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Yesterday was another special Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is a Zapotec village famous for the cultivation of flowers and exquisitely embroidered blouses and dresses, inspired by said flowers.  Returning year-after-year, I never cease to be uplifted by the warmth of the people and the bounty they bring to the image of San Salvador sitting atop his little burro outside the panteón.  The best of their fruits, vegetables, herbs, livestock, clothing, flowers, and much more are gratefully received by a committee, priced, and later-in-the-day, sold to raise money for a designated project.

A little after noon, San Salvador (his burro now filled to the brim), offerings, and the faithful were blessed by the priest.  Fireworks exploded, rhythmic sounds of the traditional teponaxtles (drums) and chirimía (small oboe) sounded, and led by a trail of bougainvillea bracts and the smoke of copal, the litter of San Salvador atop the burro and carried by 30+ men, set off on a journey to the atrium of the church.  They were followed by villagers and visitors carrying the remainder of the goods collected — a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

The procession successfully navigated overhead wires above and heeded warnings of “topes” (speed bumps) below.  A kilometer down this perilous route, San Salvador and the faithful, young and old, approached the atrium of the church, San Salvador was set on the stage where an outdoor mass was to be said, and on the opposite side, the hand-and-head-carried offerings were to be sold.  I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Wearing a blusa from San Antonino, that I purchased several years ago, I was smiled upon and, as I was taking photos, officials and other villagers ushered me to the front.  Again, I ask, how many magical moments can one person have?

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A mile or two from the city are fields of corn; a recurring reminder of where the masa used to make tortillas, tamales, and other mealtime staples, comes from.  Livestock roam the hills and are often seen being herded down the streets of local villages.

Goats being herded down dirt road

And, at the foot of the stairs of my new apartment is a coyuche bush — the brown cotton plant that has been cultivated in this part of the world for thousands of years.

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The ripe buds of the coyuche have been harvested, cleaned, spun, and woven into huipiles and cotones (men’s shirts) by countless generations.  However, like many textile traditions, industrialization has taken its toll.  The cultivation and use of coyuche is literally hanging by a thread, mostly confined to the Mixteca and Costa Chica regions of Oaxaca.  As a result, besides just liking the design and color, I have a profound appreciation for and treasure this old huipil that was given to me a couple of years ago.

Embroidery detail of huipil made of coyuche

It’s in desperate need of repair.  My friend and Mexican textile collector and chronicler, Sheri Brautigam, advised me to take it to Odilon Merino Morales, who is from San Juan Amuzgo and leads an effort to revive the use of coyuche.  I will ask him if he knows of someone who could give my huipil some tender loving mending.

Living close to the source — there is something wonderful about the coyuche plant’s daily reminder of the origin of one of my favorite huipiles.

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