Monthly Archives: November 2009

Mexican Tablecloth: Fern Devlin’s Buy A Thread Blog

A message popped into my inbox last week from NYC textile designer Fern Devlin, who had found us on a Google search.  She had a handwoven tablecloth that she thought might be from Oaxaca and asked me about provenance.  I took a close look and saw texture and pattern elements that were familiar to me in the woven cloth work I have seen in Mitla.  But, the real expertise would need to come from Eric Chavez Santiago and the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  I forwarded Fern’s request to Eric who gave his expert assessment of the piece.  You can read about it on Fern’s blog.

IDentidates RE-Vestidas Contemporary Art Exhibition by Eduardo Poeter Opens in Oaxaca

Opens Saturday, November 28, 2009, 7 p.m., Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and continues through March 15, 2010

Curated by Olga Margarita Davila, this contemporary art exhibition translates the experiences of Mexican  emigration through the eyes of Tijuana born artist Eduardo Poeter.  Through textiles, photos, and personal stories, she traces the experiences of 13 people representing five ethnic groups and seven regions of Oaxaca.  Clothing and textiles become the metaphor for psycho-social status and how people engage in and are seen as being part of or outside the community.  The exhibition artistically explores the possible connotations of emigration, how individuals and communities are transformed through the experience, and how clothing serves as a language to communicate identity and belonging.

In Oaxaca, textiles are highly prized and very important.  Dress is the identity of community, and important decisions about color, shape, texture and size have evolved over time.  Fabrics are woven using the backstrap loom or fixed-frame pedal loom and convey the richness and variety of the culture.   Each garment conveys a way of life.  When Eduardo began her creative process, she studied this system of shape, pattern and design to understand the profound experiences retold by each of the immigrants.

The impetus for this collection of works is a translation by Eduardo of the immigrants’ experiences and stories.   She is driven to understand, reflect upon, and create universal understanding:  you are in me and I in you.


La exposición IDentidades RE-Vestidas se conforma con obras de arte contemporáneo que nacieron de un proceso de vinculación con las comunidades de Oaxaca con una indumentaria relevante y que la presencia de la migración fuera significativa; en la que la vestimenta se entiende como un reflejo de la condición psico-social de la comunidad y en la que se explorara artísticamente las posibles connotaciones de afectación y transformación de la emigración, revertida en una intervención en la ropa. Es así que las diez piezas resultantes de esta investigación y experimentación, recogen las experiencias de 13 personas en 5 grupos étnicos y 7 regiones de Oaxaca.

La vestimenta es el rostro de una comunidad. Es la personalidad en tela que se conforma poco a poco con el paso del tiempo y con decisiones de color, forma, textura y tamaño. En textiles, Oaxaca es reina, no solo porque aún las telas se hacen a mano en telar de cintura o de pedal, sino porque su riqueza y variedad reflejan las culturas que la conforman y porque conllevan a saberes rebosantes en el que cada uno contiene una plenitud cosmogónica. Cada uno de ellos propone un código de vida que se expresa en atuendos, con los cuales Eduardo empezó su proceso creativo, entendiendo su sistema de signos que lo conforman y las pautas que siguen, para de ahí poder intervenir, tomar parte del asunto, con el mensaje profundo de cada una de las vivencias de los emigrantes.

El ímpetu de la presente colección de obras es una traducción de Eduardo. Esta parte de varias pulsiones, siendo la más atractiva para ser un punto de partida de la presente reflexión, la de conformarse hacia una practica artística pluri-versal, es decir, dejar atrás el concepto de artista universalista enfocada en su yo como dictador de realidad, para crear-se hacia la artista mutua, con el enunciado: tú eres en mí y yo en ti. color

Inauguración Sábado 28 a las 19:00 hrs en el
Museo Textil de Oaxaca color

Hidalgo 917
Centro 68000, Oaxaca, México.
Teléfono (951) 5 01 11 04

La exposición estará hasta el 15 de marzo del 2010

Para información sobre visitas, el taller La Intervención en el Arte Contemporáneo, conferecias y programa educativo para niños dirigirse a Difusión y Servicios Educativos:
(951) 5011617 ext.104

How to Get to Oaxaca for Under $600 Round Trip

It’s always cheaper to fly round trip into Mexico City and then figure out how to get to Oaxaca from there, albeit the bus ride is six hours long and rather boring unless you have your computer or are into a good book.  And, it’s much cheaper to book three months in advance and go during off-season, which would be between January and March.  Of course, if you live in the cold northern hemisphere, this is exactly the time you want to be in Oaxaca.

Erica, Jim and I just booked our tickets on Continental Airlines for the documentary film making workshop we are teaching in Teotitlan del Valle from Feb. 19-26, 2010.  We could not find a round-trip ticket to Oaxaca for less than $900 each (including taxes and fees) anywhere on the Internet.  I told Erica and Jim that I was finding $340 RT fares to Mexico City (our flights originate from RDU).  The trick was how to get to Oaxaca without spending hours on the bus.  Erica had a brilliant idea.  She checked out in-country flights on Mexicana from MEX to OAX and discovered that we could make easy connecting flights for $200USD round trip, including taxes and fees.  We did all this online.

