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Posts Tagged ‘Teotitlán del Valle’

For years, I’ve gazed at the bell towers of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle and wanted to go up there.  I mused that the views must be spectacular.

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I struck it rich a couple of weeks ago when visiting gal pals and I were wandering around the church and were asked if (for a small donation) we wanted to go up to the top.  We didn’t have to be asked twice.

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It was well worth the climb up the narrow, winding, and steep stone staircase.

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There I was, up close and personal with features I’d never before noticed.

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Overcoming a moderate case of acrophobia, I even ventured out between the towers and the dome.

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Despite a dry season haze that hung over the valley, the views in every direction were spectacular.

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A bird’s-eye view!

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It was great fun trying to pick out the homes of friends.

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The icing on the cake:  The bell-ringer emerged, grabbed a couple of ropes, and the bells began to chime.

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It was really loud (bordering on deafening) and lasted a long time!!!  But, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

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It’s a travel day for me and I didn’t think I would have time to honor my sisters of the world on this International Women’s Day.  However, thanks to a flight delay that has left me with an even longer than planned layover in Houston, I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than presenting Julia and Luvia; two of the extraordinary women of Teotitlán del Valle.

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Julia Martinez Bautista on her 100th birthday party, February 1, 2017.

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Luvia Lazo Gutierrez, director of the new Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle.

They embody the strength, ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity of women everywhere!

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From the outdoor kitchens of Fidel Cruz and María Luisa Mendoza of Casa Cruz and Bulmaro Perez Mendoza, a three-day feast came forth to celebrate the mayordomía (stewardship) of La Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle.

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The roles are set in the stones of the metates…

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But, it’s the hands of generations of women…

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who continue to shape traditions and nourish bodies and souls.

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With apron strings tied, the women of Teotitlán del Valle, from celebrated cocinera Abigail Mendoza…

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to her sister, María Luisa Mendoza…

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to the abuelas…

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and their hijas, nueras, nietas, and sobrinas.

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It takes a village of women to make feast.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I were filled with wonder and gratitude to be invited to the home of Fidel Cruz and María Luisa Mendoza, primero (first) mayordomías (sponsors/stewards), for a 3-day fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe.  There were orchestrated rituals of seating, music, and dance; a bounty of some of the best cocina Zapoteca food one could ever hope to eat; hundreds of people from small children to great grandparents; and the most amazing warm, welcoming, and communal spirit.

El atole de espuma

El atole de espuma

Higaditos waiting to be served

Higadito waiting to be served

Poultry hanging around, awaiting their turn

Poultry hanging around, awaiting their turn

Canastas (baskets) used to bring food, dishes, and serving pieces

Canastas (baskets) used to bring food, dishes, and serving pieces

Chile spiced oranges and cucumber to cleanse the palate

Chile spiced oranges and cucumber to cleanse the palate

Never ending piles of dishes waiting to be washed by a myriad of women's hands

Never ending piles of dishes waiting to be washed by a myriad of women’s hands

It was an amazing couple of days!  And these still lifes only begin to tell the story.  I promise more, but in the meantime, check out Oaxaca-The Year After.

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It’s December 23 in Oaxaca and Noche de Rabanos is upon us.  The setting-up has begun and the spectators are gathering.  Despite its name, it isn’t just about artisans working their creative magic carving radishes.  There are three other categories, including the use of Flor Inmortal (a type of dried flower).  I will return this evening, but in the meantime, this entry titled, “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses'” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, is for all my friends in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Spinning the wool.

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Weaving tapetes from the spun wool.

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Grinding corn or maybe chocolate OR maybe even cochinilla!

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Dancing the Danza de la Pluma…

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The danzantes of the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa keeping their promise.

I think Raymundo did a wonderful job capturing the people of Teotitlán del Valle, the Land of the Gods, who make crafts and shape dreams.

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And we thought last year’s Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle was exceptional!  It was, but, for blogger buddy Chris and me, this year brought even more warmth, appreciation, and the intangible of being present in the richness of more layers of being in this special village.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

We are patrons of two of the danzantes of the 2016-18 Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa in Teotitlán del Valle — and Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz is one of them.  As such, we were invited to the home he shares with his parents, Mario Ruiz Bautista and Victoria Ruiz, to partake in the traditions and observe the responsibilities that accompany taking on the three year commitment to being a member of the Grupo.

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Mario Ruiz Bautista (on left) overseeing the offerings

From my albeit limited understanding, as part of the commitment the dancers make during their three years of service, each of their families is tasked with taking a turn hosting one of the four yearly festivals.

