Over the years, I have collected handmade garments made by very talented women (and some men) in remote villages I have visited throughout Mexico. As I age, my body has changed. I’ve lost both height and weight. It does me no good to have these in my closet and I’m not starting a museum! All are fairly priced to give you an opportunity to treasure these wonderful pieces I have curated. Many have never been worn. I purchased them to support the artisans. Thank you for looking and considering.
Buy now and I will mail around November 15 when I return to New Mexico. Tell me the item number you want and your mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for mailing.
It’s been 19 months since I’ve been to my home in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. In the past several years I’ve been walking, eating for healthfully (gluten and lactose free. Most of the Oaxaca and Chiapas made clothes from my beautiful collection do not fit! I’ve gone from size large or medium to small/extra small.
In the weeks to come, I will be posting these for sale. Buy them now and I will bring them back to the US and mail them to you when I return on November 15 — just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I’m posting a preview of some of these here today. There are many more. So, please look for future postings!
How to buy: Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice after you ID your choices. The invoice will include the cost of the garment + $12 mailing. I’ll be mailing from Taos, NM when I return.
More to come in the next days. Thanks for considering!
I’ve arrived. And I’m astounded at the safety precautions in Oaxaca city. I spent Friday in the city. First, I met Carol for brunch at El Tendajon at the corner of Calle Constitución and Pino Suarez. You can’t just walk in! There’s a gate. They check your temperature and ask you to use Ha d da itinerary before entering. Every staff member is properly masked.
i walked there from the La Noria neighborhood, a good mile and-a-half. Along the way, I’d say 1 in 50 were unmasked. Better than the US I think. This is outdoors, on the sidewalks, with a breeze!
After brunch, Carol and I went to the stamp museum at the corner of Reforma and Constitución. No entry without a temperature reading there, either. Hand sanitizer mandatory. The thermometer was some kind of fancy technology gizmo that takes a reading from your wrist.
How safe did I feel? Completely safe. Quite a relief after the frenzy of air travel.
Now, I’m in my little house in the campo in Teotitlan del Valle. The sun is shining and I’ve just gotten back from a walk with the dogs. Yes, they remembered me even though I’ve been gone for 19 months. It’s supposed to rain. Everything here is lush and green. Im
I am sure the farmers are happy.
This morning I went to the village market to buy chicken and vegetables for a Caldo de Pollo. Mask up. Hand sanitizer at the ready. Here, about 1 in 20 are wearing masks. I asked my chicken lady why she didn’t have one. I don’t believe it, she said. Another woman I know said God will protect me. I’m not sure it’s much different here than in Oklahoma or Florida. Although Natividad told me that the majority of the people in the village are vaccinated. So that is reassuring.
We hear that indigenous people have deep suspicions of government, especially the older ones who have suffered discrimination. Even so, I used my hand sanitizer frequently and disinfected the veggies and fruit when I got home, just like I always did.
My host Federico said the virus and Delta variant is waning here, so people are not as afraid as they were before. And, so it goes.
With my mask up, and three vaccines under my belt, I’m not feeling as vulnerable and I can monitor my social distancing and step away as needed.
The elevation here is 5,000 feet, quite a bit less than Taos. With my doggy companions, Tia and Butch, I kept up a good pace going through the agave and corn fields. I’m noticing that more fields are planted with mezcal-producing agave, a cash crop that is bringing high market prices at maturity (seven years for espadín).
For those coming with me and Eric Chávez Santiago for our Day of the Dead Tour, I know you will love being here, just as I am.
I’m double masked. First, an N95 then covered with my handmade cloth mask made at the height if the pandemic by friend Sam Robbins. (She makes beautiful masks because she is a quilter.)
Do I feel more secure? With my third Pfizer booster and a flu vaccine, I’m still feeling jittery and a bit anxious. I asked the woman behind me in the security line to step back to maintain distance. No one else seemed to care. Everyone else was jammed up in the line.
