land here. We have no written contract. Our arrangement is based on our word of commitment to each other, that we call trust. A model for how the world might be.

 

 

 

 

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Party for the Animals Fundraiser Report — Over the Goal

Thanks to everyone for your generosity! Yesterday’s fundraiser to support the Teotitlan del Valle Spay Neuter Clinic was a huge success. We raised over 8,000 pesos through local donations and 10,000 pesos from antique and collectible sales from Merry Foss’ bodega. Plus, I’m calculating that an added $485 USD came in via online donations through PayPal from friends who were unable to be here.

This totals about $1,438 USD.  This covers a lot of sterilizations for dogs and cats here in Teotitlan del Valle, plus enables Merry Foss to start a more comprehensive education program about why it is important to spay/neuter animals.

Even with the threat of rain and eventual sprinkles, about 30 people came from Oaxaca City and Teotitlan del Valle, plus other nearby pueblos of Tlacochuaya and Huayapam.  Some we knew and some we didn’t! It was great to have this show of support.  We enjoyed Rosario’s handmade flautas de papas — the homemade organic tortillas were filled with a spicy potato puree, pure yum. Ernestina crafted 50 black bean tamales flavored with an avocado leaf, plus 125 tamales with chicken and yellow mole sauce. Not much was left!

Mission Statement

Teotitlan Spay Neuter Clinic Mission Statement

I provided the food. Guests brought their favorite beverage. I’ll have another fundraiser party for the clinic in January 2019. I’m grateful to Merry for what she does to improve quality of life for animals and people here in our village. And, the service allowed me to easily sterilize the dogs I call pets: Mamacita, Butch and Tia.

My right hand person, Rosario!

Our friend Winn, who carried donations from friends in the city

Moises and Lois brought the most delicious horchata

Merry with Moises and Lois

Pure veggies

Only 4 flautas were left

Moises, me and Lois

 

 

 

 

 

Party for the Animals: Fundraiser for Teotitlan Spay-Neuter Clinic, Sunday, August 19, 2018

PLEASE SHARE. CAR POOL TO TEOTITLAN. GIVE. 

I will provide the famous Teotitlan del Valle mole amarillo con pollo tamales made by my neighbor Ernestina. She will also make delicious black bean tamales for the vegetarians among us. You bring the beverages.

We want to raise 5,000 pesos. 

  • It costs 400 pesos total to spay or neuter one animal.
  • We pay 200 pesos to the Tlacolula vets for each animal.
  • It costs 200 pesos per animal for medicines and surgical supplies.
  • Our goal is to help keep the animal population under control, cut the number of unwanted animals, and provide education for families and the community.
  • Usually, there are two clinics a month, every other Thursday, fixing from six to a dozen dogs or a few cats.
  • This is a privately funded endeavor organized by Merry Foss based on donations.
  • The village calls her “Maria de los Perros”
  • Sometimes, when she runs out of funds, she pays out-of-pocket.
  • She is on a mission and we have a long way to go!

Just a bit too young for surgery … later!

HOW TO GIVE!

We can accept funds through PayPal sent to my account: oaxacaculture@me.com  Open PayPal. Choose Send Money to Family and Friends. Click. It will open to a page. Enter send money to oaxacaculture@me.com and the amount. Please be sure it is sent in US dollars. I will then convert to pesos and give your donation to Merry.

Or, use choose the amount you’d like to give below. PayPal will take 3% fee to use these links:

Scenes from the clinic.

Veterinarian Erwin from Tlacolula de Matamoros

Time for anesthesia, Veterinarian Alma, Erwin’s wife, and her cousin, also a Vet

Merry Foss doing in-take, pink tag = rabies shot given

Medicine and supplies

Rounding up the big dogs

The recovery room

Many of you know that over a year ago, I rescued three dogs living wild in the fields near my house. I took them to Merry to have them spayed (two females) and neutered (one male). Starving Beezy, our poster dog, was taken in by Janie during her visit here. Kalisa snatched him about six months ago, to neuter him, but he had another “home.” But, he showed up to Janie starving and in need. The owner got himself another dog he keeps chained to a post in the field.

We brought Beezy back to health and took him to San Pablo Etla to Friends of Megan animal rescue for adoption. We don’t yet have a fostering/adoption program here in Teotitlan. Merry has her hands full with the clinic, but sometimes she is able to take in dogs in need and tries to find them homes, too.

In June, people came forward with gifts to help Beezy, and I used the extra funds to donate to Friends of Megan and to this clinic, in addition to giving veterinary care to the dog.

Aye, chihuahua preciosa

This is my first life experience having animals! It’s both challenging and rewarding. The most challenging for me is that there are so many animals in need. I wouldn’t call myself a dog person (I’m a textile person), but I cannot turn away.

Thank you for your help and for your participation on Sunday, August 19. Party for the Animals.

 

 

 

 

What About Beezie? Oaxaca Dog Rescue and Finding a Home

This story has a happy ending!

Two days after I returned to Teotitlan del Valle and my home here, I wrote about the skin and bones campo dog that Janie started feeding and named Beezween, which is Zapotec for deer. Beezie leaps like one with his long legs, so it was fitting. I posted Facebook pictures of a dog who looked close to death. I thought, OMG, what am I going to do with FOUR dogs, and I put out the call for a rescue. Beezie needs a home.

Beezie taking a snoozle.

What I got were several generous donations from friends in the US, Canada and Germany to help sustain him until we could figure out a resolution. Thank you to Linda Mansour, Kate Rayner, Judith Grossmann, Barbara Szombatfalvy, Susie Robison, Donna Davis and Karen Nein.

Bottom to top: Beezie, Tia, Butch. Mamacita is missing.

Janie wanted to bring him back with her to North Carolina when she leaves next week. She fell in love! Beezie responded to her by sitting, laying and rolling over. It was a heartfelt bonding.

Janie teaching Beezie to lay down

Meanwhile, I started making buckets of chicken soup and got big bones from the local butcher. Meals were supplemented with chicken livers and gizzards.  My three loved the extra treatment and Beezie started to gain weight.

Healthier Beezie after three weeks of care and feeding

After a ton of research and many phone calls, Janie found that the least cost to transport Beezie to the US via private courier (the airlines are no longer taking responsibility for transporting animals) was out of reach — over $1,500 to start.

Beezie in distress, June 29, 2018

Way back in the beginning of my return and in a panic, I found Rebecca Durden Raab who started a not-for-profit dog rescue organization years ago in San Pablo Etla called Friends of Megan. I contacted her and got the name of the vet, Luciano, who has worked with her for over twelve years. They offer a shelter and dog placement service, including spay/neuter and healthcare. Janie followed up.

Dr. Luciano, the vet from Friends of Megan, with an outstretched hand

Yesterday, Beezie happily (and miraculously) submitted to collar and leash without a fuss. Janie led him down the drive to Omar’s waiting car and they set out for San Pablo Etla and new beginnings. We both cried but knew he would be in good hands.

Beezie sat in Janie’s lap for the entire road trip to Etla

Janie applied for and won a textile residency at Meredith College in Raleigh that starts in September, based much on the volunteer work she did with Galeria Fe y Lola here in the village during the time she house sat and cared for the dogs. She would have had her hands full with a campo dog trying to adjust to city life!

I have used the funds entrusted to me to support Beezie’s journey back to health to buy food and medicines. The funds I did not spend have been donated to Friends of Megan and to the Teotitlan del Valle Spay Neuter Clinic run by Merry Foss.

Beezie. It was hard for Janie to let him go.

Merry’s website is defunct, so if you want to donate, you can send PayPal funds to me using Friends and Family at oaxacaculture@me.com and I’ll make sure it gets to her.

The donations to Friends of Megan are tax-deductible in the USA.

My prayer is that no other starving dogs show up at my front gate!  Three is enough and it’s too hard turning a distressed animal away. There are so many here!

Thanks to everyone for following the journey.

This is not tourist life in Oaxaca. It’s the underbelly of what happens day-to-day, much the same as in other “civilized” countries where animals are mistreated, cut loose to fend for themselves. The overpopulation of dogs here is rampant. I wish I didn’t have to write this story. I’m certain not all stories, those we don’t hear about, end up like this one.

 

In Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca It’s Dance of the Feather with Basketball and HonkeyTonk Fair

Los Danzantes and the Dance of the Feather, Danza de la Pluma

There’s a lot going on this week in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, where I live part of the year. Next to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Precious Blood and the annual saint’s day celebrations honoring the church founding with the Dance of the Feather, there is a carnival fair with kiddie rides, a basketball tournament, and the daily market. To say there is a traffic jam is an understatement.

Today’s Danza de la Pluma starts at 5 p.m.

How many basketball courts are there in Teotitlan del Valle? Who knows?

At the lighted court, two teams are competing while a crowd looks on. Basketball is a big deal here. This court, next to the village market and across from the church was completed last year, complete with grandstand seating and a raised platform for scorekeeper and the guy who does the play-by-play.

Playing basketball under the shadow of the 17th century church, Teotitlan del Valle

The tournament continues through the entire week and attracts young and older alike. This is important entertainment here. A new court was recently built in my neighborhood and each of the five administrative districts of the village will field their best team for this event.

Ball is in the air. Will he make the hoop? YES!

Some of these young men are talented enough to play for the UNC Tarheels, I think.

Meanwhile, back in the church courtyard, hundreds of visitors are watching

This is the third and last year of this 2016-2018 group of Los Danzantes. It is particularly meaningful now as they get ready to pass the baton to the next group who make the three-year commitment to their church and village traditions.

La Malinche, Moctezuma and Doña Marina hold court

Teotitlan is widely known for its Dance of the Feather. Each group tries to outdo those who came before. They are all capable of high leaps and dizzying spins.

Exit the church courtyard to a world of rides and games

Bright lights, loud music projected via huge loudspeakers, screams of delight from children, and booths filled with all types of cakes and cookies are just beyond the church courtyard.

In the distance, we see the sacred mountain Picacho, but who is paying attention? Surely not those who are playing bingo for a chance to win a large plastic trash pail or those tossing the ring with the hope to land a teddy bear.

Family and friends enjoying nieves, Oaxaca version of ice cream

Families and lovers stroll holding ice cream cones, called nieves here. The word means snow. This treat is more like sorbet or gelato. Moms and dads watch over their children who are deep into the moment.

A commitment to recycling, organic and inorganic waste baskets

I’m with my host family. We stop for esquites and boiled corn cob on a stick.  Both are slathered with mayonnaise, shredded cheese, lime juice, hot sauce and chili pepper.

Slathered corn cob on a stick, a Mexican favorite

The esquite maker — an art form, too

Back in the church courtyard, a mezcal toast — salud!

The tradition here is to give and receive guelaguetza, which represents mutual and community support. This includes the significance of gifting mezcal, fruit, bread and chocolate representing abundance for all. It is the responsibility of those more fortunate to help those in need, especially family members.

Members of the church committee distribute fruit to audience members

Stray dog stops play for a moment

Back at the basketball court, the tournament comes to a stop, interrupted by one of the many roaming dogs in the village that is searching for a scrap of food.

Shadows grow longer as the sun descends

The dancers have danced since 1 p.m. It is almost past eight o-clock in the evening. They take breaks with rest, water and Gatorade. There has been no rain so far, so this year the dancing has been a bit easier as temperatures hover in the low eighties (fahrenheit).

Moms watch their children at the rides.

This is a huge regional festival. People from other villages come to enjoy the party. Here, a group of women from Santa Ana del Valle watch their children and take a respite. I can tell where they are from by their elaborate aprons and pleated skirts, a different costume than what traditional women in our village wear.

The grand finale, a prayer by the dancers in the church courtyard

Inside the church, long lines to pay tribute to the altar of the patron saint

Night descends and fiesta-goers shift from church to the adjacent carnival