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Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

2019 has been proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations.  The issue of “lenguas maternas” (mother tongues) has a particular resonance in Oaxaca, as the state is home to 16 distinct ethnolinguistic groups:  Amuzgos, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocho, Chontal, Cuicateco, Huave, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Popoloca, Triqui, Zapoteco, and Zoque.

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As anyone who has visited the villages of Oaxaca has discovered, sometimes the abuelos and abuelas only speak their mother tongue, not Spanish.  To honor and celebrate them, their ancestors, and their children and grandchildren, today on the zócalo, Oaxaca celebrated those languages with songs, poetry, and recitations.

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However, like indigenous languages throughout the world, Mexico’s indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing.  The importance of passing these languages and the world views they express to the younger generations cannot be underestimated.

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Thus here in Oaxaca, on February 21, 2019, Mother Language Day, you can walk The roads of the feathered serpent: revaluing one of the variants of the Zapotec Valley of Oaxaca” and “Meet the Zapotec of Teotitlán through storytelling and other activities!” at the Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library). 

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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 (Zapoteco).

Detail of apron by Valeria García Hernández, San Miguel del Valle (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 (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 — after which it will be prepared to tour.  Its first stop is scheduled for 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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When I’m in el norte, I usually turn down invitations to eat at Mexican restaurants.  However, over the years, I’ve learned to follow the advice of the late great Nat King Cole and “I’ll never say ‘never again’ again.”  Thus, last month, on a stormy Friday at the height of northbound commute traffic, my stepson, his wife, and I ventured up to Yountville, in the heart of Northern California’s wine country, to try out La Calenda, the newly opened Oaxaca inspired restaurant by Michelin star chef Thomas Keller.

I admit, I was extremely leery of this project when I first learned of it.  In fact, upon reading an article in the SF Chronicle, I wrote on Facebook,  “Hmmm… How about using his celebrity and empire to help finance one of the numerous talented Oaxacan chefs to open a Oaxacan restaurant in Yountville?”  Little did I know that Keller had made inquiries in Oaxaca and wound up hiring Kaelin Trilling as the executive chef.  Kaelin is the born-and-raised-in-Oaxaca son of cookbook author, cooking instructor, and Oaxaca resident, Susana Trilling.  A good start and so I jumped at the chance to give it a try.

Flavorful and picante salsas, fresh guacamole, and crispy warm totopos.

The menu features traditional Oaxacan cuisine, but also includes nods to other regions of Mexico.  I have to say, they had me at the tortillas!

Tacos al Pastor – a Lebanese-Mexican dish that has become traditional in Central Mexico.

Sourcing corn from Mexico and nixtamalizing it on-site, the blue corn tortillas, handmade and hot off the comal, brought me right back to Oaxaca.

Tacos de carnitas – pork, cilantro, onions, with a squeeze or two of lime.

Oh, and did I mention the black mole?  Silky smooth, with the rich complex flavors I have come to love and appreciate.  Though we didn’t order the braised beef cheek in mole chichilo, we asked for a taste, which was promptly provided.  I explained to my family that this Oaxacan mole is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  It is only served on special occasions, such as weddings, christenings, and when the crops have been harvested, etc.  It was delicious and, as they should be, the flavors were multilayered.  Next time…

Pollo (chicken) in mole negro.

Everything on the menu tempted us and we ordered way more food than I thought we could possibly eat — but it was so good, we did!  (Photos are only a sample of what the three of us tucked into.)  And, the mezcal cocktails we ordered certainly got the evening off to a delightful start!

Traditional flan with caramel sauce — creamy, smooth, and divine!

When we went to La Calenda, I was nearing the end of a month-long visit in el norte and the sight of barro rojo (red clay) bowls from Oaxaca and glassware from Xaquixe Glass (the same glasses that sit on my Casita Colibrí kitchen shelf), along with the smells and flavors, had tears welling up, as a wave of homesickness came over me.  But, then it passed and the joy of feeling “at home” even in Yountville, California set in.  And, more good news:  The prices, were extremely reasonable for the quality and location — in the ballpark of upscale restaurants in Oaxaca, as opposed to upscale in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Seeing stars at the entrance to La Calenda.

(ps)  Though I’ve had this blog post in the hopper for a few weeks (ever since my return to Oaxaca), it was the recent article by food writer, Cristina Potters, The Traditional Mexican Kitchen :: Is It Authentic, or What?, that prompted me to finish and post it.  La Calenda can definitely be described as having its roots in the traditional.

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Colorful but creaky carnival rides with familiar figures for the kiddos always seem to be a part of fairs and festivals in Oaxaca.

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These from the Feria del Carrizo in San Juan Guelavía.

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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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The zócalo is a sea of red today.  It is the 38th anniversary of the founding of the Movimiento Unificador de Lucha Triqui (MULT) — one of the organizations of Triqui from the Mixteca Baja region of Oaxaca. They have come to (yet again) present their demands to the government.

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For background (in English) on the plight of the Triqui in Oaxaca and the many who have been forced by violence in their communities to migrate to California, check out David Bacon’s article, Can the Triquis Go Home?  Unfortunately, I don’t think much has changed since it was written in 2012.

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On Sunday in San Juan Guelavía for the Feria del Carrizo in the municipal plaza, the sounds of a procession drew me next door to the church.

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A procession!  I’m not sure if the occasion had anything to to with patron saint, San Juan Bautista.  However, what I do know is that I love being surprised and delighted by Oaxaca — a place I am proud to now call home.

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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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If it’s Saturday, it must be wedding day in Oaxaca.

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They are scheduled one right after another at several of the churches, especially those on Macedonio Alcalá (the walking street).

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As a result, there is a lot of waiting by the wedding parties, bands, and monos.

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All dressed up with someplace to go!

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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 cataracts, 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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On November 30, I went to the opening of the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) — an innovative collaboration that paired thirteen visual artists from the USA and France with thirteen local artisan families.  It was a fabulous and jam-packed event infused with the energy of conversation and creativity.  Unfortunately, with so many people in attendance, seeing the art was challenging and I vowed to return.

Running into weaver Antonio Lazo Hernández, brother-in-law of Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras, when I was in Teotitlán del Valle for the first day of the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities, gave me the nudge I needed to make time to actually see the show before leaving for my el norte trip.  At the opening, I hadn’t even realized that Porfirio and his family (Antonio, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, and Javier Lazo Gutiérrez) had been paired with Peter Liashkov to create a piece for the exhibition.

“The ability to leap freely about our imagery without any constraints” — Peter Liashkov

Their collaboration explored the story of the Danza de la Pluma — linking images of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 danzantes to symbols used in the dance.  They even incorporated the well-worn sandals of the dancers.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the poem, Judge Softly, urging us all to,

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

“From the dialogue between our two cultures, we were able to make the references to diversification and syncretism visible, where there is always a cultural responsibility joined with a tragic story… something tragic for some and good for others… it produces new dialogues” — Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras

Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky runs through the end of February.  There are twelve other amazing collaborations that demonstrate “what can happen when we accept our differences and our similarities; it is an example of coexistence under the same blanket of stars.”  If you are in town, it is a show not to be missed.

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Looking back, it seems appropriate that I welcomed 2018 under the watchful eye of Cerro Picacho, Quie Guia Betz in Zapotec, that looms above Teotitlán del Valle — a mountain sacred to her people and where they make a pilgrimage to the top on Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).

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January 1, 2018

And then said farewell to 2018 in my Mill Valley hometown at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, the “Sleeping Lady” — mountain of my childhood dreams, teen driving lessons, and place of retreat.

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December 31, 2018

Two of my favorite places in the world — mountains that never cease to bring me a sense of peace, joy, and renewal.

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Looking back and appreciating life in Oaxaca, 2018.

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January – View through the terrace pistachio tree of full Wolf Moon.

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February – Guest helping to harvest Waje dinner at Rancho 314 urban farm in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán.

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March – Reyna Mendoza Ruiz demonstrating metate technique at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

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April – Pit for cooking agave piñas to make mezcal at the palenque of Faustino Garcia in San Baltazar Chichicapa(m).

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May – Tlacolulokos mural in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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June – Summer afternoon on the Zócalo in Oaxaca city.

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July – Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola.

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August – Fundación En Via microfinance tour to San Miguel del Valle.

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September – Protest by students from the Escuela Normal Bilingüe e Intercultural de Oaxaca.

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October – Celebrating el Señor del Rayo at the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

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November – At the home/workshop of filigree maestro, José Jorge García García.

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December – Pop-up sale in Oaxaca city by the Las Sanjuaneras weavers from San Juan Colorado.

Feliz año nuevo y muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful blog readers from near and far!  Thank you for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue.  Onward to 2019!!!

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