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The headline in the New York Times reads, She Showed Up Yearly to Meet Immigration Agents. Now They’ve Deported Her.

For eight years, Guadalupe García de Rayos had checked in at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office here, a requirement since she was caught using a fake Social Security number during a raid in 2008 at a water park where she worked.

Every year since then, she has walked in and out of the meetings after a brief review of her case and some questions.

But not this year.

Despite a night of protests and a legal appeal, this 35-year old mother of two, who has lived, worked, and played by the arbitrary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rules — and who hasn’t lived in Mexico since she was 14 — was separated from her husband and children and dropped off in Nogales, Mexico early this morning.

I’m so sad and angry at the mean-spirited and grand-standing senselessness of it all.  Right now, all I can do is cry and post this heartbreaking music video, Ice El Hielo by La Santa Cecilia.

Y’all feeling safer up there in el norte?

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It’s been a musical twenty-four hours.  Last night, under the stars in the courtyard of the Casa de la Ciudad, friends and I attended a lovely recital by four classical guitarists.  And, late this afternoon, I walked down to Casa Colonial for a performance by Paul Cohen and his jazz combo.  It was a fundraiser for the Libros Para Pueblos library in San Martín Tilcajete sponsored by the Casa’s owner, Jane Robison, in the name of her late husband, Thorny.

There was blue sky, sun, and standing room only as good vibes and jazz filled the garden venue.  A couple of tunes into the first set, Paul brought up his wife, multiple Grammy award winner and Oaxaca’s favorite daughter, Lila Downs to sing a few songs, including the closing song, “Keeper of the Flame” (first recorded by Nina Simone).  Lila, speaking to an audience overwhelmingly from the USA, noted it was a timely titled selection, given the current political climate.  And everyone knew exactly who and what she was referring to.

Paul Cohen and Lila Downs

Keeper Of the Flame
(Nina Simone version)

I’m the keeper of the flame
My torch of love lights his name
Ask no pity, beg my shame
I’m the keeper of the flame

Played with fire and I was burn
Gave a heart but I was spurn
All these time I have yearned
Just to have my love return

Years have passed by
The spark still remains
True love can’t die
It smoulders in flame
When the fire is burning off
And the angels call my name
Dying love will leave no doubt
I’m the keeper of the flame

Years have passed by
The spark still remains
True love can’t die
It smoulders in flame
When the fire is burning out
And the angels call my love
Dying love will leave no doubt
I’m the keeper of the flame

It’s a song not just about lost love.  As Lila alluded, we are all keepers of the flame.

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Of the rábanos from Noche de Rábanos, this radish sculpture of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor of Tenochtitlan, was my favorite.

Cuauhtémoc portrayed in radishes

“Cuauhtémoc: El Último Gran Emperador Azteca” by José Yehú Santos Aguilar took second place in the Free Radish category.

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As I previously explained, Noche de Rabanos isn’t just about radishes.  One of the other categories of entries is Totomoxtle Decorado.  And the winner was Moisés Ruíz Sosa, with his dyed cornhusk depiction of Día de Muertos on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca.

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Descendants of slaves, the Afromexicano population of Oaxaca is located in 16 municipalities, with 11 of these municipalities located in the Costa Chica, Oaxaca’s far western coastal region, bordering the state of Guerrero.

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During Day of the Dead, the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed in these communities.

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Dancers wear devil masks, and are led by a colonial ranch foreman with a whip, who “struts around, while his buxom ‘white’ wife – played by a black man – flirts outrageously with the ‘devils’ and even the audience.”  [The black people ‘erased from history’]

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To see the Noche de Rabanos 2013 entry by Moisés Ruíz Sosa, click HERE.

By the way, the “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses’” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, which I wrote about in Noche de Rabanos, pt. 1, took first prize in the Flor Inmortal Adulto category!

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It’s December 23 in Oaxaca and Noche de Rabanos is upon us.  The setting-up has begun and the spectators are gathering.  Despite its name, it isn’t just about artisans working their creative magic carving radishes.  There are three other categories, including the use of Flor Inmortal (a type of dried flower).  I will return this evening, but in the meantime, this entry titled, “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses'” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, is for all my friends in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Spinning the wool.

