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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Today, the sixth Friday of Lent, Oaxaca honors la Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows).  Altars dedicated to her can be found in churches, businesses, and homes.  While the altars vary in their presentation, there are several key features (besides an image of the Virgin and candles) that will be found.

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Altar to la Virgen de Dolores at Templo del Carmen Alto

Wreaths of cucharilla (aka, Dasylirion, Sotol, desert spoon) — grown in Villa de Etla and the Mixtec region of Oaxaca — represent the crown of thorns of Jesus.

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Salvia Hispanica (aka, chia) sprouting from terracotta clay animals decorate altars — seeds which had been blessed on February 2, Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).  According to an article in MexConnect, “Growing greens remind the viewer of the resurrection and renewal of life.”  Yes, these are the original Chia Pets!

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Ceramic deer covered in chia sprouts on the altar at Templo del Carmen Alto

Bowls of water (often tinted) representing the “sweet tears of Mary” are set among violet colored drapes and flowers — violet being the color associated with Lent.

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Altar to la Virgen de Dolores at Huizache, a cooperative store selling Oaxacan crafts and clothing

Lilies, representing purity and chamomile, representing humility and the beauty of body and soul, can be found on altars.

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Lilies and chamomile on the altar at Templo del Carmen Alto

According to this article (in Spanish), altars to Our Lady of Sorrows started appearing in Oaxaca in the sixteenth century and her veneration on the sixth Friday of Lent grew from there.

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La Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) at Templo del Carmen Alto

Tonight at Templo del Carmen Alto, there will be a reading of the “Vía Dolorosa” (Way of Sorrows), a concert of sacred music by the Coro de la Ciudad (City Chorus), and a tasting of regional Lenten food.  Such is the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Oaxaca!

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There is magic on the walls of Oaxaca.

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You  never know what you will see when you take another route home.

 

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Even leftover decorations from a Día de la Samaritana agua station in front of an abandoned building are beautiful in their own way.

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Seen on García Vigil at the corner of Jesús Carranza.

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If you are in Oaxaca and it’s the fourth Friday of Lent, it must be Día de la Samaritana, an “only in Oaxaca” celebration.  This Day of the Good Samaritan was inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament where a tired and thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water.

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Decorating a well outside the Cathedral

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Sign proclaiming the day, seen on the Alcalá

His request was highly unusual because, according to the Old Testament, “Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile.”  The woman complied with his request and the rest is history.

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Scene at the well outside Templo de San José

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Live actors waiting to reenact the scene

Celebrating the Good Samaritan in Oaxaca began in the atriums of churches at the end of the 19th century and is a popular and much-loved tradition.  Thus I joined thousands of Oaxaqueños and visitors, clutching cups, and wandering from one decorated agua station to another sampling their offerings.

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Samaritana station serving nieve at the Municipal Palace

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One of scores of agua stations on the Alcalá

People of all ages, from small children to grandparents, lined up at bougainvillea and palm decorated booths in front of churches, restaurants, businesses, schools, and even the city’s municipal office building for the traditional Día de la Samaritana free aguas.

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Hand painted ollas in front of Templo de Sangre de Cristo

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Hand painted jicara gourds waiting to be filled with tejate

These “water stations” are often decorated in a violet shade of purple, the color of Lent, symbolizing penance and royalty.  And, the ollas (pots) holding the aguas seem to get more decorative every year.

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Agua stations along the Alcalá

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Watermelon and mint agua station on García Vigil

We are not talking plain water, these are divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits, herbs, flowers, and more — jamaica (hibiscus), horchata, chilacayote (squash), tamarindo, sandia (watermelon), tejate, and nieve (sorbet).  Even taxi drivers played the role of Good Samaritans.

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Nieve station in doorway of lingerie store on Independencia

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Taxi drivers host agua station on the Alameda

In previous years, the aftermath hath wrought mountains of garbage — cans overflowing with plastic and styrofoam.  However, this year, in the name of the environment, an appeal was made for people to bring their own cups.  And, I think a majority complied!

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On the Alcalá above Santo Domingo

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An olla with Agua de chilacayote (type of squash)

And me?  After almost two hours, three aguas (watermelon with mint, cucumber with mint, and chilacayote), a nieve of leche quemada and tuna, and being surrounded by smiling people enjoying this celebration of generosity, I returned home with my heart full of love and gratitude for the traditions of Oaxaca.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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…

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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.

 

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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 (extended until April 28, 2019) — after which it will be prepared to tour.  Its first stop will be at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares in Coyocán, 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.

