Posts Tagged ‘Susana Harp’

A skein of yarn waiting to be woven…


Agave blossoms reaching for the sky…


Ceramic sculpture of a Tehuana by Fran Garcia Vásquez.


Ooops, a broken arm!  It seems appropriate that my only casualty from the 8.2 earthquake depicts a woman from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec — the region where some of the most severe damage in the state of Oaxaca occurred.  However, like the people she represents, she is strong, proud, and healing will happen.

If you want to help the victims of the September 7 earthquake, please see my previous post.  If you do, reward yourself by watching last night’s benefit at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, Oaxaca Corazón.  And, if you don’t, perhaps this spectacular concert will encourage you to donate to earthquake relief.

This all-star event, organized in less than a week by Lila Downs and Susana Harp, will have tears falling — I guarantee it!


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Calendas (parades) are already occurring on the city’s streets and banners advertising Guelaguetza events are hanging from street lights on the major calles.  Below are just a handful (or two) of the activities coming up.  (Click each poster for a larger and more readable image.)

For a more complete list, check out this schedule of events from the Secretaría de Turismo y Desarrollo Económico (Ministry of Tourism and Economic Development):


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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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A musician friend recently told of hearing a young Oaxaqueña singer with a breathtakingly beautiful voice. And, the current front page of the Oaxaca Times announces, Alejandra Robles: the new oaxacan voice. I don’t know if this is who he was referring to, but in the words of the article, “her powerful voice reflects her training in Opera but her style is traditional Mexican with a rhythmic flare.”

Alejandra Robles - photo from Oaxaca Times

Alejandra Robles
is following in the immensely talented and extremely popular steps of Oaxaqueña vocalists, Lila Downs

Lila Downs - photo from Wikipedia

and Susana Harp, who have carved out successful careers celebrating their Oaxacan roots.

Susana Harp - photo from Wikipedia

I haven’t knowingly heard Alejandra Robles sing; I say “knowingly” because music is everywhere and often free… you just never know when and where you will round a corner to find it. This past November, from the comfort of my terrace, I had a ringside seat for a free Lila Downs concert a block away at the Plaza de la Danza. And, the previous May, I wandered down to the zócalo to hear Susana Harp performing (for free) with the Oaxaca State Band under the shade of the laurel trees.

And then there was this unknown singer…

Unknown singer at the Plaza de la Danza

In September, her beautiful clear and powerful voice drew me off the rooftop and over to the Plaza de la Danza where she and her talented band were performing to an audience of less than 100 people… part of events celebrating the Bicentennial. Regretfully, I was too shy to try out my limited Spanish and ask, “¿Quién es?” I searched the local newspapers and cultural calendars, but never was able to figure out who she was. Anyone know?

Update:  She is Natalia Cruz, a proud Zapoteca from Ixtaltepec in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  Muchisimas gracias to one of my readers!

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