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!
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
Now that I’m back in my Durham, North Carolina, apartment, people are asking, “What happened to the mama dog and her puppies?”
I guess I need to write an update!
Mamacita. She is a tender, loving puppy mommy and becoming very loyal.
I named the mama dog Mamacita, for lack of any other creative moniker coming to mind. I call her Cita for short. She was a street dog. Cast out. That’s what happens to female dogs. They are unwanted because owners don’t want repeated pregnancies. They also don’t want to neuter their dogs — a financial and cultural issue.
Mamacita has a bad left eye with partial blindness. I presume someone chased her away with a rock and she took a hit.
Sombra (left) and Luz (right) growing up.
Mamacita‘s two babies, just a fistful at birth almost five weeks ago, were white and dark brown. I called them Luz and Sombra, light and shadow.
For the first few days after birth, they lived wild on the land behind my house, nestled in the tall grass shaded by a young guaje tree. Then, I cajoled them into a dog house provided by my friend, Merry Foss, who runs a spay and neuter clinic in the village. By the end of the first week, puppies and mama were living protected in my gated patio.
Dear, wonderful Sylvia, who came to my dog care taking rescue, with Luz.
I fattened up bony Mamacita with twice-a-day doses of chicken soup, beef stock, cooked bones and meat. It was like taking care of a sickly child.
Soon, I had to leave because of work commitments. I sent out the word via Facebook and a blog post. The universe provided.
Dog lover Sylvia Johnson Feldman from Connecticut volunteered to come and house sit, mostly to take care of the dogs. She arrived on July 19. I left on July 20. Sylvia will stay until August 17.
Curious puppies roaming the patio. Sylvia got them colorful collars.
In the next week, the pups will get their first inoculations. Sylvia is making an appointment with the veterinarian who comes from neighboring Tlacolula. Cost for the house call and medications is about 250 pesos.
I’m getting updates from Sylvia along with photos showing how the puppies are weaning, lapping pulverized puppy food and milk. Mamacita seems pleased and domesticated, though Sylvia says she bolts the patio through the iron grill work to run during the early morning hours.
Puppy love, a little nipping, a little biting, dog acculturation.
As soon as puppies are fully weaned, we will spay her. This will likely happen during Kalisa Wells’ watch. She arrives on August 16 to take over for Sylvia.
Both Luz and Sombra have both been spoken for, again via Facebook. Luz will go to a family of alebrijes makers in San Martin Tilcajete. Sombra will go to the sister of a friend who lives in Oaxaca, and will eventually return with her to Washington State. We will send them on their way at about 10 weeks old.
I’ve read it is so important to keep mama and puppies together for at least 10-12 weeks so they have a chance to model behavior. So many are adopted out too early.
An early photo of Luz, under one week old.
I will keep Mamacita if she chooses to stay. With my travel schedule, I’ll have to figure out how to keep her and feed her when I’m not in Oaxaca. All suggestions welcome!
Sombra and Luz are spoken for, will go to good homes. So happy about this.
I’d like to urge you to DONATE to the spay/neuter clinic that Merry Foss operates in Teotitlan del Valle. This is tax-deductible and goes a long way to support dogs and cats, especially the females. With this attention, we can help the animals avoid pregnancy and cut, maybe even end, the proliferation of street dogs, a tragedy throughout all of Mexico.
Spay/neuter costs about $25 USD per animal
Feeding a foster dog costs about $100 USD a bag for 2 months
Flea and parasite treatment costs about $20 USD per animal
Puppy vaccinations cost $20 per animal
No cost for care giving and providing a permanent or foster home!
For me, I took this dog in because of her helplessness, because she is a female, I identified. She has no voice, and there were these two tiny babies depending on her. She could not nurse and hunt for food and water. Not ever having been a dog owner, I learned to give care and compassion to an animal living paw-to-mouth.
Thanks to many of you who have already made a contribution to Merry’s clinic. Thanks in advance to those of you who will.
FYI: Merry has gotten support from Teotitlan del Valle El Presidente Panteleon Ruiz to hold the spay/neuter clinic at his house! This is a major milestone for the village, recognizing the need to control animal reproduction.
