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Posts Tagged ‘Teotitlán del Valle’

Monday afternoon, in the middle of a fiesta at the home of Danza de la Pluma danzante Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez, a torrential downpour came to Teotitlán del Valle.

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As I’ve mentioned, rain has been scarce this rainy season — a serious situation for a community that relies on subsistence farming.

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So, despite the fact that the dirt road in front of the house became a muddy rushing river and festivities had to be put on hold for awhile as rain blew in through openings in the tented patio, this deluge was good news and people were smiling.

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Everyone, including Juan Pablo, waited patiently for the life-giving rain to let up.

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It eventually did and he was able to dance.

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On a wet patio, surrounded by 100+ proud family members, fellow danzantes, and guests, he performed his solo dance.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I felt so incredibly honored to have been invited.  It was a truly memorable experience that we will treasure always.  Muchisimas gracias to Juan and his family and all the members of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-18 for being so warm and welcoming to us over the past couple of years.  We are going to miss you!

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The very dry rainy season continues and is the major topic of conversation among anyone who has any connection to la tierra (the land).  However, during today’s Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle, the Zapotec god Cosijo answered the prayers for rain.

The sky darkened over Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

Moctezuma (Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista) danced the story of the Conquest.

Doña Marina (Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez) danced her part.

The rain began to seriously fall and the plastic penacho (headdress) covers came out in force, but the danzantes continued to dance.

Comida (lunch break) came just in time, the sun came out, and Malinche (Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) graciously posed for photos.

And, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez (dance master, choreographer, former danzante, and father of Moctezuma) posed with his son’s penacho.

A little means a lot, though probably not enough to salvage this season’s milpa (field of corn, beans, and squash).  But, when your culture dates back at least 2,500 years, you take a long view of history.

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Saturday saw the inauguration of the long awaited Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle (CCCTV).  We, along with the citizens of this Zapotec community, have been wondering and watching the progress of the building, located between the municipal building and tapete (rug) vendor stalls, for 3+ years.

To begin the celebration, a desfile departed from the plaza in front of the new center, wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán, and returned to its starting point almost an hour later.  Parading through town, there were kids and abuelas…

 

Community leaders and villagers…

And neighboring municipality, Tlacolula de Matamoros, participating with one of their gigantic marmotas and dancers.

There were two bands supplying a marching rhythm and soundtrack — the first to lead the procession and, at the tail, Los Reformistas, accompanying the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018.

The danzantes danced their way onto the plaza and performed.

Then villagers and visitors settled down for words of welcome by community leaders and the new cultural center director Abigail Mendoza (yes, the world famous cocinera), food and drink prepared by the women of Teotitlán, and a moving song by Lila Downs, a madrina of the inauguration.

By the way, several times during the event, Teotitecos proudly informed me that besides the CCCTV’s newly elected director, all the members of the cultural center’s governing committee are women.

Centro Cultural Comunitario director Abigail Mendoza (far left) and her committee.

There were musical performances and then a ribbon cutting to formally open the CCCTV — a building that was awarded the 2017 Cemex first place in the category of Collective Space, Gold Medal in the 3rd edition of the Architecture Biennial of Mexico City 2017, and the Silver Medal in the 15th edition of the National and International Biennial of Mexican Architecture 2018 (Centro Cultural de Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca).

At long last, the Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle was open to the public — and they poured in to view the spaces, exhibits, and Pablo Picasso community library.

However, that was far from the end of the celebration!  A mini Guelaguetza began with the (above mentioned) delegation from Tlacolula, followed by the folkloric group, Grupo Dancistico Ritmo de Mi Raza, showcasing dances from the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca, and finished with an encore performance by Teotitlán’s Danza de la Pluma Promesa.

The celebration ended 10+ hours after it began, with the abuelas (seen above), village leaders, and the Cultural Center Committee dancing the jarabe in front of the municipal building, accompanied by the exploding sights and sounds of toritos dancing in the plaza, a few steps below.

In addition to permanent exhibits and library, the CCCTV also includes gardens, a store, meeting spaces, and will host temporary exhibitions, along with ongoing cultural and educational activities for children, youth, and adults.

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The Danza de la Pluma weapons of war consist of a small paddle (pala/macana) held in the left hand and a sonaja (rattle) held in the right (see images of danzantes in July 9 post).

The sonajas are decorated gourds attached to a deer leg or antler.  During the dance, they mark the compass points and their sound is used to scare the opponents.

Each wooden pala is uniquely carved and decorated and serves as a baton and a shield in this dance that recreates the battles between the Spanish conquistadors and Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings.

