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Posts Tagged ‘Santa María Tlahuitoltepec’

A belated feliz Día de Santa Cecilia! November 22 commemorates the day Roman born Saint Cecilia was martyred at the hands of Turcius Almachius (sometime between 222 and 235 AD) and has been celebrated as her feast day since the fourth century.

According to legend, “despite her vow of virginity, she was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians.[3] When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia’s advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.[3]

Santa Cecilia also sang during the torment of her martyrdom by decapitation, in which she was struck three times in the neck with a sword, and remained alive for three days. Pope Urban I consecrated her house in the Trastevere as a basilica. Her devotion and singing earned her the title of patron saint of musicians. Bands are named after her and she is honored with concerts and music festivals on her feast day.

Sculptures depicting musicians of the Mixe mountain village, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, in the courtyard of Andares del Arte Popular. Sculptures by Sculptor Na’pë Jääy — an artist from Tlahuitoltepec.

 

And, for your listening pleasure, one of my favorite bands named La Santa Cecilia.

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As I’ve previously written, two separate (and battling) French designers were exposed as plagiarizing the traditional embroidery designs of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, a village in the mountainous Mixe region of Oaxaca.

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However, at last there is a triumph for the embroiderers and the time-honored motifs handed down from their ancestors and inspired by the land — A Court Rules High-End French Label Doesn’t Own Rights to Indigenous Oaxacan Design.

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The people of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec may not be financially wealthy, but they and their community are rich in culture and pride in their history and traditions.  They are not angling for a monetary settlement — all they want is that their work and designs be recognized and respected.

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While we are on the topic of disrespect of indigenous peoples, we have the recent disgraceful Coca-Cola México advertisement, showing Hipsters Bringing Soda To Indigenous Mexicans — another Mixe village, Totontepec Villa de Morelos.  After an immediate social media campaign challenged the ad, Coca Cola pulled it.  As this teleSUR article details, This New Coca Cola Ad Shows Mexico’s White Savior Problem.  In addition, like the USA, obesity is growing problem here, thus a Reply to Coca-Cola comes in new video by the Alliance for Food Health featuring two Mixe students speaking about the health risks posed by these kinds of “soft drinks” that lack any nutritional value.

By the way, the English language Mexico News Daily is running a poll, asking if you “agree that the controversial Coca-Cola Christmas video was racist or offensive?”  And, I’m appalled that as I write, the results are:  32% yes and 68% no!!!

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Blogger buddy Chris and I have been talking about returning to Santa María Tlahuitoltepec since our first visit in May 2013.  Time flies when you’re having fun and it took the current Theft of a cultural kind controversy to motivate us to hit the long and winding road up into the Mixe.  To reach our our journey’s end in the Sierre Norte, our road trip took a little over two and a half hours from the city — on a much improved route 179, I might add.

179 to Tlahui

Reaching the center of town, known for its musical literacy and textiles, Tejas, a youth band, was warming up on the multipurpose municipal basketball court.

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Their performance was part of the Domingos de Concierto (concert Sundays).  We joined villagers to watch and listen.

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Most all of the women “of a certain age” were wearing the traditional dress that is a symbol of this community.

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However, our stomachs began grumbling and led us in search of comida.  The comedor we had been directed to wasn’t open but there were women sitting under the portales selling tamales.  This gal’s amarillo tamales (3 for 10 pesos) were muy sabrosos!

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Once we had eaten, fed a couple of street dogs the crumbs (until a woman walking softly and carrying a big stick, chased them away), and our energy levels were restored, we walked across the street to the sextagonal textile kiosk — the day’s destination.

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We headed to Artesanias Kojpk Okp, the tiendita of Doña Honorina Gómez Martínez, the embroiderer we had met on our previous visit to Tlahuitoltepec.  Ahhh, yes, she was well aware of the Inspiration or plagiarism dispute with French designer, Isabel Marant, that even Vogue UK has covered.  As I later discovered, she spoke for the embroiderers at the press conference held at Oaxaca’s Textile Museum ten days ago.

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This spirited, strong, and delightful woman has been embroidering for 46 years and, as she explained at the press conference, “my heart tells me what I’m going to embroider because I have it in memory, born with that idea or feeling, experience, it is the daily life as Mixe.  It is a representation of blood, food, and nature. ” [translated from the original Spanish]

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She recognized us and she and her assistant (husband? son?) were more than willing to plunge into piles of her creations, pull down blusas hanging on the walls, and dismantle displays.  Here is the blusa and ceñidore I came home with…

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Should you be inclined to go to the source, but can’t manage a trip up into the Mixe, as always, she will have a stall in July at the special artisan market in Oaxaca city during La Guelaguetza.  She can also be contacted by telephone:  01 283 596 26 05 and cell:  951 198 79 42.