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Weaving tapetes from the spun wool.

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Grinding corn or maybe chocolate OR maybe even cochinilla!

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Dancing the Danza de la Pluma…

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The danzantes of the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa keeping their promise.

I think Raymundo did a wonderful job capturing the people of Teotitlán del Valle, the Land of the Gods, who make crafts and shape dreams.

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And we thought last year’s Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle was exceptional!  It was, but, for blogger buddy Chris and me, this year brought even more warmth, appreciation, and the intangible of being present in the richness of more layers of being in this special village.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

We are patrons of two of the danzantes of the 2016-18 Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa in Teotitlán del Valle — and Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz is one of them.  As such, we were invited to the home he shares with his parents, Mario Ruiz Bautista and Victoria Ruiz, to partake in the traditions and observe the responsibilities that accompany taking on the three year commitment to being a member of the Grupo.

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Mario Ruiz Bautista (on left) overseeing the offerings

From my albeit limited understanding, as part of the commitment the dancers make during their three years of service, each of their families is tasked with taking a turn hosting one of the four yearly festivals.

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Victoria Ruiz watching Edgar’s dance

The day began with a breakfast of traditional breads and hot chocolate and was followed by Mole de Castilla, a mole unique to Teotitlán and served during weddings and the most important festivals.  There must have been over 100 people, including Edgar’s extended family, padrinos, danzantes and their families, and band members.  They gathered and were served in the courtyard of the Ruiz home, with men seated at one long table, women on the other side of the courtyard at another, and the two gringos seated with the danzantes in the altar room opening onto the courtyard.

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Breakfast breads with hot chocolate

Following the meal, chairs and tables were folded and removed, the danzantes took the floor, the band began to play, and, as the sun streamed down on the courtyard, Edgar began his dance.  It was a touching moment to see this young man, whom I’ve known for almost six years, since he was a gangling teenager, and Chris has known since he was a small boy, dance with such confidence and pride.

Following dances by the whole group, with band leading the way, dancers, families, and guests processed down the steep and winding streets from the house to the church.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz en route to the church, accompanied by Victoria (his mother) and his nephew.

They filed into the church, where a special mass was celebrated, and then regrouped in the church courtyard to begin the seven hour (más o menos) Danza de la Pluma.  Early in the afternoon, while the dance continued, the families and invited guests returned to the Ruiz home, where the families of the other dancers each made formal presentations of baskets of fruit and mezcal or cervesa to Mario and Victoria.  This was followed by a comida (lunch) of caldo de pollo.  After all were fed, the offerings  were loaded into pickup trucks to be taken to the church plaza, to later be shared with the community.  At night, after the dance ended, we all again returned to Casa Ruiz for barbecoa de res (beef) in a rich and flavorful sauce, cervesas, mezcal, and soda pop.  I can’t even begin to imagine all the work that went into preparing all the food, orchestrating its serving, and then washing all the dishes — by hand in basins set up in the yard across the street.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

It’s been over twenty four hours since Chris and I returned from Teotitlán del Valle and, though we talked continuously on the drive back to the city and have spoken several times since, we are still unable to put into words how meaningful and how honored we were to share this special day with Edgar, his family, and his community.  It was a precious gift. ¡Muchisimas gracias a todos!

For more, see Chris’s blog post, A very special Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe.

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I read the news today, oh boy…

Fidel Castro, Leader of the Cuban Revolution Dies at 90.

Sitial Moncada museum, Havana -- April 2016.

Sitial Moncada museum, Havana — April 2016.

The revolutionary’s achievements in the face of US meddling made him a powerful symbol of resistance against hegemony.

Terminal de Omnibus de la Habana -- April 2016.

Terminal de Omnibus de la Habana — April 2016.

Cuba Declares 9 Days of Public Mourning to Honor Fidel Castro.

"As long as there is a man or a woman with a gun in hand the country can not be occupied."  On a street in the Vedado neighborhood in Havana -- April 2016.

“As long as there is a man or a woman with a gun in hand the country can not be occupied.” On a street in the Vedado neighborhood in Havana — April 2016.

And, from the personal poster collection of my friend, archivist and librarian, Lincoln Cushing, Castro’s Revolution, Illustrated.

