I asked Samuel Bautista Lazo to write me about life in Teotitlan del Valle, during the corona virus outbreak. It is the famous rug-weaving village about 40 minutes outside the city close to Tlacolula. I’m especially concerned for the people in the village where I live most of the year. Samuel earned the PhD in sustainability from the University of Liverpool, England, is a weaver and operates Dixza Rugs, Organic Farm and Air BnB with his family.
Here is what Samuel said on March 26, 2020, when I interviewed him via WhatsApp:
Life for us is business as usual, weaving and being at home alone. There are just no tourists or visitors now, but it is a good break.
There is no mass in the Catholic Church as ordered by the church officials. This means there will be no weddings, baptisms and quinceañera celebrations because they are all religious and family gatherings.
There are some families at the entrance of the village who are still receiving bus and van loads of remaining tourists … some people are concerned about this, but most understand that our economy depends on tourism. People are beginning to worry about the future of our economy.
But more important now is that the health clinic in Teotitlan is still closed [it closed several months ago], so people who need care and cannot afford private hospitals have nowhere to go nearby. They would have to go to the General Hospital in the city because they cannot get service in Tlacolula. The village filed a complaint about the bad service provided to our village which ended up with the health clinic being closed by the public health officials.
We do not worry. We are not that kind of people. We continue life as normal and are adapting to a drop in rug sales and guests coming to visit. We are also focusing on our farm, growing nopal cactus, herding our cattle and taking care of our goats.
Yes, we are concerned about the elders of our community. There is a natural high level of the common flu during this time of year, so it could be a double hit. We have been boosting our immune system with traditional remedies and hope that the temezcal would help eliminate the virus from our system as we know that raising body temperature is a very effective way to kill viruses. Our local temezcal healer, however, got very ill with a flu though, so this is questionable. School has been suspended for a month across the country.
[March 27, 2020: Sunday Tlacolula Market Closed Until Further Notice]
The Tlacolula market is also shut down to outsiders.
It is hard to tell what people are up to because we are naturally in quarantine, but the [Teotitlan] market is still going on, the gym is open, stores and even the coffee shop is still open. Maybe 1-2% of the people are overly cautious, taking Sana Distancia (social distancing) measures. 80% continue with life as usual, and probably about 20% are skeptics and think nothing will happen here, the virus won’t get here or that they are too strong for the virus.
It seems like the big mass celebrations for Semana Santa will be cancelled, but we will see … people are still going to the parade this morning for Lunes Santo.
I thanked Samuel for his honest perspective of what is going on in my home village. Life goes on for the Zapotec people, as it has for 8,000+ years. They are survivors and as a group, they will survive this, too. How many individuals will get sick and suffer remains unknown, as it does for us in the USA, too. I wish everyone in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca and everywhere, good health and godspeed.
Chicken at the Tlacolula Market: The Gift
A group of 12 women are immersed this week in our sixth annual Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. All except two have never been here before. Two came all the way from Melbourne, Australia.
Chicken on the spit, seasoned with local chili salt and delicious!
Going to the Tlacolula market is a highlight for any visitor, especially for those who have a gift list. And, we are writers, so before boarding the Teotitlan del Valle bus and entering the frenzy of market day, Professor Robin Greene, our instructor, gave us a prompt to tie the often dizzying experience to the written word:
A new artisanal mezcal, Tzompantli, from Miahuitlan
At the Tlacolula market, there are the obvious gifts: bottles of artisanal mezcal from Miahuatlan, colorful embroidered blouses from Mitla, hand-woven tablecloths and napkins, brightly painted gourds from Guerrero, hand-hewn wooden trucks for little boys, flouncy dresses with lace trim for little girls, a new apron for grandmother.
These did not turn my head.
I saw a lot of chicken today. I don’t know why I focused on chicken. Barbecue chicken. The women selling cooked and raw chicken. Whole chickens and parts.
There was chicken roasting on the grill. Chicken turning on the spit. The people sitting at long tables eating chicken. The chicken legs and thighs at Comedor Mary that could be topped with mole negro or mole rojo.
Chicken at Comedor Mary ready for mole negro
I ate chicken for lunch at Comedor Mary although there were many other things to choose from. Took the meat off the bone. Looked at the bone and the meat and thought about my grandmother from Eastern Europe. She killed what she cooked and then ate it.
Rosticeria, (roas-tich-air-ee-ah) where roasted chicken is prepared.
Most people here do that. Have a reverence for raising the animals, then slaughtering them for food. Would they say a prayer like my grandmother did? Do they imagine the food as a form of gift? Protein is still scare here for those who don’t make more than 150 pesos a day. That’s about $9 USD.
A chicken on Sunday is a gift. I thought so.
Portable outdoor butcher shop
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Food & Recipes, Workshops and Retreats
Tagged creative writing, gifts, market, Mexico, Oaxaca, prompts, Tlacolula, Women