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Norma Writes for Selvedge Latin Issue
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
- Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
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Monthly Archives: September 2017
Important message from cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner and medical doctor Anja Widman, who are working with the Ikoots/Huave people in San Mateo del Mar, Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Their coastal village was nearly destroyed after the September 7, 8.2 magnitude earthquake. Please know any gift you make will go to direct aid they will give.
Send me an email if you wish to mail me a check to get funds to them.
And, you might like to see this post I wrote some years ago when I visited San Mateo del Mar and famous backstrap loom weaver Francisca Palafox.
Last night, when I returned to Durham, North Carolina, I opened my mailbox to find three checks totaling $700 USD for Oaxaca earthquake support. Most of these gifts were collected by Mary Randall, my Oaxaca friend who lives in Modesto, California. Others came because people contacted me directly asking if they could send a check instead of making a PayPal donation.
Special Thank You to:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County, Ca. where Mary’s call to action resulted in a collection of $300 USD!
And to these individual donors whose checks I received.
- Mary and Sara Randall, Modesto
- Christine Fiedler, Modesto
- Mary James, Modesto
- Richard Kowalczyk, Springfield, VA
And, thanks to so many of you who made your gifts directly via PayPal.
I’m expecting another gift from Mary in the mail. Her daughter Sara is an elementary school teacher. The Third Grade at Garrison Elementary School, Modesto, gathered $47 USD for earthquake relief. Mary says a neighbor kid’s grandma is buried in the rubble in Mexico City.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There was another 6.1 magnitude earthquake in southern Oaxaca yesterday. This was one of several yesterday in the same region of the 8.2 quake. USGS officials are saying these are aftershocks. I’m certain people are jumpy and suffering from PTSD, fearful for loved ones, not having the resources to rebuild.
There is a lot of need right now in our world. What we choose to repair is a personal decision. If you have extra resources for Oaxaca, here’s what you can do:
- Mail a check to me, payable to Norma Schafer, 500 N. Duke Street, Apt. 55-307, Durham, NC 27701. I will send the funds on for direct aid to either the Toledo Foundation or to Denise Lechner. Please specify.
- To Francisco Toledo Foundation Francisco Toledo’s Foundation IAGO (Instituto Artes Graficas de Oaxaca) https://www.paypal.me/donativoistmo (This link is no longer working. I’m trying to find out why.)
- To anthropologist Denise Lechner who is working in the field https://www.paypal.me/deniselechner
- To Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation as follows via wire transfer:
Special thanks to Mary Randall, a knowledgeable historian and resource about Oaxaca. Her talks at the Oaxaca Lending Library attract eager audiences whenever she is in residence.
Magnitude of Need is 10.0
Oaxaca got hit with another earthquake yesterday, a 6.1, and then there is Puebla, where major historic sites were damaged, and Mexico City, where people died buried in rubble from the 7.1 earthquake last week. Climate change and destruction are upon us. Where to start? It’s your choice! There is so much to do.
From on-the-ground-in-Oaxaca: I’ve been in Oaxaca city since early August. Experienced both of the big quakes, on 9/7 in the Isthmus and on 9/19 in Puebla state. We got a scary ride on the terremoto machine, but the city and surrounding areas, including the (north) Oaxaca coastal area, are fine. The massive old buildings here, built of huge blocks of solid rock, seem to do well with the earth shaking.
All around the city are pop-up centers for gathering donations of food, water, clothes, diapers, medical supplies, etc. that are going to Juchitan and smaller pueblos in the Isthmus, where the devastation has touched everybody. And Norma has already published the ways we can donate funds that will be matched and will be assured of getting to the people in need. We can help too with our purchasing dollars.
Note: There is some controversy about how aid is being distributed, especially through NGOs that have ties to the government with reports that funds are being diverted to political use.
I assure you that my friend, anthropologist Denise Lechner and Dr. Anja Widman, who is working with her, have taken a Mobile Clinic and donated goods to provide care services and supplies to people in communities that need them most on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and neighboring mountain villages.