Farewell Fidel and thank you for standing up to US imperialism.  May the Cuban people continue to stand strong.

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Before I become completely immersed in the myriad of activities related to and surrounding Day of the Dead, I want to write a post about Porfirio Gutiérrez, another of the talented and creative weavers from Teotitlán del Valle I have come to know.

I first met Porfirio via my blog and we soon became Facebook friends.  However, we didn’t actually meet in person until last November’s, Feria Exposición Maestros del Arte in Chapala, Jalisco.  I made a beeline for his booth and introduced myself to him and his sister, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras.  Porfirio’s recognition and warmth made me feel truly welcome — like we were long-lost friends.

While, as you can see from the video, The Weaver From The Place of Gods, Porfirio is soft-spoken, he is exceedingly passionate about his Zapotec heritage and the preservation of the textile traditions of his village.  His knowledge, talent, and dedication led him to be one of four native artists to be chosen to participate in last year’s, Artist Leadership Program sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

A key component of the Smithsonian program was, following their residency, each artist was charged with returning to their community to share their knowledge, with the goal of preserving the wisdom and techniques refined and handed down from their ancestors.  I had the privilege of attending the awarding of certificates and exposition that concluded the 9-day workshop, given in Teotitlán by Porfirio and Juana.  The exposition was entitled El Ritual de los Sueños and took as its inspiration the traditional fiber mat, known as the petate.  It is on the petate where babies are delivered, dreams occur, and in which bodies are wrapped before being placed their grave.

The family’s studio is located at Calle Simon Bolivar #6, Teotitlán del Valle and I can assure you, visitors will be warmly welcomed.  And, who knows, you may come away with beautiful new, naturally dyed, hand-loomed treasure.

I already have a place on the wall reserved for one of Porfirio’s distinctly designed tapetes and am now saving my pesos.

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Returning to Casita Colibrí last Sunday afternoon, I unlocked the door, set down my way-too-heavy backback, and, having been away for a month, I savored the scene my Oaxaca home presented.  There was my new Tree of Life tapete hanging on the wall of my dining area looking like it had always been there; on the floor, separating living spaces, the beautiful mohair rug woven for me by Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez presided.

AND (drum roll, please), in front of the sofa, my most recent purchase — a stunning rug from Casa Cruz in Teotitlán del Valle.

Maria Luisa Mendoza, wife of weaver Fidel Cruz Lazo, displaying their wares in their taller in Teotitlán del Valle.

Maria Luisa Mendoza, wife and partner of weaver Fidel Cruz Lazo, displaying their wares in their taller in Teotitlán del Valle.

Metates at Casa Cruz used to hand grind cochineal and indigo dyes.

Metates leaning against the wall, waiting to to be used to hand grind the natural dyes.

Array of some of their brilliantly colored naturally dyed yarns.

An array of some of their brilliantly colored naturally dyed yarns.

After much indecision (they were all so beautiful!), Fidel Cruz Lazo displays my final choice.

After much indecision on my part (they were all SO beautiful), Fidel displays my final choice.

My rug in its new home here at Casita Colibrí.

My rug in its new home in the living room area of Casita Colibrí.

The book,

It wasn’t until I took this photo, that I realized the design on the cover of  the book, The Colors of Casa Cruz, is the same as my new rug.

The yarns of my new rug were dyed using indigo, cochinilla, nuez (walnuts), musgo (moss), achiote (annatto), and cempazuchil (marigolds) and the primary design element is the diamond, representing the four cardinal points, and symbolizing the continuity of life.

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It’s been two years since that tragic night in Iguala, Guerrero when busloads of students (normalistas) from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were violently attacked.  Six students were killed, 25 were injured, and 43 disappeared.  It’s been two years of agony for families and friends.  It’s been two years of questions and discredited answers for the people of Mexico.  And, it’s been two years of artists around the world doing their part to not let us forget.

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Images of some of the missing by Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO) seen June 18, 2016 on Av. Morelos in Oaxaca, including 18-year old Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca.

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It’s here!!!  Sam messaged me Saturday night to say that my Tree of Life tapete was finished.  So, my trusty blogger buddy Chris (he had an ulterior motive) and I drove out to Teotitlán del Valle to pick it up.