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Victoria Ruiz watching Edgar’s dance

The day began with a breakfast of traditional breads and hot chocolate and was followed by Mole de Castilla, a mole unique to Teotitlán and served during weddings and the most important festivals.  There must have been over 100 people, including Edgar’s extended family, padrinos, danzantes and their families, and band members.  They gathered and were served in the courtyard of the Ruiz home, with men seated at one long table, women on the other side of the courtyard at another, and the two gringos seated with the danzantes in the altar room opening onto the courtyard.

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Breakfast breads with hot chocolate

Following the meal, chairs and tables were folded and removed, the danzantes took the floor, the band began to play, and, as the sun streamed down on the courtyard, Edgar began his dance.  It was a touching moment to see this young man, whom I’ve known for almost six years, since he was a gangling teenager, and Chris has known since he was a small boy, dance with such confidence and pride.

Following dances by the whole group, with band leading the way, dancers, families, and guests processed down the steep and winding streets from the house to the church.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz en route to the church, accompanied by Victoria (his mother) and his nephew.

They filed into the church, where a special mass was celebrated, and then regrouped in the church courtyard to begin the seven hour (más o menos) Danza de la Pluma.  Early in the afternoon, while the dance continued, the families and invited guests returned to the Ruiz home, where the families of the other dancers each made formal presentations of baskets of fruit and mezcal or cervesa to Mario and Victoria.  This was followed by a comida (lunch) of caldo de pollo.  After all were fed, the offerings  were loaded into pickup trucks to be taken to the church plaza, to later be shared with the community.  At night, after the dance ended, we all again returned to Casa Ruiz for barbecoa de res (beef) in a rich and flavorful sauce, cervesas, mezcal, and soda pop.  I can’t even begin to imagine all the work that went into preparing all the food, orchestrating its serving, and then washing all the dishes — by hand in basins set up in the yard across the street.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

It’s been over twenty four hours since Chris and I returned from Teotitlán del Valle and, though we talked continuously on the drive back to the city and have spoken several times since, we are still unable to put into words how meaningful and how honored we were to share this special day with Edgar, his family, and his community.  It was a precious gift. ¡Muchisimas gracias a todos!

For more, see Chris’s blog post, A very special Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe.

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When you sit down to your turkey dinner tomorrow, you will be following in the footsteps of the original inhabitants of the valley of Oaxaca.

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Guajolotes on the doorstep. San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of turkey domestication 1,500 years ago in the in the valley of Oaxaca’s Mitla Fortress.  And, according to Gary Feinman, Field Museum curator of Mesoamerican anthropology, “It’s a bird very, very similar to what a lot of people are going to eat on Thursday.”

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Guajolotes waiting for a ride, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.

Turkeys, or as they are commonly known in Oaxaca, guajolotes, continue to play a special role in many of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities.  Turkey mole is prepared and served during religious festivals and weddings, among other special occasions.  They are also given as gifts and the downy feathers under the wings are dyed and used to make penachos (headdresses) for the danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma.

So, to those in el norte, while you are enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey, give a little thanks to the Zapotecs of the valley of Oaxaca.  ¡Buen provecho!

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After the wretched week that was (RIP Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, not to mention the USA elections), reviewing my Día de Muerto photos from Teotitlán del Valle was the ideal tonic.

On November 1, as I previously mentioned, after strolling and sitting and contemplating and conversing our way through the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros, we drove to the home of friends, Zacarias Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez, in Teotitlán.  Arriving at 3:00 PM, we were just in time to join the family and other guests, as Zac gave words of welcome to the difuntos, who had also just made their appearance.

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Our pan de muerto and mezcal joined the other offerings on the altar to provide nourishment to the departed while we, the living, sat down at the long table for a little cervesa, mezcal, and more than a few of the 500+ tamales Emilia had made.  After lots of eating and conversation, we walked across the courtyard to give our regards to Antonio Ruiz (weaver of one of my treasured rugs), wife Claudia, and their children (the beautiful Beatriz and her lively brothers, Diego and Antonito), and to see Antonio’s new showroom (Chris has a photo in his Familia blog post) and their altar.

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Invited to return to the Ruiz home the following day for Emilia’s famous mole negro, we also stopped at the village panteón to listen for the wind that signals the departure of the difuntos at 3:00 PM on November 2.

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We also stopped to pay our respects at the grave of Arnulfo Mendoza, though it took a little searching to find it, as the large tree that stood next to it had fallen, leaving only a stump.

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Both days, the drive back to the city was filled with the warmth, peace, and joy that Teotitlán del Valle always seems to impart.

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Under the strong and comforting gaze of Picacho, who could ask for a better resting place.

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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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While waiting for yesterday’s convite to begin, the Danza de la Pluma subalternos, Florentino Martínez Ruiz and Juan Bautista Ruiz, knew how to keep young, old, all those in between, and the photographers entertained.

