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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Once upon a time, I went to Linda Hanna’s house in San Andrés Huayapam — the B&B Casa Linda.  In addition to running a B&B, she leads artisan tours, is a major collector of textiles, art, crafts, and you name it, AND holds occasional yard sales.  I always try to attend the latter and always buy a thing or two or three or four.  Thus, 2-1/2 years ago, this loveseat found it’s way onto the terrace of Casita Colibrí.  Linda wasn’t sure where or when she originally purchased it and it had long been relegated to a bed for a member of her animal menagerie, as the palm had completely disintegrated on one side, leaving only the jute webbing to prevent one’s bottom from landing on the ground.  However, it had “good bones” and I had fallen in love with it.  I figured that with a couple of decorative pillows to hide the hole, it would look great and be relatively functional.  They did and it was.

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Over the course of the past couple of years, the elements have caused more wear and tear to the palm and the wooden frame needed work.  Into the story comes Sebastián, of Talavera transformation, part 4 fame.  As if it wasn’t enough to be a carpenter, stonemason, electrician, plumber, and glazier, he and his wife Elizabeth had taken classes in weaving with plastic and started a business — primarily making baskets/purses.  A couple of months ago, he stopped by to show me their latest projects and I had an inspiration.  Could they refurbish my loveseat?  His eyes lit up, said yes, we talked colors and designs, and a few weeks later he hauled it away.  On Wednesday, it came back home.

I suspect you are asking, why plastic when the palm looked so beautiful?  Two reasons.  Firstly, it was a spur of the moment decision, but I knew Sebastián, trusted the work he does, and loved the creative possibilities he showed me.  Secondly, I’d bought the loveseat to live outside on the terrace (albeit, under the gazebo) and in the back of my mind, as the palm seat, back, and arms continued to deteriorate, I’d wondered if there might be something more long lasting that could be used.  Thus, plastic.  However, it’s not just any plastic, Sebastián and Elizabeth’s business uses recycled plastic.

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By the way, they also refinished the wood, using a marine varnish to help contribute to its longevity.   I think, in its new incarnation, my loveseat still looks right at home and what is old is new again!

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Passing Erika Santiago‘s haunting mural along the wall outside Almacén Mexicano on Calle Valentín Gómez Farías, Sad-Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands began playing in my head.

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Sometimes art brings a song.  And, maybe we are all a little sad these days.

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Protest art continues to paper the streets of Oaxaca.

It’s there in black and white against walls of texture and color — greeting the morning’s light and disappearing as shadows fall.

Today, the faces of rage, resistance, and anguish are not only looking down from walls, they are seen at eye level in Oaxaca’s zócalo and streets.  They’re back…  The annual occupation and blockades by Sección 22 of the CNTE (teachers’ union) has begun.

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Last Sunday at the weekly market in Tlacolula de Matamoros…

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Chickens

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Rebozos

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Seeds

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Lunch

It’s not just about produce, bootleg DVDs, tools, and underwear.

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I love Sunday market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros — the people, colors, food, cacophony, and frequent surprises speak to the life of Oaxaca.  So, after returning Saturday night from two weeks in el norte, I jumped at the suggestion by blogger buddy Chris that we go to Tlacolula the next day.  It did not disappoint.

Carnival rides were being set up where we frequently park and, in the usually deserted patio of the modern chapel at the intersection, several men were hard at work fashioning decorations.  We peered from behind the wrought iron fence but were quickly invited in.  They explained they were preparing for a festival honoring the chapel, the Capilla de la Cruz, all the while continuing to weave flowers out of a spiky, sword-like plant.

Especially during the Easter season, I’ve seen these flowers fashioned from palms, but these definitely were not palm.

Once home, I couldn’t resist doing a little research (I’m a librarian, after all!) and discovered it was a species of Dasylirion (aka, Sotol, cucharilla, desert spoon).  I can’t imagine what those spikes lining the sides of the leaves must do to their hands!

It was such fun talking with these guys and watching their nimble, practiced fingers at work.  After two weeks away, what better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca?  And, the market was still to come.

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Carved from the wood of the copal, an owl for my older son.

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Carved by Lauro Ramírez and painted by Griselda Morales, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A rabbit for my daughter-in-law.

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Carved by Mario Castellanos and painted by Reina Ramirez, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A lion for my grandson.

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Carved by Zeny Fuentes Santiago and painted by Reyna Piña Ramírez, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

And, a horse for my granddaughter.

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Carved by Jesús Hernández Torres and painted by Roxana Fabian Ortega, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Beautifully hand carved and painted alebrije for my family.