It’s sunrise in Cuetzalan del Progreso, Puebla, Mexico. I’m high in the mountains of the Sierra Norte where the indigenous language of Nahuatl is spoken. Beaded and embroidered blouses are predominant here. This is one of the original ten Pueblo Magico‘s and my second visit here. Definitely worth the return!
Selling handwoven and embroidered wool ponchos on the market steps
The triangular scarves and ponchos called huipiles (that I know as quechquemitls) are still woven on back strap looms. Local women walk barefoot on cobbled streets that climb and wind vertically through the village.
The women and girls are adorned with blouses featuring colorful figures of birds, barnyard animals and flowers, winding vines. Bodice ruffles are edged in turquoise, orange or red. Depending on their village of origin, the cap sleeve could be shirred or plain. Men wear traditional white shirts and pants, their feet protected by hand-hewn leather thongs, their heads covered in woven straw hats. Traditions are strong here.
Shirred cap sleeve with elaborate embroidery, ruffles, Cuetzalan, Puebla
I’m traveling with my sister Barbara, who I met in Mexico City earlier in the week. We joined up with friend Merry Foss in Cuetzalan for the annual Feria del Cafe, the raucous celebration of regional coffee. The coffee farms here are plentiful. We are at the right altitude and the beverage is delicious.
Finely embroidered bodice panels waiting to become a blouse, Pedro Martin Workshop
I’m using Sheri Brautigam’s guidebook, Textile Fiestas of Mexico, to find the textile artisan Pedro Martin at Taller Mazatzin known locally as Casa Rosa. The book has an ample section on Cuetzalan. To get to his village of Cuauhtamazaco, 30 minutes from town on a winding mountain road, Barbara and I hop into the back of a covered pick-up truck that is lined with passenger benches. In remote regions of Mexico, this transport mode serves as the major means of getting around. Cost is 8 pesos each.
Alfredo Pizarro (2nd from left) and crew at Pedro Martin Textile Workshop
Pedro, his brother Alfredo Pizarro, cousins and nephews, work magic on a back strap loom. They innovate the traditional huipil design to combine colors and patterns that yields a fine cotton gauze. For blouses that have the intricate, detailed embroidery, they source the bodice panels from only the finest needleworkers who live in remote villages and work only in 100% cotton.
I’m modeling an innovative two-tone huipil from Pedro Martin textile workshop
In the studio, it is the men who cut the patterns, sew and weave. Pedro Martin and his family participated in the Feria del Rebozo at the Franz Mayer Museum, Mexico City, last year.
Using local transportation in and around Cuetzalan, Puebla
Internet service here is intermittent. So, I’m writing before we go off to another village where Merry Foss started a textile cooperative seven years ago. She is doing an expo-venta tomorrow morning with a group of collectors from Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico, who are also here for the fair. The women of Merry’s cooperative make extraordinary beaded blouses, called chakira. The beads originally came to Mexico from Europe and Asia as ballast on the Spanish galleons and the China Poblana shirt was born.
Embellished huipil (quechquemitl) with lots of bling, Cuetzalan, Puebla
Most of the embroidery and beadwork around town is made for the tourist market and is of average quality. No fine needlework, no finished seams. You see the finest work being worn by the women themselves. The trick is to be able to locate the best of what is made. You can find a few pieces in the artisan market. (See Sheri’s book for details.) But, I’ve been asking the ladies, Where can I get one like yours?
Vendors on the steps leading up to the market, Cuetzalan, Puebla
As the coffee fair started, I wandered to the church courtyard beckoned by the waft of copal incense. I met a group of women gathered waiting for a celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The majordoma, or leader of the group, kept the copal incense burner alive with intermittent puffs of breath on the burning coals.
The majordoma turns to smile at me. I made a 100 peso contribution to refrescos.
How to get to Cuetzalan: It’s a six-hour bus ride from Mexico City on ADO or Primera Plus. Almost four hours from Puebla on Via. Buy your tickets in advance. You can’t do this online! Sorry.
Where to stay: We are happy at Casa de Piedra, a clean, lovely hotel set down the steep hill from the plaza. It looks like a stone fortress. Great breakfast and views.
Taller Mazatzin, Pedro Martin Concepcion, tel: 52-1-233-759-3992. Get the colectivo truck at the station on the street behind the church.
My dad was a potter and I grew up with a potter’s wheel and an electric kiln in our garage. Tools were piled on the table, where also sat clay forms drying to the leather hard before he put them into the oven.
