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When I left off, it was early evening on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) in Teotitlán del Valle and the church doors were to be left open all night.  Sometime after dark, the statue of Jesus was removed from the church and incarcerated behind a petate (woven palm) mat.

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All during the night, the faithful waited their turn to visit the incarcerated Jesus.

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On Viernes Santo (Good Friday) morning, as the last of the villagers had paid their respects, the petate mat was removed.

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At the same time, in the esplanade in front of the rug market, a pulpit was constructed and decorated with tapetes — on loan from the nearby vendors.

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At 10:30 AM, a procession of Mary, Mary Magdalene, and St. John left the church, enroute to the esplanade.

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Then Jesus, bearing the cross, began his journey to the esplanade.

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Accompanied by throngs of faithful and the Roman Centurion, he wound his way through the streets along a different route from Mary.

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Jesus entered the plaza between the Municipal Building and the new Cultural Center.

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While Mary entered the plaza from the opposite direction — between the museum and the rug vendor stalls.

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Mary and Jesus stood facing one another.  They inched closer, as the priest continued his recitation, and at a designated moment, the statues were tilted so they could touch in farewell — this was the encuentro (encounter).

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Everyone joined together in a single procession back to the church.

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The Centurion returned to the church, as well, and couldn’t stop smiling.

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Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and St. John made their way back to the village church, Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

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Following several hours spent under the unrelenting brilliant sun, most villagers made their way across the street to the mercado for a refreshing nieve (water or milk based ice cream).  Maybe that was why the Centurion was smiling.

Townspeople returned home for a traditional meal of salted fish and white beans — sustenance for what was to come — an evening Mass of the Crucifixion, followed by a second parallel procession to the cemetery, where another encuentro took place, and culminated in another joint procession back to the church.  Alas, I was exhausted, and chose bed over the evening’s events.

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As the last couple of posts hinted, this year, instead of the city, I spent much of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in one of my favorite places — Teotitlán del Valle.

This was only the beginning.  It was a colorful, moving, and delicious experience!

 

 

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Well, actually not coats.  These are the “casitas” (temporary homes) to house Jesús and María as they make their way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle on Lunes Santo (Holy Monday).

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The aforementioned streets include several blocks of Av. Juárez — the main street into town.  Thus, I found myself being “let off” the Teoti bus by the panteón (cemetery), instead of the mercado.

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How could I complain, when these guys (above) were so welcoming and offered this weary traveler a cup of agua de guanábana, a refreshing fresh fruit drink.

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As I mentioned in Monday’s post, there are twelve casitas in all — each with “walls” of the colorful tapetes woven in this village known for the story-telling designs and striking colors of their rugs.  Apparently, up until forty years ago, the casita walls were made of petates, the traditional woven palm mats that play a role from birth to death.  But, times change, the tapetes are more colorful, and it’s good PR for this community of weavers.

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As Jesús and María near, the ground is sprinkled with water and bougainvillea blossoms are scattered on the casita floor, copal incense is lit, and platters of food and drink await to feed the faithful and quench their thirst.  More about that to come…

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Today, Lunes Santo (Holy Monday), found me in Teotitlán del Valle, as Jesús and María were carried on palanquins in a slow moving procession through town, from one temporary tapete (rug) adorned casita to another.  They will make twelve stops in all.

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This casita was erected by the family of the Vice President of the village Church Committee, Amado Gutiérrez, father of Porfirio Gutiérrez, of whom I have previously written.

There was food and drink and so much more to this solemn expression of faith, so please stay tuned…

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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 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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I’m still in el norte, now on the west coast in the San Francisco Bay Area and it’s grey, raining, and cold.  The rain is a much needed gift in drought stricken California, but the ground has rapidly become supersaturated and this morning’s news reported a giant ficus falling across Mission St. in San Francisco, taking down streetcar lines.  I immediately flashed on Oaxaca’s ubiquitous, often topiaried, ficus trees.

However, I headed out into the storm and tuned into a Spanish language music station (I must be missing the soundtrack of my Mexican life) and was reminded today, January 6, is El Día De Los Reyes Magos (aka, Epiphany), when the Three Kings bring gifts to the children of Mexico.