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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!

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Friday, February first, the opening of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca expo-venta (show and sale) beckoned.  Textiles from the Yucatán, Veracruz, Puebla, the State of Mexico, Michoacán, and (of course) Oaxaca filled tables and display racks.  It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the color and beauty and workmanship, but I’m learning.  I take my time, make several rounds of the booths, and then see what calls me back.

So, what did I return to?  The rebozos (shawls) from Ahuirán, Michoacán.

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And, what did I buy?  One of their traditional black and blue cotton and rayon rebozos.

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Then there was Khadi Oaxaca — “a social-entrepreneur initiative that supports the village of San Sebastian Rio Hondo, Oaxaca, Mexico, to economically develop in a sustainable way.”  They spin, dye, and weave coyuche — a brownish cotton grown in Oaxaca and, working with designers, fashion modern takes on this traditional cloth.  They even sell bolts of fabric so you can design your own!

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What called out to me?  A lovely huipil with a subtle, but intricate, design.  I love the way the natural color of the coyuche takes the dye.

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I also kept coming came back to the stall filled with the spectacular textiles from San Bartolomé Ayutla, Oaxaca.  Alas (or, thank goodness), I was out of money.  Next time…

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The expo-venta runs through tomorrow (Feb. 4) on the patio of Centro Cultural San Pablo, next door to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

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Yesterday took us to San Juan Guelavía for the eighth annual Feria del Carrizo.  I missed it last year (I was up in el norte) and it was good to be back.  The feria just keeps getting bigger and better and its continued success is good news for the community.  And, I got to reconnect with Teresa Hipolito who wove two lampshades for me in 2015!

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Because plastic baskets have gained popularity as the shopping basket of choice, the village saw a severe decline in the demand for their handcrafted baskets made from carrizo (Arundo donax, Spanish cane, Giant cane, Wild Cane, and Colorado River weed) — a tall perennial cane that grows along river banks in Oaxaca.

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Baskets woven from carrizo have been used as carriers and storage bins since before the Spanish set foot on the soil that became Mexico.  Thus, San Juan Guelavía decided to hold a fair to help rescue the craft of weaving their beautiful and traditionally utilitarian creations from carrizo and give a much-needed boost to the economy.

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Besides baskets and bird cages, the artisans have branched out to weaving lampshades, decorative bottle covers (they make great gifts, especially when filled with mezcal), fashioning toys, earrings, and much more.

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As with most ferias and special events in Oaxaca, there was music, folkloric dance groups from schools in the area, craft vendors from nearby villages, mouthwatering food…

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… and absolutely adorable children.

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In a village of about three thousand, there are currently about thirty families who work with carrizo — that’s a large percentage of the population!  And, the very good news is that the skills and pride are being passed down to the younger generation.

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The fair is held the last Sunday of January and the first Sunday of February.  If you missed it yesterday, it is definitely worth a visit next Sunday — perhaps on your way to or from Tlacolula’s weekly market.  San Juan Guelavía is about 40 minutes east of the city.  By the way, there are a couple of workshops along the road that leads into town that are also worth a stop.

(ps)  For more cute kids photos from the feria, see Oaxaca-The Year After.

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How lucky can a gal get?

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On day five back in Oaxaca, a last-minute invitation found me venturing behind an unassuming red iron door at Libertad 24, San Antonino Castillo Velasco and being greeted by welcoming figures of all shapes and sizes gathered throughout a large earthen courtyard.

This is the home and workshop of Grand Maestro, José García Antonio, also known as the blind potter.

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Losing his sight to glaucoma, he continues to sculpt sensual and evocative figures from the local barro (clay).

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He was married to his beloved wife, Santa Teresita Mendoza Reyna Sanchez, in 1987.

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Her face and body are etched in his memory and continue to provide a model for many of his female figures.

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The twinkle in those all-seeing sightless eyes and the artistry in those gifted hands give form and life to his creations in clay.

“It would seem that the hearts of the potters of Oaxaca are made of clay. Their emotions, intuitions, joys, fears and fantasies flow through their bloodstream until arriving at the hands which knead the clay and, as if by magic, transform it into exquisite ceramic sculptures.” (quoted from “The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”)

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Day one back in Oaxaca…

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Warm sun, blue sky, and rocking horses parked on Calle de Mariano Abasolo.

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Vendor from Puebla with a truck full of dramatic wooden dancing horses from Zacatecas.

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It’s good to be home!

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