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The lowly utilitarian apron has been elevated to an art form by the Zapotec women of the Tlacolula valley in Oaxaca.  Worn every day, mandiles (aprons) are an essential and practical part of their traditional dress.  Most women own several and take great pains to color coordinate them with the day’s attire.

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Fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe at the home of Fidel Cruz and Maria Luisa Mendoza, Teotitlán del Valle.

Plainer aprons are worn around the home.  However, they don one of their “Sunday best” aprons for special occasions.  These are heavily embroidered and often have necklines and hems that are scalloped and, as a fashion statement, are frequently worn to the weekly market.

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Vendor at the Sunday market in Tlacolula del Valle.

Mandiles are made of store-bought poly-cotton fabric, usually in a small plaid design. While “100% cotton” sounds more desirable to many of us, the blend is undeniably more practical.  After all, who wants to iron when there is work to do and the temperatures are summery all year ’round?

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Andrea weaving in Teotitlán del Valle.

Even though the embroidery is done by sewing machine, the more elaborate designs can take from three to four days days to make.  Aprons range in price from approximately 150 to 700 pesos.

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Leonor Lazo feeding a baby goat in Teotitlán del Valle.

Given that, in addition to being practical, these are also a fashion accessory,  it should come as no surprise that styles can vary from village to village.

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Young women from San Miguel del Valle attending a festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

I grew up with aprons.  My grandmother lived next door and could always be found wearing a “house-dress” and a pinafore style apron with front patch pockets.  Some were plain, but many she decorated with embroidery.  Thus the mandiles of Oaxaca spoke to me and I listened.

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Reyna Mendoza speaking to her El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class.

My first “Oaxaca” apron was a maroon plaid cobbler style with only a moderate amount of embroidery. After a year or two, it became so much a part of my home attire that I bought another in brown plaid.  These are my workhorses and I wear them every day while cooking, cleaning, and even gardening.  And, I proudly bring my own apron to cooking classes and make sure to pack one when I’ve been invited to a fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle — putting it on to help clear tables. I always get smiles from the women (and some of the men, too).

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Me, the metate, and maiz at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

However, after countless Sunday market day trips to Tlacolula de Matamoros, not to mention, spending a lot time over the past several years in Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the fashion statements women, both young and old, were making, so I bought a slightly more elaborately embroidered pinafore style and then another and another.

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Three of my mandiles; the red is the newest.

I even dared to wear one recently in New York at my granddaughter’s first birthday party.  With children ranging in age from six weeks to six years, I thought it was a very practical fashion statement on my part.  And, guess who got one for her birthday?

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Birthday present to my granddaughter — a toddler-size mandil.

A good place to check who is wearing what style of mandil is at Tlacolula’s Sunday market.  And, should you want to buy one for yourself and/or give one as a gift, there are at least eight apron stalls at the back of the market on Sundays.

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Apron stall at the back of the Tlacolula de Matamoros market.

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I couldn’t resist posting more from the Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca 2018 to tempt you to put next year’s gathering of traditional Oaxacan cooks on your calendar.

Amazing traditional cooks from the state of Oaxaca served up taste tempting fare in the Plaza de la Danza for four full, and I mean FULL days, April 25-28.

And, should one be inspired to immediately head to one’s own kitchen, the Mercado Oaxaca set up in the courtyard of the Facultad de Bellas Artes (across from the Plaza de la Danza) offered mouth-watering fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, dried chiles, honeys, vinegars, and so much more.  I came away with a luscious cantaloupe.

In addition, to assist one in the preparation and serving of one’s own delicious meals, Arte de la Mesa presented vendors, next door in the courtyard of the Palacio Municipal, selling “made in Oaxaca” glassware, utensils, pottery, placemats, tablecloths, and dish towels, aprons, metates and molcajetes, among other kitchenware.

Do you see the piggy-face molcajete?  I bought it and have spent hours and hours, not to mention muscle power, seasoning it.  If you don’t believe me, use your favorite search engine to check out the various methods — there are no shortcuts!

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Even if it looks like the world is crumbling around you…

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On Reforma, at the corner of Constitucion in Oaxaca — courtesy of The Positive Affect project.

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Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and in cities and towns all over the world (except the USA, but that’s another story), workers and the dignity of the work they do is being celebrated.  It’s a federal holiday in Mexico and as I write, I can hear loudspeakers from the various marches taking place in Oaxaca city.  Given that non-citizens are forbidden by the Mexican Constitution from participating in political activity, I’m staying home.  However, to honor the workers of the world, I’m looking back to my visit to the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building in Mexico City and the murals of Diego Rivera.

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…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  Happy International Workers’ Day to all!

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Though today is the fourth and final day of this year’s Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca 2018, diners continue to line up around the stall of Rosario Cruz Cobos for her Cochino a la Cubana — piggies roasted over a wood fire — fiesta food from San José Chiltepec in the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca.

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Mouth-watering and succulent, it is well worth the wait!

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What can I say?  Lately, I have been having way too much fun to blog.  A Gran Convite on Tuesday evening kicked off the festivities celebrating Oaxaca’s 486 birthday and inviting one and all to the previously mentioned, 2nd Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca opening the following day.  Beginning at the Cruz de la Piedra, the parade came to a sparkling climax in front of the Cathedral.

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Wednesday began with an early morning ringing of the Cathedral’s bells (and several other churches, I’m pretty sure) and the booms and bangs of cohetes announcing Oaxaca’s official birthday.  Then the event that I had been hungrily awaiting — the opening of the four-day gathering of Oaxaca’s traditional cooks at the Plaza de la Danza.  It was worth the wait!

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Mixtec ritual of Aromas y Sabores del Alma using basil and rosemary to open Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca.

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Machacado mixe, Caldo mixe from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec in the Sierra Norte.

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Chileajo amarillo from Huayuapan de León in the Mixteca.

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Ingredients on display by Carina Santiago of Tierra Antigua restaurant in Teotitlán del Valle, in Oaxaca’s Valles Centrales.

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Cochino a la cubana from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca being served by cocinera Rosario Cruz Cobos.

There is also an expo-venta of Oaxacan artesanía at the Palacio Municipal adjacent to the Plaza de la Danza.

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Some of the best red clay pottery from San Marcos Tlapazola for sale.

I took yesterday off to do my volunteer gig at the Oaxaca Lending Library, but I’m returning to the Encuentro today, right after I post this.  My stomach is already rumbling!

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It’s been all about boys in my family — two sons, a stepson, and a grandson.  That is, until eleven months ago when finally a girl — my granddaughter — made her much welcomed entrance into the world.  Of course she is adorable, but so were her brother, dad, and uncles.  However, I must admit that clothes shopping for a little girl is so much more fun, especially here in Oaxaca.

Naturally, I had to go to the current Museo Textil de Oaxaca exhibition, Vestir hijos con amor (Dressing children with love) — very timely for the upcoming Día del Niño on April 30

Cotton baby hat – probably Santiago Mexquititlán, Querétaro, Mexico (c. 1960) Otomí village.

Woven baby hat – San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala (c. 1990s) Tz’utuoil community.

The curator’s note explains that the textiles shown “are not the sumptuous accoutrements of an ancient aristocracy, but children’s clothing of the poorest people in Mexico and Guatemala… made of cotton and wool.”

Girl’s huipil from Palín, Guatemala (c. 1980s). Community speaks Pokomam, a Mayan language.

Girl’s huipil from San Bartolomé Ayautla, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1950s) Mazateco community.

“In setting up this exhibit, we have tried to show how textiles intended for children make visible the love felt for them by the first nations of this land.”

Girl’s clothing from Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico. (c. 1940s) Purépecha village.

Costume of baptism – Chachahuantla, Puebla, Mexico (1999-2017) Community speaks Náhuatl.

Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, Mexico (c. 1950s). Tsotsil village.

Huipil of black velvet with cotton embroidery from districts of Juchitán and Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1950-1960) Zapotec communities.

Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1990). Zapotec village.

Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1990). Zapotec village. Embroidery detail using rayon threads.

It isn’t just the girls who are dressed with love in these indigenous communities.  The clothing of the boys is also just as lovingly detailed and decorated.

Boy’s clothing from San Andrés Tzicuilan, Puebla, Mexico. (c. 1988-1993) Community speaks Náhuatl.

Boy’s clothing from Santiago Ixtayutla, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1990s) Mixtec village.

(R) Boy’s clothing from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, Mexico. (c. 1950s). Tsotsil village. (L) Teen boy’s clothing from Sierra Madre Occidental to the north of Jalisco and east of Nayarit. (c. 1930s) Wixárika (Huichol) community.

Detail from teen boy’s clothing from Sierra Madre Occidental to the north of Jalisco and east of Nayarit. (c. 1930s) Wixárika (Huichol) community.

There are so many more pieces to see and there is even an interactive component for children — a play area where they can assemble and decorate textile pieces.  The Museo Textil de Oaxaca is located at Hidalgo 917, at the corner of Fiallo and the exhibition, in the Caracol room, runs until July 1, 2018.

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From boys to men, there are fierce faces watching from the walls in my neighborhood.

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Color from La Unión Revolucionaria de Trabajadores del Arte (URTARTE).

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Faces at Manuel Sabino Crespo and Mariano Matamoros…

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Man in a green hat – Crespo at Matamoros

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Man in a red hat – Matamoros at Crespo

The art of standing on the corner in Oaxaca.

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