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Here’s to the artisans

Yesterday, Mexico celebrated el Día del Artesano (Day of the Artisan).  Alas, I’m a day late in recognizing the men and women whose artistry in carrying on traditions and renewing and enriching them with their own creative spirit contributes to Oaxaca’s vibrant cultural life and economy.  However, the entire month of March has been designated “month of the artisan,” so here are several of the artesanas and artesanos who I have had the honor and joy of knowing and visiting over the past year.

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Emilia Gonzalez, wool spinning and dying in Teotitlán del Valle

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Juan Manuel García Esperanza, silver filigree, Ciudad de Oaxaca

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Carrizo basket maker from San Juan Guelavía

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Barro rojo (red clay) potters from San Marcos Tlapazola

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Mural painters in San Martín Tilcajete

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Weaver from Santo Tomás Jalieza

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Eligio Zárate, potter, Santa María Atzompa

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Jesús Sosa Calvo, wood carver and painter, San Martín Tilcaje

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Seamstress, embroiderer, crocheter, Sra. Gutiérrez from Teotitlán del Valle

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Don Luís, weaver, Ciudad de Oaxaca

A very special thank you to Don Luís, whose weaving studio shares a wall with my apartment and I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing most every day.  The rhythmic sounds of his loom are one of the songs on the soundtrack of my Oaxaca life.

Shadows on the terrace

Warm weather, clear skies, and shadows on the rooftop…

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Ahhh… evening terrace tranquility.

Tabebuia rosea time

Purple isn’t the only color signaling spring is on the way in Oaxaca.

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The city is also alive in the pink of Tabebuia rosea blossoms.

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To borrow from the old Perez Prado song

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It’s Tabebuia rosea and jacaranda time.

Posted to ThursdayTreeLove

Women in struggle

Armed with their art, the women of Armarte OAX have taken to the streets to raise their voices in struggle.

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And, they aren’t alone in Oaxaca…

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In the early evening of International Women’s Day, thousands of women “reclaimed” some of the most dangerous streets of the city demanding an end to street harassment, punishment for rapists, the cessation of violence against women, and safe abortion.

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Struggle, the other “women’s work.”

Women of En Vía

Today is International Women’s Day and I’m choosing to celebrate the day by honoring the women borrowers of Fundación En Vía, Oaxaca’s successful microfinance organization.  The feminization of poverty continues to be a global issue — “women and girls fare worse than men and boys on a range of factors that may predispose them to poverty, including having their own source of income, ownership and control of assets and decision-making within their households.” — UN Women and the World Bank unveil new data analysis on women and poverty.

Tereza López López and her daughter – Comedor de Tere (diner), San Miguel del Valle.

A few statistics are in order to appreciate the incredible need this program is attempting to meet in Oaxaca.  According to a 2010 report by Coneval on poverty in Mexico, 67.4% of the people of Oaxaca live in moderate or extreme poverty and En Vía reports that 93% of their borrowers do not have a high school diploma.

María Zacarias Hernandez Hernandez – Mandiles (aprons) and bolsas (bags), San Miguel del Valle.

En Vía “works to promote women’s empowerment, the well-being of their families, and the strengthening of their communities by providing participatory programs that encourage the growth of income-generating businesses and personal development.”

Petronila Lopez Garcia – Tapetes (rugs), San Miguel del Valle.

They “do this through the unique combination of educational programs, interest-free micro-loans and responsible tourism.”  A series of eight basic business classes are given before the first loan of 1500 pesos is given.  Borrowers have ten to fifteen weeks to repay the loans.  Currently, En Vía has a 99.8% repayment rate.

Sara Ruiz Lorenzo – Velas (candles), Teotitlán del Valle.

In addition to required attendance at monthly business classes, free optional enrichment courses are offered, including classes in computers, English language, and women’s health.  And, after repaying their loans, borrowers can apply for additional loans to continue growing their businesses.

Ludivina Vasquez Gutierrez – Tapetes (rugs) and bolsas (bags), Teotitlán del Valle.

Where do you and I come in?  En Vía offers a variety of Responsible Tourism experiences — including their twice weekly tours to visit borrowers (often in their homes).  It is incredibly uplifting to hear the women describe their businesses and involvement in the program and especially to see the pride they have in what they have learned and accomplished.  FYI:  76% of En Vía’s revenue comes from their Responsible Tourism fees.  Believe me, it’s well worth it and I guarantee you will come away enriched by the experience.

Carnaval in B&W

Scenes from the streets of San Martín Tilcajete during yesterday’s Carnaval craziness.

Jacobo Ángeles

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“Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.” – Eliott Erwitt

Carnaval is coming

Given that Oaxaca loves parades and processions (the numbers of Muertos comparsas and Guelaguetza desfiles seem to grow every year), yesterday the 1st Muestra de Carnavales de los Valles Centrales took over the Macedonio Alcalá walking street with costumes, devils, painted bodies, cowbells, bands, masked men, mezcal, and more.