Stay tuned for a blog post on Oaxaca-The Year After…  (Chris has a lot more photos to weed through!)

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High in the mountains of the Sierra Norte, the village of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec sits perched on a ridge top in Oaxaca’s Mixe region.  The terrain is rugged and unforgiving; it took rescue crews ten hours, much of it on foot, to reach the municipality following a lethal mudslide at the end of an extremely wet 2012 rainy season.  Eight months later, in May of 2013, when blogger buddy Chris and I ventured up there for their Fiesta de Mayo, we still had to detour around the remains of the slide.

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Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, May 11, 2013.

Despite the harsh conditions and its remote location, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec is home to the Center for Musical Training and Development of Mixe Culture and it is estimated that 70% of the population can read music and many who can’t, play by ear — a source of great pride.

Guelaguetza desfile, July 28, 2012

Guelaguetza desfile, July 28, 2012

In addition to the musical talents of its residents, the village is known for the intricately embroidered blouses the women make and wear.  The design of both the cut of the blouse and the patterns of embroidery are uniquely Santa María Tlahuitoltepec.  If you see someone wearing one on the streets of Oaxaca, you know immediately where it came from.  I have a blouse and Chris bought a couple to decorate the walls of his house.

Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, May 2013.

Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, May 11, 2013.

However, in January of this year Oaxaqueña singer Susana Harp raised the alarm when she tweeted her outrage that the exclusive US department store Neiman Marcus was selling identical copies of the blouses of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec for $290 US dollars (six times what the originals cost in Oaxaca) — without even an acknowledgement of the origin of the designs.  And, last week ReMezcla (a digital publisher, creative agency, and entertainment company targeting Latino millenials) took up the issue of this kind of cultural appropriation with it’s article, The $290 Isabel Marant Huipil Rip Off That Pissed Off Oaxaca’s Mixe Community noting that, “In the case of Isabel Marant’s new ‘bohemian’ Étoile line, however, it’s hard to even muster a flimsy cultural inspiration defense, since the Oaxacan Mixe culture the clothes were ‘inspired’ by have been completely erased from the narrative.”

Dancers in action from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec

I urge you to forgo these and other high-priced knock-offs.  Instead, go to the source and buy originals from the talented artisans who created them.  And, a note to ReMezcla, especially given the subject of your article, I would have appreciated credit for your use of my photograph (above) from the Guelaguetza desfile, that I originally posted July 22, 2013.

Update:  A press conference by municipal authorities and embroiderers from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec was held on June 3 at at the Textile Museum of Oaxaca protesting the lack of respect by Isabel Marant for the creativity and work by the women of Tlahuitoltepec and the history and worldview that gave birth to their designs.

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Remember my recent posts from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec up in the mountains of the Mixe?  They are one of the 13 delegations who will be dancing at this morning’s Guelaguetza performance on Cerro Fortín.

Dancers in action from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec

To watch today’s and next Monday’s 10 AM and 5PM performances, click HERE or HERE.   Enjoy!

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Basketball is big in Oaxaca and  was big news to me!

In Teotitlán del Valle, located in the valley Oaxaca, there is a tradition of climbing El Picacho on Día de la Santa Cruz (May 3).  I’d also heard celebrations also included an annual basketball tournament.  Sure enough, the sound of a play-by-play announcer, ref’s whistle, and buzzer occasionally floated up to our perch on the top of the mountain.  When we descended El Picacho via a different route, we came to a basketball court a few blocks from the village center, and an intense game in progress, with other teams waiting in the wings — in this case, the road!

Basketball game with mountain in background

Eight days later, we drove up into the Mixe in Oaxaca’s Sierre Norte for the Fiesta de Mayo in Santa María Tlahuitoltepec.  Once there, we were directed to a basketball court (did we hear correctly?) at the center of town — the mercado off to one side; church on another side; municipal buildings off to another.  We had expected folkloric dancers or ceremonial presentations, but were surprised to find a basketball tournament in progress.  It eventually ended and the expected dancing began.

Partially covered basket ball court.

According to Hoop Dreams in Oaxaca:

Any proper town in Latin America has a church facing a plaza — except the towns of the Sierra Norte region of Mexico, where Jorge Santiago is from.

“In my part of the Sierra, the basketball courts are like the zócalo in the colonial city,” Mr. Santiago said, using a Mexican word for “plaza.” “It’s really the most important part of the town. A respectable town has a church, and a basketball court in front of the church.”