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This very unique Tree of Life was designed by Sam Bautista Lazo (above on the left) and I had been immediately drawn to the use of a corn stalk, instead of a tree.  After all, this is the valley where corn was thought to be first cultivated. Sam’s father, Mario Bautista Martínez chose the colors and, as I recounted in my Yagshī for my Tree of Life blog post, Sam’s mother Leonor Lazo González (above, second from right) dyed the wool.

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The plan had been for Sam’s father to weave the rug, but farm work was taking the bulk of his time, so he turned it over to Jacinto (above left), a weaver in the village who specializes in the Tree of Life.  Sam was incredulous that Jacinto didn’t draw the design on the warp and, instead, just did it “free hand” — weaving from a photo of the larger rug Sam had provided.  And, if you are wondering, it took 72 hours to complete.

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Here it is, up close.  As you know, the moss/celery green color came from the yagshī plant.  The brown was made from dried granada (pomegranate) skins and the yellow came from bejuco (dodder), a parasitic plant that can be seen draping itself over the branches of the Piru tree in Teotitlán.  Añil (indigo) supplied the blue and the reds came from cochinilla (cochineal).  While the other dyes can be gathered in the village, these latter two must be purchased and can be quite expensive.

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Here it is, hanging in its new home at Casita Colibrí.  I am SO grateful to Sam, Leonor, Mario, and Jacinto for their creativity, talent, and hard work in bringing my tapete to fruition and to Mother Nature for the resources she provides Teotitlán del Valle.  It takes a village to make a Tree of Life!!!

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Today, August 9, is International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, so designated by the United Nations.  This year’s focus is on the right to education — a timely and white-hot issue in Oaxaca and several of the other Mexican states with significant indigenous populations.  I can think of no better way to honor the day and native peoples worldwide, than to share yesterday’s adventure in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle.

As I previously mentioned, in my endeavor to single-handedly boost the local economy, I commissioned the weaving of a tapete (rug) from my friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo’s family business, Dixza Rugs.  The design is a Tree of Life, with a light moss green background.  Thus, yesterday, led by Sam, we (a young Aussie fellow staying at the family’s Airbnb, blogger buddy Chris, and I) ventured out near the far end of the village dam to gather yagshī, the plant to be used to dye wool the desired color.

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Sam is explaining that his mother wants the young bright green shoots for the dye bath, as she wasn’t at all satisfied with the color the older leaves yielded.

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Sam, about to hand off a bundle of yagshī to me to put on our pile.

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Into the cauldron of hot water, it went.  That’s Sam’s tiny powerhouse mother, Leonor Lazo González.  She was making that face because the smoke from the hardwood fire below really stung the eyes.

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Like strands of spaghetti, into the yagshī dye bath, the lana (wool) yarn went.

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Now you see Sam, now you don’t!

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Leonor stirring the pot.

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Leonor measuring the weight of the alum mordant to be used to set the dye.  Yes, she’s using a tortilla press as a table.

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Sam adding the alum (dissolved in water) to the pot.

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Pasta al pesto?  The yarn will marinate in the dye bath overnight.

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Mom knows best and seemed to be pleased with the day’s results!

Sam is a very smart guy and has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing from the University of Liverpool.  However, being schooled in the traditions, language, and Zapotec way of knowing by his parents, grandparents, and elders of the community is an education that is just as valuable and should never be lost.

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Yesterday, as the Guelaguetza dancers gathered at the Cruz de Piedra and Conzatti Park waiting for the desfile (parade) of delegations to begin, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed, the wind picked up, and the rain began falling.  While they may be making their first appearance (in recent memory) at the Guelaguetza, the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle came prepared.

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They donned rain ponchos and covered their penachos (headdresses) with clear and specially sized plastic bags.

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They were good to go!

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Dance master and choreographer extraordinaire, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez, must have hauled his old costume out of storage to fill in for one of the danzantes.  But he looked stoked!

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I’m not sure which Subalterno this is.  Florentino Martínez Ruiz is that you?  Or, is it Juan Bautista Ruiz?  Before and during the desfile, both clowned around a little and assisted the danzantes a lot.

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There is something about kids and rain…  Five year old, Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) looked happy as a clam.

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Perhaps there was a little trepidation among the danzantes at the conditions and concern if the desfile was really going to happen.

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However, at almost exactly 6 PM, police sirens sounded, the leading band struck up, and the parade of Guelaguetza delegations began dancing their way through the city’s rain slicked streets.

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Not long after it began, the torrential downpour subsided and the plastic began coming off the danzantes penachos.

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After 35 minutes of dancing through, what became, a light drizzle, they reached the intersection of Crespo and Morelos, only a half a block from the parade’s end at the Plaza de la Danza.  Next on their dance card, Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance!  I’ll be watching on the local CORTV station.  However, if you are not in Oaxaca, CORTV will also be streaming the 10 AM and  5 PM Guelaguetza performances live, this week and next.

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Orgullo is the Spanish word for pride and you hear it a lot in Oaxaca.  But, rather than just the personal, it encompasses the dignity, honor, and respect felt for one’s community’s history and cultural heritage.  Remember, there are 16 indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca – each with its own language, dress, culinary traditions, music and dance, celebrations, and crafts.  While the modern Guelaguetza is an invention to attract tourism, it doesn’t detract from the pride expressed by its participants in their unique contributions to what makes Oaxaca.  Thus, a few scenes from Friday…

Fresh handmade tortillas accompanied the mole at the Festival de los Moles luncheon. Chefs from all over the state, presented their moles — I lost count at twenty different kinds — which were served by culinary students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.

Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) competition to reign over the Guelaguetza.  Young women representing the regions of Oaxaca showcased and explained the costumes and traditions of their communities, as well as, speak a few lines of their materna lengua (mother tongue).

Calenda (procession) on the Alcalá by people from the Gulf of Tehuantepec region.  They were heading toward Santo Domingo — and yes there were a few Muxes among the participants.

During Guelaguetza, orgullo wraps you in its presence.

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Artisans from the eight regions of Oaxaca have moved their hand-crafted textiles, pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, and more into the previously mentioned booths near the top of the Andador Turístico (Alcalá/walking street) and Paseo Juárez el Llano (Llano Park).  Not all the signs are in place, but the artisan vendors are.  The exposition and sale will run through the last Guelaguetza performance (August 1), so today’s mission was just to do an initial reconnaissance — to check out new vendors, see what I absolutely cannot live without, and connect with some of my favorite vendors.

Samuel Bautista Lazo

First up were the artisans in Llano Park, where I rendezvoused (stall #70) with my old (though he’s young) friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo, from Teotitlán del Valle.  As I’ve mentioned before, I met Sam and his family during my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007 and (of course) bought two tapetes to bring back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  The rugs returned to Oaxaca with me when I moved here in 2009.  Between then and now, Sam has gotten his Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool (yes, England!), returned to Oaxaca, and is currently helping his family market and manage Dixza Rugs & Organic Farm — their weaving and Bed & Breakfast business.

Daughter of Amalia Martínez Casas

At one of the stalls along the Alcalá, I spotted the unmistakable work of Amalia Martínez Casas from Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo, a mountain village in the Mixe.  Alas, it was her daughter staffing the booth.  She assured me that Amalia’s health was okay, but that she’s getting old and had decided not to make the tiring journey down from the mountains into the city.  I have several huipiles and a serape of Amalia’s but I must admit, I am very tempted to add another piece to my oft-worn collection.

Honorina Goméz Martínez

Lastly, I stopped by to greet Honorina Gómez Martínez and Pablo Martínez Martínez from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, also in the Mixe, and just a few miles up the mountain from Tamazulapam.  It never ceases to amaze me how clothing styles vary dramatically in Oaxaca, not only from region to region, but also from village to village, within the same region.  You may remember, Doña Honorina Gómez was a leading spokesperson in the plagiarism dispute with a couple of French designers, which the embroiderers of Tlahuitoltepec eventually won and which prompted Oaxaca’s congress to declare indigenous costume and language as part of the state’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

However, a new charge of plagiarism is being reported— this time, against Argentine designer Rhapsodia — for copying designs from San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  When I return to the expoventa in the next couple of days, I will have to ask one of the artisans from San Antonino about it.  Besides, I’ve always coveted a dress from San Antonino.

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