Santa Ana Zegache

Santa Ana Zegache

In an effort to promote tourism in the villages, residents and visitors were treated to sampling the variety of Carnaval traditions from five of the Valley of Oaxaca’s communities.

San Jacinto Chilteca

San Jacinto Chilteca

The Spanish brought the tradition of Carnaval to Mexico.  However, like many other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.”

Santa María Coyotepec

Santa María Coyotepec

Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”

Barrio de San Pablo Zaachila

Barrio de San Pablo Zaachila

This Día de Carnaval (aka, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival), like previous years, we will be heading out to San Martín Tilcajete.

San Martín Tilcajete

San Martín Tilcajete

However, now I’m thinking we might want to add another stop (or four?) to our itinerary.  We shall see…

Jacaranda time

From gnarled tree limbs throughout the city…

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purple blossoms have emerged.

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Set against clear blue skies, it’s jacaranda time…

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a not-so-subtle sign that spring is on its way.

Posted to Thursday Tree Love

Visiting friends equals playing tour guide and exploring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Oaxaca.  Thus, last Thursday off we went to the new-to-me, little known, and hard to find north-of-the-city archeological site of Suchilquitongo.

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While the site is small and the excavated tomb is closed, for the views alone, it was well worth the trip.

Let us all raise a glass to the hummingbirds and bats of Oaxaca.

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Without the work they do pollinating the flowers on the quiotes (stalks) that shoot up from the agave,

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there would be no maguey piñas to harvest and cook…

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and no mezcal to drink!

*Mural by Lapiztola on the side of the Palenque Mal de Amor (makers of Ilegal mezcal) 2+ miles north of Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.  Check out their other mural at the palenque HERE.

 

2019 has been proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations.  The issue of “lenguas maternas” (mother tongues) has a particular resonance in Oaxaca, as the state is home to 16 distinct ethnolinguistic groups:  Amuzgos, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocho, Chontal, Cuicateco, Huave, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Popoloca, Triqui, Zapoteco, and Zoque.

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As anyone who has visited the villages of Oaxaca has discovered, sometimes the abuelos and abuelas only speak their mother tongue, not Spanish.  To honor and celebrate them, their ancestors, and their children and grandchildren, today on the zócalo, Oaxaca celebrated those languages with songs, poetry, and recitations.

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However, like indigenous languages throughout the world, Mexico’s indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing.  The importance of passing these languages and the world views they express to the younger generations cannot be underestimated.

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Thus here in Oaxaca, on February 21, 2019, Mother Language Day, you can walk The roads of the feathered serpent: revaluing one of the variants of the Zapotec Valley of Oaxaca” and “Meet the Zapotec of Teotitlán through storytelling and other activities!” at the Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library). 

Guadalupe in the cloth

The devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe captured the imagination of fiber artist Linda Hanna when, as an early teen, she visited Mexico with her family and saw believers crawling on their knees up to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Blouse by Teresa Silvia Tzintzun, San Pedro Zipiajo, Michoacán (Purepecha).

Detail of blouse by Teresa Silvia Tzintzun, San Pedro Zipiajo, Michoacán (Purepecha).

The Virgin’s appeal continued to deepen when Linda moved to Oaxaca in 1997.  Thus the seeds/threads of the exhibition, “Rosas y Revelaciones: Homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe by Mexican Textile Artists” were sown/sewn.

Blouse by Marcolina Salvador Hidalgo, Chachahuantla, Puebla (Nahua).

Detail of blouse by Marcolina Salvador Hidalgo, Chachahuantla, Puebla (Nahua).

The legend of La Virgen de Guadalupe is known to every Mexican, every person of Mexican descent, and probably every foreigner who calls Mexico home.  The image of this dark-skinned Virgin who spoke Náhuatl is as imprinted on the national consciousness as she was on Juan Diego’s legendary tilma (cloak).

Dress by María Guadalupe Santiago Sánchez, San Antonino Castillo Velazco, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Detail of dress by María Guadalupe Santiago Sánchez, San Antonino Castillo Velazco, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Her image has continued to appear on cloth, albeit with human, not divine, intervention.  Both Father Miguel Hidalgo in the Mexican War of Independence and Emiliano Zapata, one hundred years later, during the Mexican Revolution, led their troops under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Man’s tunic by Pascuala Vásquez Hernández, Zinacatán, Chiapas (Tzotzil, Maya).

Shawl by Adolfo García Díaz & Delvina Salinas Cruz, Tenancingo, Estado de México.

The Rosas y Revelaciones textile exhibition presents work from 52 communities in ten states in Mexico (Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxacala, and Yucatán) — with the majority being from Oaxaca.

Apron by Valeria García Hernández, San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Detail of apron by Valeria García Hernández, San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Linda explained that she gave the artists free rein to let their imagination and expertise be their guide. I suspect these words by Guadalupe Ángela, from her poem, “Virgen de la Creación” (Madonna of Creation) composed for the exhibition, echo their prayers for inspiration and guidance:

Madonna of Creation
pull the image from me, the beauty.
Make it cedar, make it textile, make it
a landscape.  May the needle and thread be touched
by you.

