The sound of familiar music drew me to the doors of the village church and another celebration.
[My guess is that village life is a mutual support society. Families support each other by providing and paying for the services needed to sustain the constant celebration of life. There is incredible joy for families, and economic benefit to those who create the music, food, flowers, and the red and blue striped tent rentals that mark the homes of celebrants throughout the village. Okay, so the music is a little off key, but I can assure you that the cake will come from the best pasteleria and the tamales from an expert cook.]
I took my seat at the back of the church as the service was coming to a close. The band led the way, playing full throttle. Behind them came the family — father holding a little girl about one year old dressed in white, a huge smile on his face, his wife next to him was beaming, beautifully dressed in a gauzy pink floral dress and gold jewelry. The rest of the family trailed behind them. As they approached, I smiled and said, felicidades. He stopped, asked me where I was from. Carolina del Norte, I replied. Oh, my brother worked in Raleigh for a while. Why don’t you join us at the party, just follow us to our home. I thanked them, and expressed my regrets. I had a massage appointment with Annie that I couldn’t miss. But, I was astounded at the generosity of the invitation, and reminded myself that this is what Teotitlan life is about — generosity and inclusion. I joined the procession as it curled for a block or two along with abuelos wrapped in tradition jaspe-style woven shawls, tias from Tehuantepec bedecked in gold and high heels, and then peeled off.
First, a stop at the pasteleria to order my New Year’s Eve birthday cake, an all chocolate affair that would feed 20. Then, I noticed the chocolate cake topped with flan double layer extravaganza and ordered one of those, too. Federico was in the rug market today and I thought I would join him for a few minutes before heading off to Annie’s up the hill. The Chavez Santiago family displays and sells at the rug market intermittently depending upon whether there is a celebration, trip to Oaxaca, or a commission to finish that might take priority. Today the market was filled with tourists, and as a gringa sitting in the stall with a Zapotec weaver, I guess I was somewhat of an anomaly. The English-speakers asked me where I was from, and from there it was easy to start the conversation about rug quality, natural dyes, cultural preservation, Spanish conquest history, and conserving authentic weaving and dyeing traditions. I met a bi-lingual man from Texas who brings his children to Mexico to teach them about their cultural history and traditions. He wanted to show his daughter rug weaving techniques so he went to the house where Dolores and Janet were weaving. Another family from Cancun stepped in to visit and placed a custom order. It was a good day.
Tuk-tuk time for me. I hopped into one of those little three wheel red moto-taxis that ply the village lanes and we huffed and puffed over the cobble stones, across the river, onto the dirt and stone road that leads to the hillside where Annie lives. I am entering shiatsu heaven. First a bit of tea and talk, then I’m down on the mat. When I emerge an hour later, magically all my back pain from carrying talavera tile in my backpack is gone. I’m light footed down the hill, gaze at the golden stumps of shorn cornstalks dazzling in the last moments before sunset, stop at El Descanso for a bowl of fresh vegetable soup and agua de pepino con limon, and arrive home just in time to greet Eva Hershaw, a university student applying to graduate school, who came to Oaxaca to create a photo documentary of people who grow traditional maize (the non-bioengineered kind). We had been carrying on a correspondence and I suggested that she first connect with Itanoni, the Oaxaca bakery that only uses native corn. I invited her out to the village telling her that everyone here grows corn just like they did 6,000 years ago. She joined us at the kitchen table as we were finishing late comida, and she met the Chavez family and talked about her project. We will help her connect with local farmers and invited her back to join us for the Las Cuevitas new year celebration on December 31 and January 1.
It is a good day!