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My (grown) children received their gifts on December 25, not January 6, and last year each received a tapete woven by the talented Sergio Ruiz Gonzalez — brother of Antonio, who wove my new rug.  In the photo, that’s Sergio, his beautiful wife Virginia, and his lovely mother Emilia (of Lila Downs’ El Palomo del Comalito video fame).

However, I did receive an (unexpected) gift today — my former piano teacher (and forever friend) Greg Johnson stopped by to catch up.  And, besides his always upbeat and delightful company, he brought me his new CD, Crystalline Thrilled.  The guys of Glass Brick Boulevard are fabulous (as always) and guest artist Carlos Reyes shreds it on violin.  Check out Carlos playing  with Glass Brick Boulevard at the CD release party.  What a great regalo I received!

 

 

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Yesterday was SO much fun!!!  I’m spending Christmas with family in New York and was invited by my daughter-in-law to speak to her special education class. Wearing one of my huipiles from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca, I filled them in on “life in Oaxaca.”

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We looked at a map of Mexico and I pointed to where the state of Oaxaca is located.

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We spoke a little Spanish and discovered that some familiar foods, like chocolate, gum (chicle), corn (maíz), and turkey (pavo), originated in Mexico.  They learned that there are many artisan crafts made in Oaxaca and I showed them a tapete (rug) that was woven in Teotitlán del Valle.

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We talked about festivals with processions, bands, marmotas, monos, and dancing.  And, to illustrate the diversity of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, I created a short video from La Guelaguetza 2014.

We discussed the differences between Christmas traditions in Mexico and the USA — that Christmas trees aren’t as common, but most everyone sets up a nacimiento (nativity scene) in their home.

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Of course, they loved the idea of breaking open a piñata filled with candy and trinkets.

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I concluded with a video I’d made and previously posted of the castillo in Teotitlán del Valle during the festival honoring the Virgen del Rosario.  Needless to say, they were awestruck by the fireworks.  And then I gave them each a woven palm leaf piñata ornament.  Alas, no candy inside!

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I was very touched that my daughter-in-law returned home later in the afternoon bringing individualized thank-you notes from the students.  However, I would like to give a big “muchisimas gracias” to her for inviting me and to her students for being such an attentive, engaged, and delightful audience!

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When it seems as if we are surrounded by fear, hatred, and violence, it’s good to step back, look around, and remind ourselves that there is also generosity, love, and beauty in this world.  And so I give you my exquisite new mohair tapete (rug), custom woven for me by Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez.  It turned out even more beautiful than I imagined!

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Here is Antonio (on the left) in front of my new rug with his delightful family, including his brother Sergio (on the right) — from whom I’ve bought several small tapetes.  More about the latter, later!  Should you find yourself in Teotitlán del Valle, do stop by the family workshop (Av. Juárez No. 107), where Antonio, Sergio, and their father Zacarías weave their magic.

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Samuel Bautista Lazo is one of the smartest, joyous, and Zen-like people I know.

Sam sitting cross-legged in a natural alcove in the mountain

Sam is my young, previously mentioned, Zapotec friend who is getting his Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool.  Sam is from Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, a village watched over by El Picacho, the sacred mountain — whose presence is unmistakable and palpable.

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The village is known for its traditional performances of the Danza de la Pluma (about which I’ve posted on numerous occasions) and their skillful and creative weavings with wool.  Like a majority of its Zapotec residents, Sam and his family weave — father, Mario Bautista Martínez; mother, Leonor Lazo González; and brother, Celestino Bautista Lazo.

Sam and his family pose in their yard

The family was featured last year in an article, The Crafts of Oaxaca, posted on the Lark Crafts website.  Like many others, on my first visit in 2007, I couldn’t resist buying a couple of tapetes (rugs), including this one, which now serves as a welcome to all who enter my little casita.

Tapete on floor: geometric patterns in rust, beige, agua

A friend and I returned six months later and had the privilege of climbing to the top of El Picacho with Sam.

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And no, I did not join Sam in leaping from one rocky peak to the other!

Looking forward to your return, Sam!

(ps)  Here is a Dixza video of  Sam from 2008, where he discusses the interpretation of the symbols and patterns woven into Zapotec rugs.  You might also want to check out others in his Dixza series from Teotitlán del Valle.

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