It looked like it always did traveling before Covid. Lots of close contact. The only difference was that everyone was wearing face coverings, though a few had masks drooping below nostrils.
At age 75, one can go through security and keep on shoes and light jackets. Easy peasy, I thought. Except that before going through the metal detector, I was asked to remove my belt and Teotitlan woven quechquemitl (short poncho). Upon exit of the detector, because areas lit up on the x-ray, I was asked to remove my shoes and undergo the patdown. Shoes had to go back through the x-ray.
Leave plenty of time! I got to the airport 2 hours before flight departure.
Be patient. Ask for what you need — like asking people to step away.
it’s a full flight from ABQ to Houston. We will see how that goes!
Preface: It’s Labor Day. We depend on labor wherever we live to work the fields, harvest food, wash dishes or cook in restaurants, sew clothes, tend our nursery-school age children and grandchildren, build, repair or clean our homes. Before I learned the word, Huelga from Cesar Chavez when I participated in the California Farm Workers Union demonstrations, I knew from my teacher-father the value and importance of taking a stand to protect basic human rights — a fair wage, health care, education. He was part of the California Federation of Teachers Local #1021 that went out on strike in 1969. He was proud of that. Our mom was scared. There was no income for months.
Now that I’m in New Mexico, I am constantly reviewing the similarities and differences between living here and in Oaxaca. The similarities are startling, especially as it relates to our indigenous First Peoples. This week, The Washington Post published an opinion piece about how the Navajo Nation has suffered during the covid pandemic: Navajo Culture is in Danger. I encourage you to read this. It offers insights into a way of life that is essential to cultural survival.
Here and in rural Oaxaca villages, Native American families live together in multi-generational households, often encompassing four or five generations. They care for each other in close-knit communities where language, values and culture are shared and transmitted. This is an important way cultural survival mechanism.
Living in close community poses huge risks to the vulnerable, especially the aged. We know from history that disease ravaged indigenous peoples with the European conquests, decimating huge swaths of the population. The covid pandemic reiterates how a rapidly spreading airborne disease can bring sickness and death to rural communities. Most hold the attitude that they want little to do with government intervention because of historical mistrust, abuse and discrimination. Lack of access to clean water, health services, education, and economic opportunity shape these attitudes. Poverty and isolation are huge factors.
The Washington Post article addresses how the Navajo Nation, hard-hit by covid early in its cycle, is weathering the disease. Small houses are built adjacent to family dwellings to house grandparents to make sure they stay safe, separated from family but not too far away! The tribe has a successful vaccination campaign and a high percentage of their people are vaccinated now.
What I loved about this article was the effort to keep loved ones safe in auxiliary dwellings, and still keep them close to the family and community. I’m not certain that this is a practice in Oaxaca, where family celebrations and observances are a priority and people gather in large groups despite the on-going threat of the pandemic. Most often, it is the octogenarians who are the keepers of culture.
For those of us traveling soon to Oaxaca, we will need to stay vigilant to maintain safe distance and wear face masks during Day of the Dead celebrations at the end of October. It is very likely that celebrations will not be curtailed much at the cemeteries or in the streets. Traditions are powerful. It is also doubtful that elders will be housed in adjacent small homes for protection there like the Navajo are here.
Footnote: Today begins the 10 days of the Jewish New Year. This is a time to reflect on our place in the world, what we can do to actively “repair the world,” our relationship within it and with others. On Rosh Hashanah (today), the Book of Life is opened and for the next days, we review behavior, intentions, deeds and misdeeds. We use this time in self-reflection to set things right with ourselves and others. On Yom Kippur, the Book of Life is closed and the promises for change we make is “sealed.” This open book period gives us a chance to start fresh and steer a new course. We reconnect with family and friends, renew spirit by being in nature, take action to make change where it is needed.
I have been in New Mexico for almost four months. New beginnings are intentional, spark creativity, and create opportunity. At this moment, I’m grateful to again ask the questions: Who am I? Who do I want to be?
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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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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Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle