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Posts Tagged ‘Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras’

On day 2 of introducing B to the sights, sounds, and flavors of Oaxaca, I turned to the professionals at Discover Oaxaca for assistance.  I had met the owners Suzanne Barbezat (author of Frida At Home) and her Oaxaqueño husband, Benito  Hernández, several years ago through friends and knew they were licensed guides.  And, as coincidence would have it, they were good friends of B’s god-daughter and her Oaxaquaño husband in California.  The choice was easy and the rave reviews on TripAdvisor were icing on the cake.

Thus, Wednesday began with Benito picking us up in a comfortable, spacious, and air-conditioned van.  Our day’s first destination was Mitla, the second most important archeological site in Oaxaca and home to amazingly intricate grecas (fretwork).  However, as we headed east on Mexican highway 190, Benito was a fountain of knowledge — much of which was new to me.  This was going to be good!

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Grecas (fretwork)on the outside of the Palace at the archaeological site at Mitla.

For almost an hour and a half, Benito led us through the site — always explaining, answering our questions, and letting us marvel at what was before us.  We could have stayed for at least another hour, but we headed back west on 190, to Yagul, an archeological site I had previously never visited.  Several friends told me they experienced a deeply spiritual sense and that it was a must see.  We barely skimmed the surface (definitely a place to return to), but the sun was hot, archeological overload was setting in, and hunger beckoned.

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Ballcourt at Yagul — the biggest in the valley of Oaxaca.

Next stop, Restaurante Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle — the renown restaurant of Zapotec cooks, Abigail Mendoza and her sisters.  Using time honored methods and recipes refined over generations, the Mendoza sisters have elevated and brought worldwide recognition and respect for their traditional cuisine.  It was a delicious and tranquil interlude.

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Metates used at Restaurante Tlamanalli to grind ingredients for mole and more.

Tearing ourselves away, Benito, B, and I climbed back into the van and drove to the center of the village to see Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, another of the countless churches throughout Mexico built on top of a sacred indigenous site.

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Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, sits atop Zapotec ruins at the base of Picacho, the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle.

My intent, during our visit to this village, known for its weaving with wool, had been to visit several of the weavers I know — including Fidel Cruz Lazo, Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez, his brother Sergio Ruiz Gonzalez, and the family of Samuel Bautista Lazo.  However, we were running short of time, and B had been following my adventures with the family of Juana and Porfirio Gutierrez Contreras and had poured over the family’s website, so stopping at their home and workshop was a priority for him.  Porfirio was back in the USA, but Juana and her husband Antoño gave their always excellent explanation and demonstration of their work with natural dyes.  And, yes, B couldn’t resist purchasing a wonderful rug (though not the one pictured below)!

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Woven wool tapete (rug) by Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras.

On the way back to Oaxaca city, our last stop for the day was at Santa María del Tule to see the world famous Árbol del Tule.  This Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum; Ahuehuete in Nahuatl) has the largest trunk of any tree in the world, is thought to be between 1,200 and 3,000 years old, and is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of birds.  It is quite a sight to hear, let alone see.

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Looking up at the Árbol de Tule in Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca.

We left Oaxaca city at 9:15 AM and didn’t return until almost 6:00 PM.  It was a full, informative, and terrific day.  Next up, day 3 —  another delightful day out of the city with Benito.

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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 Contreras, 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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