That brought our fare in under $600 each, which saved us over $300 on each ticket.  A deal in anybody’s book!

Note:  Beware of the prices quoted on many internet sites.  Often, the low fare that is published is for one-way only (I found a lot of those).  When I went to book is when I discovered the price doubled, and on top of that the taxes and fees were added on. is one of the few sites that do not add on taxes and fees; what is published is the total REAL price, and I appreciated that.  Another reliable site is  Some people tout but I find that their fees are higher than other sites.

Book Review: The Life and Times of Mexico by Earl Shorris

If you are a repeated visitor to Mexico and you are interested in a historical, social, political, cultural, artistic commentary, then this comprehensive, 700+-page tome by Earl Shorris is a must read.   Shorris’ insights into why Mexico works the way it does is rooted in its experience as a Spanish outpost in the New World, an inherited conservative legal system rooted in a Latin judicial system, and Olmec creativity and Aztec stratified hierarchies that adapted to conquest.  There is so much going on in this book that it can be at times overwhelming and dense.  It took me over a month to read it, but it was well worth the investment of time.

If I were a psychologist, I might draw the conclusion that today’s Mexico is a bi-polar country, torn between its indigenous and Spanish heritage, and the tension of identity that this creates.  Shorris talks about the metiszo or mestizaje, the Mexican who is the blend of Spanish and indigenous parentage, and the self-love/hate relationship that that promotes and promulgates.  He discusses why it was so easy for the red-bearded Cortes to be embraced as the Quetzalcoatl, and how the Aztec emblem of the double-eagle which was also the coat of arms of the Spanish crown, became common symbols that were embraced by the conquered.    When I toured the Ex-Convento Santa Rosa in Puebla recently, there was a clay sculpture that embodied this history.  The base was adorned with Spanish soldiers and Aztec warriors, depicting the conquest of New Spain.  At the top was La Malinche and Cortes, arms outstretched to heaven, holding a baby that represented the blending of the two and the future of the country.  La Malinche was Cortes’ mistress who served as his translator and betrayed her people.  These figures could be the Virgin Mary or the Virgin of Guadalupe and God, bringing forth the Baby Jesus who would become the saviour.

There remains in Mexico today a social class system based upon heritage.  Criollos are those of “pure” Spanish descent.  The mestizos are the mix of Spanish and indigenous.  The indigenous, or indians, are usually darker, rural and less educated, with less access to social services and opportunities.  Skin color can define a person’s opportunity to succeed and advance.  The social movements that have turned to street activism are the result of a closed system where democratic principles are difficult to actualize.   As Mexico seeks to expand it’s international partnerships with other nations, it will begin to break loose from the domination of its northern neighbor.

NAFTA, economic opportunity, immigration, the economic engine of Monterrey, Carlos Slim Helu (owner of Telmex and one of the richest men in the world), the 70-year “presidency” of Porfirio Diaz, the political leadership decisions to create Mexico as a labor market rather than a manufacturing/production market, the 1910 “revolution” and implications for democracy, and the incredible literary and arts contributions made to the world by Mexican writers and painters are all discussed in this extraordinary book.

When I read Shorris’ perspectives about the dream imagery of the ancient Mayans, Aztecs and Zapotecs that have influenced contemporary artists, I understand how my friend Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez in the village of Teotitlan del Valle is bringing forth the soul of his people to convey floating people, animals and symbology on canvas.

There is so much more than what I have touched on here.  Please pick this up and settle in for a good read.  You will love and understand Mexico so much more for it.

Airfare Bargain Discounts to Mexico: What’s True, What Isn’t

We were trying to book a “last-minute” trip to Oaxaca over winter break and having no luck with “good” fares, ie. those under $600.  Indeed, prices were veering upwards of $900-1200 per ticket.  Okay, granted, we are less than five weeks away from our intended departure date and there is a penalty for waiting so long to decide whether we were going again.  I think we spent a good six to eight hours traveling around various travel sites to compare prices and schedules and determine whether the published fare was what it would actually cost us once the taxes and fees are added on.

Our preferred routing has been on Continental through Houston which is the only airline that has a direct flight to Oaxaca.  However, the hefty cost was prohibitive.  We searched Travelocity, American Airlines, Expedia, CheapOAir, and Airfare Watchdog, finally landing on Hotwire where the published prices include all taxes and fees (no hidden costs here).  On the others, the enticement is a low fare until you go to book and discover that $110 to $160 can be added on, or the price quoted is only for one-way!

We decided to book on Hotwire to Mexico City where we found a round trip fare for $438.  We’ll spend the night in Houston for $45 (with our AAA discount) at a Knight’s Inn three miles from the airport, and pick up the morning flight to Mexico City.  From there, we’ll take a $5 taxi to the CAPU bus station and take a $35 first class bus (TV and toilet) to Oaxaca and get in in time for dinner.  Our total savings will be around $400 plus or minus.  Not bad for a bit of online fare sleuthing.

On the return trip, I’m planning to bus from Oaxaca to Puebla, spend the night and pick up another Talavera ceramic plate or two.  Four hours via bus from Oaxaca to Puebla, another hour and a half from Puebla to Mexico the next day.