This is where he would go to work when he came home from work. For him, I think, putting his hands on the clay of earth and forming it into something beautiful or whimsical or functional was his joy, more fun than work.
I always have a special feeling for people who put their hands on clay. In San Marcos Tlapazola, just 8 kilometers behind Tlacolula, in the foothills, the Mateo Family women work with an organic low fire clay body that becomes unglazed, utilitarian and decorative pieces for hearth and home. It is lead-free and safe to eat from and cook with.
We work with our hands. We bring the mud from our fields. It takes a week to dry it. We wet it. Stir it, strain it and mix it with sand. Finally, we let it dry under the sun to make it. We are ready to work with it.
The vessels are made on a simple turning wheel as the women sit on the floor. They use pieces of wood, stone, coconut shell, gourds and corn cobs to shape and polish.
You might recognize them as they sit on their knees, on petate woven grass rugs at the Sunday Tlacolula market. You might notice them as they pass through the restaurants and food stalls calling out their wares for sale. Their dress is distinctive and colorful. They sell comals of various sizes, bowls and plates, platters and large vessels perfect for cooking soups and stews.
But, the best, largest and most impressive pieces are in their San Marcos Tlapazola home workshop studio. Here, tall jugs are decorated with chickens and roosters, pot lid handles might be dancing dolphins or turkey heads or pig snouts. You might even come across a national award-winning bowl sitting regal on its clay pedestal throne. The selection is enormous and often you can see the black fire flash in the red clay form, giving it an elemental connection to the earth, wind, fire.
When we got there, we came into the courtyard filled with smoke. It was firing day. The pots were hidden under corrugated metal sheeting, piled with tree branches, dried corn husks, discarded bamboo sticks, twigs, brush, and protected by a ring of broken pots to keep the heat in at ground level. We arrived just in time to add our bundle of brush and branches to the fire.
Here at Matamoros No. 18, in San Marcos Tlapazola, live the parents, sisters, cousins and nieces of the extended family of Alberta Mateo Sanchez and Macrina Mateo Martinez. The home phone number is 951-574-4201. The Cel is 951-245-8207.
Their mother Ascencion is ninety years old. Almost as old as my own mother who just turned ninety-nine.
Call to make an appointment to be sure they will be home. Maybe you will be lucky enough to come during a firing, as we did.
As we shopped, the rains came and the wind whipped. It wasn’t a heavy downpour but a light Lady Rain drizzle that causes the smoke to curl through the courtyard and burn our eyes. As we left, the rains made a mist and droplets coated the car window through which I took these ethereal photos below.
How to get there? Go toward the hills behind Tlacolula, following the road that goes through the center of town. There will be a crossroads at 4km. Turn right and continue another 4 km until you get to the village. You will see the traditional church in the distance as you wind to the right through high desert. The main street is Matamoros and the sisters’ house is on the left past a couple of blocks past the church. Look for the sign: Mujeres del Barro Roja.
Norma Writes for Selvedge Magazine Issues #89 + #109
Creating Connectionand Meaning between travelers and with indigenous artisans. Meet makers where they live and work. Join small groups of like-minded explorers. Go deep into remote villages. Gain insights. Support cultural heritage and sustainable traditions ie. hand weaving and natural dyeing. Create value and memories. Enjoy hands-on experiences. Make a difference.
What is a Study Tour: Our programs are designed as learning experiences, and as such we talk with makers about how and why they create, what is meaningful to them in their designs, the ancient history of patterning and design, use of color, tradition and innovation, values and cultural continuity, and the social context within which they work. First and foremost, we are educators. Norma worked in top US universities for over 35 years and Eric founded the education department at Oaxaca’s textile museum. We create connection and help artisans reach people who value them and their work.
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October 27, 2023: Day of the Dead Ocotlan Highway Tour. It’s Market Day! The biggest of the year. See special altar food and decor, visit artisans, explore culture, eat at a traditional open air cocina de humo (grill kitchen). SOLD OUT.
October 29, 2023: Teotitlan del Valle Altars and Studio Visits to natural dye and weaving artisans who invite you to their altar rooms to share family traditions. Meet a traditional beeswax candlemaker. Eat mole and mezcal in a local family comedor. 6 SPACES OPEN.
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Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle