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Posts Tagged ‘Carrizo’

Because last year’s fair was so much fun and I’m still loving my lampshades, blogger buddy Chris and I returned to San Juan Guelavia yesterday for the 5th Feria del Carrizo.  Upon arriving, our first surprise was being directed to a dirt estacionamiento (one of my favorite words, means parking lot) next to, what looked to be, a rodeo arena.  It was quickly followed by surprise number two:  The plaza crowded with people — at least ten times the number as last year!  Aside from two friends who were leaving (arms filled with purchases), we didn’t see many extranjeros.  However, we ran into several friends from Teotitlán del Valle and Tlacolula and at lunch sat across from some visitors from Mexico City.

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We arrived just in time for the official ribbon cutting that signaled the opening of the fair.  We didn’t recognize any of the dignitaries, though most everyone else did and masses of cell phones rose high in the air to record the event.  Once the ceremonial duties were done, chairs were pushed back and a children’s folkloric dance group marched in to the familiar music of the China Oaxaqueña delegation heard during La Guelaguetza.  There was even a mini-torito (toritito?) wired with fireworks that was lit, though one of the little girls didn’t appear too thrilled.  And, as we wandered around, we could hear music that we recognized from some of the other regions of Oaxaca and we caught glimpses of more of the kids dancing.

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Unfortunately, woven plastic baskets have become a more common sight at the markets in the valley of Oaxaca.  So, the growing popularity of the fair is good news for a community that has seen a decline in the demand for their beautiful handcrafted baskets made from carrizo (aka, Arundo donax, Spanish cane, Giant cane, Wild Cane, and Colorado River weed) — a tall perennial cane that grows along river banks in Oaxaca.  Besides traditional baskets and bird cages, the artisans have branched out to making lamps and shades, weaving decorative bottle covers for your mezcal, fashioning toys, and much more.  Naturally, I again couldn’t resist and happily came away with a new hamper.

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The Feria del Carrizo is also happening next Sunday, February 7.  SO, if you are in the neighborhood (San Juan Guelavia is only about 40 minutes east of the city), I highly recommend a visit and be sure to also stop at the tiendas on road into town — that’s actually where I bought my new hamper (above).

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Two weeks ago, we returned to San Juan Guelavía to pick up my new custom-made lampshades.  Again, Teresa and her family welcomed us with open arms.  A couple of plastic chairs were positioned in the shade under the tree and Dulce, Teresa’s daughter, snuggled up beside me, as abuela and abuelo continued working.

Teresa briefly disappeared, but soon re-emerged, from the gate hidden in the carrizo fence, carrying my new hand-woven carrizo lampshades!  After many oohs and aahs, expressions of “muchisimas gracias” by me over and over, and big smiles all around, blogger buddy Chris posed us for the requisite photo-op.

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After paying for my new treasures and many more “many thanks,” shades were put in the trunk and we slid into the front seats of the car, and headed back to the city.  Once home, I called Cristian, my electrician and scheduled the installation of the lampshades.  The smaller was hung outside my front door…

and the larger beneath the pergola on the terrace.

I love how the light glows through the finely woven carrizo.  I’m a very satisfied customer!

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Sunday, we returned to San Juan Guelavía, in search of Teresa, the gal from last week’s post about the Feria del Carrizo.  With her address, family name, and measurements in hand, I was hoping to commission her to make a couple of lampshades for me.  However, there are no detailed street maps for these small villages, so we had to rely on the tried and true, stopping to ask for directions, method.

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Outside the church (which, for some reason, was closed this week) we asked, “Where is calle 5 de mayo?”  This is a village with a population of less than 3,000 people, thus the reply, “Who are you looking for?”  We said, “Teresa.”  He responded, “She makes baskets?”  Us, “Yes.”  Him, “Hmmm… which family?”  Fumbling with my notes, I came up with, “Hipolito!”  “Ahhh, sí!”

Then directions rapidly cascaded from his mouth to our ears.  They included many derechos, derechas, a puente, and dos tienditas.  All of this was in Spanish and we turned to each other and asked, “Did you get all that?”  We concurred, probably 80%.  Hey, we’re getting better at this.  Of course, we made a wrong turn or two, went too far south on 5 de mayo, and had to ask a few more people along the way, but eventually we found it!

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On the right side of the dirt road, heading south, there is a painted number 46 slightly visible on concrete pole.  It made sense that #48 might be behind the Mini Super and so we pulled in and began walking to the back.

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People began materializing and we kept repeating, “Teresa.”  Then, there she was, emerging from sitting under a tree, recognizing us from last week, and smiling broadly!  Immediately, two chairs were brought out and placed in the shade for us.  The warm and welcoming hospitality of Oaxaqueños is something to behold.

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It’s a family business and once Teresa and I had worked out the size and shape for the two lampshades, the littlest guy above, brought out a small basket with a 15 peso price sticker.  I asked him if he had made it, and he very proudly nodded “yes.”  Needless to say, I couldn’t resist.

We will return in ten days to pick up my new lampshades and, perhaps, make a few other purchases.

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This poster for a Feria del Carrizo arrived in my email inbox a few weeks ago.  There are ferias (fairs) for just about everything, so why not, carrizo?  Plus, I’d never been to San Juan Guelavía, though I’ve noticed the sign announcing its exit every time I’ve gone to or from Teotitlán del Valle and points south on route 190.

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The uninitiated might ask, what is carrizo?  As the Wikipedia entry advises, “Carrizo” should not be confused with “chorizo” the pork sausage.  Carrizo (aka, Arundo donax, Spanish cane, Giant cane, Wild Cane, and Colorado River weed) is a tall perennial cane that one can easily spot growing along river banks in Oaxaca.  (It kind of looks like bamboo.)  In fact, if you see a stand of carrizo, you can be almost certain there is a stream nearby.  Along with constructing shade structures, window coverings, and mezcal cups, one of its most common uses is in woven basketry.

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They range from the simple and utilitarian to the elegant shapes and complex designs that make them a works of art.

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And, to those in search of hard-to-find lamps and lampshades, check out the work of Teresa.  With measurements of my cast iron standing lamp (in desperate need of a new lampshade) in hand, I plan to pay a visit, muy pronto, to her studio at 5 de mayo, #48 in San Juan Guelavía.

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In the meantime, a-tisket, a-tasket I bought a carrizo basket.  And, it’s already elicited several compliments!

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Of course, when the band played, La Mayordomía, this little girl knew exactly what baskets are for!

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Artistry under blue sky and sun, with delicious food, a terrific all-girl band, surrounded by warm and welcoming people.  It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

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