If you made or make a gift directly to Denise Lechner, the Toledo Foundation or Helu Foundation, please let me know. I would like to recognize you and give you public thanks. I am not sure how donors will be acknowledged by these organizations. They are too busy giving aid. With appreciation, Norma
Once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart,
you will have no rest in any other land.
On September 13, I joined Patrice Wynne and Gloria Orenstein at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles for a curator-led preview tour of this landmark exhibition, Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico.
The exhibition runs through February 25, 2018.
The term promised land is rooted in a vision of freedom and liberation. Emotionally, it has meaning for peoples seeking release from oppression who want a secure life where one can become fully realized without restraint. Jewish identity is intertwined with Israel as the promised land. African-American slaves looked to the north as a promised land. Oppressed peoples throughout the world continue to seek asylum in America, their hope of the promised land where opportunity and justice prevail. (We must be vigilant.)
Anita Brenner (1905-1974), a Mexican-born Jewish writer who lived and worked during the Mexican Renaissance, saw the country adopted by her Latvian parents as a promised land for intellectual and artistic expression. Her own experience with prejudice and discrimination helped give her voice to bridge understanding.
Mexico was a haven for immigrants escaping Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Even today, Mexico has a welcoming immigration policy. Her people are a blend of indigenous, Spanish, African, Filipino, Chinese, German, and French — representing waves of conquest and immigration. Jews sought haven in Mexico when the gates were closed to the United States of America. (Thank you, Mexico!)
Brenner was an integral part of the circle of Mexican modernists in the 1920s and played an important role in promoting and translating Mexican art, culture, and history for audiences in the U.S.
Born during the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Brenner was close to the leading intellectuals and artists active in Mexico at the time. These are names we know well: painters José Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jean Charlot, and photographer Tina Modotti. There were others whose name we do not widely know in the USA, including Rivera’s second wife, Guadalupe Marin, Frances Toor, Nahui Olin, Luz Jimenez and Concha Michel.
The exhibition introduces us to Brenner as an important figure who has been heretofore obscured by the more illustrious in her circle. An influential and prolific writer on Mexican culture, Brenner is best known for her book Idols Behind Altars: Modern Mexican Art and Its Cultural Roots (1929).
Her work is rooted in the shaping of post-Revolution Mexico, when a new identity for a new nation needed to be reassessed to reflect the persistent indigenous culture behind the Spanish conquest. The Revolution brought with it the need to create political, social and cultural change and artists turned to folk art as inspiration to re-imagine past with future.
She was also instrumental in creating cultural tourism for Mexico — promoting cultural exploration as a vacation activity by publishing the cultural travel magazine, Mexico this month. We can consider her a pioneer in learning about the people who live where you visit.
The Skirball’s exhibition includes a narrative of Brenner’s life. It features pre-Columbian art, paintings, prints, photographs and drawings by Miguel Covarrubias, Jean Charlot, Edward Weston, Leonora Cunningham, Maximo Pacheco, Lola Cueto, Abraham Angel, plus those we are more familiar with: Kahlo, Rivera, Orozco.
Charlot was a disciple of Rivera who contributed to the murals at the Secretariat de Publica Education (SEP). He was in love with Brenner; they could never reconcile religious differences and did not marry, though they remained lifelong friends.
Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty.
Thank you to the Skirball Cultural Center for background information and photographs.
First, a special call-out to Porfirio Gutierrez and his family for all they do to promote the use of natural dyes in the making of their hand-woven tapestries. His sister Juana is a master dyer and his brother-in-law Antonio innovates on design and materials. Congratulations on this feature story!
I was honored to be interviewed a couple of months ago by New York Times Science reporter Erica Goode to offer source information about the natural dye world in Teotitlan del Valle.
Of course, I emphasized that in addition to Porfirio’s family, there are about a dozen other families or family groups who are dedicated to preserving the natural dye culture. This includes my host family, Galeria Fe y Lola, Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas. This takes time, commitment and an investment of more expensive materials.
Please join me on a one-day natural dye and weaving study tour to explore our weaving culture in more depth.