Ruana by Erasto (Tito) Mendoza Ruiz, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

When you go, be sure to take the time to watch the video interviews with some of the artisans — the seriousness, devotion, and honor they felt at being selected to participate in this incredibly special project is extremely moving.  The show is currently at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) (closed on Mondays) in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca and runs through March 17, 2019 — after which it will be prepared to tour.  Its first stop is scheduled for Mexico City in time for Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12, 2019.

(ps)  Linda is hoping the exhibition will develop wings and fly throughout Mexico and eventually to the USA.  If you have contacts in the museum world who might be interested in hosting this exhibition, please be sure to contact Linda.

Love and Friendship

The signs of Valentine’s Day are everywhere…

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Ready for the fiesta on the patio of my apartment complex.

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Tin hearts on display at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca (MEAPO) shop in San San Bartolo Coyotepec.

While it may be a holiday imported from Europe, Mexico embraces the celebration.

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Dining room ceiling of Los Huamuches, between Santo Tomás Jalieza and San Martín Tilcajete.

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Balloons on the zócalo in Oaxaca de Juárez.

Wishing you ¡Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad!

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Bougainvillea on a cross at the palenque of Faustino García Vásquez, San Baltazar Chichicápam.

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Ready for the fiesta on the patio of my apartment complex.

Happy Day of Love and Friendship to all!

Taste of Oaxaca in Yountville

When I’m in el norte, I usually turn down invitations to eat at Mexican restaurants.  However, over the years, I’ve learned to follow the advice of the late great Nat King Cole and “I’ll never say ‘never again’ again.”  Thus, last month, on a stormy Friday at the height of northbound commute traffic, my stepson, his wife, and I ventured up to Yountville, in the heart of Northern California’s wine country, to try out La Calenda, the newly opened Oaxaca inspired restaurant by Michelin star chef Thomas Keller.

I admit, I was extremely leery of this project when I first learned of it.  In fact, upon reading an article in the SF Chronicle, I wrote on Facebook,  “Hmmm… How about using his celebrity and empire to help finance one of the numerous talented Oaxacan chefs to open a Oaxacan restaurant in Yountville?”  Little did I know that Keller had made inquiries in Oaxaca and wound up hiring Kaelin Trilling as the executive chef.  Kaelin is the born-and-raised-in-Oaxaca son of cookbook author, cooking instructor, and Oaxaca resident, Susana Trilling.  A good start and so I jumped at the chance to give it a try.

Flavorful and picante salsas, fresh guacamole, and crispy warm totopos.

The menu features traditional Oaxacan cuisine, but also includes nods to other regions of Mexico.  I have to say, they had me at the tortillas!

Tacos al Pastor – a Lebanese-Mexican dish that has become traditional in Central Mexico.

Sourcing corn from Mexico and nixtamalizing it on-site, the blue corn tortillas, handmade and hot off the comal, brought me right back to Oaxaca.

Tacos de carnitas – pork, cilantro, onions, with a squeeze or two of lime.

Oh, and did I mention the black mole?  Silky smooth, with the rich complex flavors I have come to love and appreciate.  Though we didn’t order the braised beef cheek in mole chichilo, we asked for a taste, which was promptly provided.  I explained to my family that this Oaxacan mole is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  It is only served on special occasions, such as weddings, christenings, and when the crops have been harvested, etc.  It was delicious and, as they should be, the flavors were multilayered.  Next time…

Pollo (chicken) in mole negro.

Everything on the menu tempted us and we ordered way more food than I thought we could possibly eat — but it was so good, we did!  (Photos are only a sample of what the three of us tucked into.)  And, the mezcal cocktails we ordered certainly got the evening off to a delightful start!

Traditional flan with caramel sauce — creamy, smooth, and divine!

When we went to La Calenda, I was nearing the end of a month-long visit in el norte and the sight of barro rojo (red clay) bowls from Oaxaca and glassware from Xaquixe Glass (the same glasses that sit on my Casita Colibrí kitchen shelf), along with the smells and flavors, had tears welling up, as a wave of homesickness came over me.  But, then it passed and the joy of feeling “at home” even in Yountville, California set in.  And, more good news:  The prices, were extremely reasonable for the quality and location — in the ballpark of upscale restaurants in Oaxaca, as opposed to upscale in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Seeing stars at the entrance to La Calenda.

(ps)  Though I’ve had this blog post in the hopper for a few weeks (ever since my return to Oaxaca), it was the recent article by food writer, Cristina Potters, The Traditional Mexican Kitchen :: Is It Authentic, or What?, that prompted me to finish and post it.  La Calenda can definitely be described as having its roots in the traditional.

Colorful carnival rides

Colorful but creaky carnival rides with familiar figures for the kiddos always seem to be a part of fairs and festivals in Oaxaca.

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These from the Feria del Carrizo in San Juan Guelavía.

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