Read full article HERE.

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The Fiesta de Mayo in Santa María Tlahuitoltepec lasted three days, though we were only there for a few hours on day two.  There was to be a rodeo that night — a corral had been set up and bulls were arriving as we were leaving.

A timeless quality… but, not to be mistaken for being frozen in time.  We are already making plans to return.

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Saturday, we drove up into the Sierra Norte, to the Mixe region of the state of Oaxaca.  Our destination was Santa María Tlahuitoltepec and its Fiesta de Mayo.  We had been attracted to their unique women’s traje (costume) by the work of one of the vendors at an artesanía feria in the city a couple of months ago.  She invited us to the fiesta and so we went.

After winding our way up mountain roads filled with switchbacks and potholes, we turned off on a dirt road for the final ten minutes of our seventy-six mile journey from the city.  We had climbed from 5,100 feet to over 7,800 feet above sea level on our three-hour drive up into pines.  The name Tlahuitoltepec is made up of two Nahuatl words — Tlahuitol translates as “arched” and Tepec as “hill.”  I can attest, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec is definitely built on a (very steep) “arched hill.”  This is the same village that, at the end of September 2010, was hit with a devastating landslide that killed 11 residents, following record rainfall.  And, as we drove up to the village, engineering work to repair and reinforce the hillside and road was visible and ongoing.

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We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, stopped to ask, and were told to follow the signs to “el centro.”  Our first indication that we were headed in the right direction was the sound, quickly followed by the sight, of a band playing and walking in the same direction we were.  It was one of three youth bands we saw and heard during our brief stay; music is obviously very important in this remote mountain village.  The pueblo plays host to the Center for Musical Training and Development of Mixe Culture and according to this article, an estimated 70% of the population can read music and many who can’t, play by ear.

And, along with music comes dance.  Santa María Tlahuitoltepec will be participating in this year’s Guelaguetza in July — and its Ceremonia del Tepache is featured in one of the promotional videos.  While there, we watched as a youth exhibition group performed three traditional dances to the appreciative crowd that filled the stands of the municipal court.

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The uniqueness of each village never ceases to delight and impress me.  You know when you are there, because you couldn’t be anywhere else.

Check out Oaxaca-The Year After for more photos from Saturday’s excursion.

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Tears have  been falling on Oaxaca.  This season has brought historic rainfall courtesy of multiple hurricanes and tropical depressions in the Gulf and Pacific.  Ground is supersaturated, rivers have overflowed, fields and villages are flooded, bridges have collapsed, overpasses are closed and, in the city, water has been pouring down from hills, turning city streets into rushing streams and leaving streets potholed and sidewalks covered with a fine silt.  Twice in the past month a huge hole has opened up just a block away, closing a major bus route.

Hole in the road

The damage has been occurring daily for several months and, watching CNN International, I kept asking, “What about Oaxaca?  Why are they ignoring the unfolding tragedy here that has been devastating the homes and livelihoods of impoverished and mostly indigenous communities?”

Unfortunately, it took a lethal avalanche of mud and boulders tumbling down onto the remote mountain village of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec (50 miles east of Oaxaca City) in the early morning hours of Sept. 28 to bring rain-soaked Oaxaca to the world’s attention.  Thankfully, early estimates of the possible death toll proved to be exaggerated, but the destruction is catastrophic and the communities require an enormous amount of assistance.

Relief efforts have begun, collection stations have been set up throughout the city, and the Oaxaca Lending Library, where I volunteer, is spearheading its own drive to gather supplies and cash.  In addition, the Oaxaca Lending Library Foundation, a US tax exempt 501(c)3, is collecting financial contributions.  Dr. Alberto Zamacona, a Oaxaca Lending Library board member, runs medical missions to the Santa María Tlahuitoltepec area and will be overseeing the purchase and delivery of construction materials to help rebuild this extremely poor Mixe community.  If you would like to donate, please send a check to:

OLLF, c/o James Corrigan, 5443 Drover Drive, San Diego, CA 92115, USA

AND write “Flooding” in the memo portion of the check.  Donations will be transferred to Oaxaca and the Foundation’s treasurer will send you a receipt for tax purposes.  The need is great, so any donation you can make will be much appreciated and put to good use.

Unfortunately, this may have been another human-caused tragedy that could have been avoided.  Corruption And Deforestation Caused Oaxaca’s Mudslide Disaster, an informative and thought-provoking article by Kristen Bricker explores this issue.  And Oaxaca continues to weep….

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