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A little “splendor in the grass” for Juan?

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And, the fun didn’t stop there, once the convite began, Florentino snatched a marmota from one of the little boys to give it a try.

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And, everyone laughed, especially the boy!  That’s entertainment, Teotitlán del Valle style!

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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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Today, August 9, is International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, so designated by the United Nations.  This year’s focus is on the right to education — a timely and white-hot issue in Oaxaca and several of the other Mexican states with significant indigenous populations.  I can think of no better way to honor the day and native peoples worldwide, than to share yesterday’s adventure in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle.

As I previously mentioned, in my endeavor to single-handedly boost the local economy, I commissioned the weaving of a tapete (rug) from my friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo’s family business, Dixza Rugs.  The design is a Tree of Life, with a light moss green background.  Thus, yesterday, led by Sam, we (a young Aussie fellow staying at the family’s Airbnb, blogger buddy Chris, and I) ventured out near the far end of the village dam to gather yagshī, the plant to be used to dye wool the desired color.

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Sam is explaining that his mother wants the young bright green shoots for the dye bath, as she wasn’t at all satisfied with the color the older leaves yielded.

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Sam, about to hand off a bundle of yagshī to me to put on our pile.

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Into the cauldron of hot water, it went.  That’s Sam’s tiny powerhouse mother, Leonor Lazo González.  She was making that face because the smoke from the hardwood fire below really stung the eyes.

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Like strands of spaghetti, into the yagshī dye bath, the lana (wool) yarn went.

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Now you see Sam, now you don’t!

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Leonor stirring the pot.

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Leonor measuring the weight of the alum mordant to be used to set the dye.  Yes, she’s using a tortilla press as a table.

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Sam adding the alum (dissolved in water) to the pot.

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Pasta al pesto?  The yarn will marinate in the dye bath overnight.

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Mom knows best and seemed to be pleased with the day’s results!

Sam is a very smart guy and has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing from the University of Liverpool.  However, being schooled in the traditions, language, and Zapotec way of knowing by his parents, grandparents, and elders of the community is an education that is just as valuable and should never be lost.

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As regular readers know, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the people and cultural traditions of the Zapotec village, Teotitlán del Valle.  Blogger buddy Chris and I go out there often, especially for their major festivals where the Danza de la Pluma is performed.  Earlier this month, a new group of danzantes de promesa assumed the sacred 3-year commitment to perform the Danza de la Pluma and, for the first time in recent memory, they were selected to dance in this year’s official Guelaguetza.  As you can see from the Vive Oaxaca video below, their 17-minute performance Monday evening was spectacular!

¡Felicidades! to the band, Los Reformistas, led by Maestro Antonio Servando Bautista González; to the breathtaking dancing of Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma), who was front and center and flawless during the entire performance; and to all the Danzantes, who impressively executed the complicated and visually stunning choreography of Maestro Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez.  While I may only be a (albeit, frequent) visitor to Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud of the dancers and the way they represented their strong, vibrant, and historic community.

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Yesterday, as the Guelaguetza dancers gathered at the Cruz de Piedra and Conzatti Park waiting for the desfile (parade) of delegations to begin, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed, the wind picked up, and the rain began falling.  While they may be making their first appearance (in recent memory) at the Guelaguetza, the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle came prepared.

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They donned rain ponchos and covered their penachos (headdresses) with clear and specially sized plastic bags.

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They were good to go!

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Dance master and choreographer extraordinaire, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez, must have hauled his old costume out of storage to fill in for one of the danzantes.  But he looked stoked!

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I’m not sure which Subalterno this is.  Florentino Martínez Ruiz is that you?  Or, is it Juan Bautista Ruiz?  Before and during the desfile, both clowned around a little and assisted the danzantes a lot.

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There is something about kids and rain…  Five year old, Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) looked happy as a clam.

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Perhaps there was a little trepidation among the danzantes at the conditions and concern if the desfile was really going to happen.

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However, at almost exactly 6 PM, police sirens sounded, the leading band struck up, and the parade of Guelaguetza delegations began dancing their way through the city’s rain slicked streets.

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Not long after it began, the torrential downpour subsided and the plastic began coming off the danzantes penachos.

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After 35 minutes of dancing through, what became, a light drizzle, they reached the intersection of Crespo and Morelos, only a half a block from the parade’s end at the Plaza de la Danza.  Next on their dance card, Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance!  I’ll be watching on the local CORTV station.  However, if you are not in Oaxaca, CORTV will also be streaming the 10 AM and  5 PM Guelaguetza performances live, this week and next.

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