Even Malinche (Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) carries a sonaja and a pala during parts of the dance.  And, check out the reversible pala of Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez — red weaving surrounded by alebrije-like painting on one side and blue weaving and painting on the other.  You can click on images to enlarge them.  The creativity never ceases to amaze!

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Yippee!!!  After an “exhaustive” (see news report) selection process that took the Comité de Autenticidad (Committee of Authenticity) to 89 communities throughout the state of Oaxaca, they announced the delegations that will be participating in this year’s Guelaguetza.  And, drum roll please, one of the 56 delegations chosen will be Teotitlán del Valle’s Danza de La Pluma Promesa 2016-2018!

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I’m so happy for the entire group, many whom I’ve come to know, but especially for Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (above in red shirt), one of the two dancers blogger buddy Chris and I are sponsoring.  He missed out when the group performed at the Guelaguetza two years ago, as he was recovering from surgery and this is his last opportunity — their three-year “act of devotion” to dance for their community ends this year.

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The group will be performing at La Guelaguetza on the morning of July 23.  If you can’t be up on Cerro del Fortín, it is usually broadcast live on local TV and streamed on the internet.  I’ll keep you posted!

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The above photos of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 are from the previously mentioned and recently concluded festival honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo — the most important annual festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Late yesterday afternoon in Teotitlán del Valle — along with village officials, church committee members, 200 unmarried young women, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 dancers, players of the traditional teponaxtle (drum) and the chirimía (small oboe), pyrotechnicians, and two bands — children gathered.

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Boys came holding carrizo poles topped with mini marmotas (fabric globes), sheep, turkeys, giraffes, airplanes, and other images whose significance escapes me — though this year Quetzalcoatl made an appearance.

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Little girls came wearing miniature versions of the traditional red wool enredo (wrap skirt) and embroidered or crochet blouses.

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They assembled in the atrium of the church for the start of the *convite (special kind of procession) honoring the Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, the patron saint of the village and whose image, attributed to Oaxacan painter Miguel Cabrera, resides in Teotitlán’s church.

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The procession wound its way from the atrium, through the principal streets (mostly cobblestone) of the village, and back to the atrium — approximately two miles (3.2 km)!

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Giving a group of boys long poles has the potential for high jinx, but most was limited to clever ways to evade overhanging tree limbs.

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The littlest girls were beginning their years long conditioning in order to develop the arm strength needed to hold a canasta (basket) above their head for over an hour — SO much harder than it looks!

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And, there were boys in the band — some already affecting a cool “Blues Brothers” look.

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This was just the beginning of the festival — there will be the danzantes performing the Danza de la Pluma, fireworks (including toritos and castillos), and another convite.  So, stay tuned for more to come.

*Convite:  According to Harrap’s Spanish and English Pocket Dictionary, convite means reception.  Larousse Standard Diccionario translates convite to “invitation” or “banquet.”  And, if one turns to Google or Bing translation programs, a convite is a “treat.”

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He had words.  I don’t.

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

I will miss your intelligence, honesty, passion, and respect for cultures different from your own.  Thank you.  Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain.

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

 

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The lowly utilitarian apron has been elevated to an art form by the Zapotec women of the Tlacolula valley in Oaxaca.  Worn every day, mandiles (aprons) are an essential and practical part of their traditional dress.  Most women own several and take great pains to color coordinate them with the day’s attire.

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Fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe at the home of Fidel Cruz and Maria Luisa Mendoza, Teotitlán del Valle.

Plainer aprons are worn around the home.  However, they don one of their “Sunday best” aprons for special occasions.  These are heavily embroidered and often have necklines and hems that are scalloped and, as a fashion statement, are frequently worn to the weekly market.

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Vendor at the Sunday market in Tlacolula del Valle.

Mandiles are made of store-bought poly-cotton fabric, usually in a small plaid design. While “100% cotton” sounds more desirable to many of us, the blend is undeniably more practical.  After all, who wants to iron when there is work to do and the temperatures are summery all year ’round?

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Andrea weaving in Teotitlán del Valle.

Even though the embroidery is done by sewing machine, the more elaborate designs can take from three to four days days to make.  Aprons range in price from approximately 150 to 700 pesos.

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Leonor Lazo feeding a baby goat in Teotitlán del Valle.

Given that, in addition to being practical, these are also a fashion accessory,  it should come as no surprise that styles can vary from village to village.

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Young women from San Miguel del Valle attending a festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

I grew up with aprons.  My grandmother lived next door and could always be found wearing a “house-dress” and a pinafore style apron with front patch pockets.  Some were plain, but many she decorated with embroidery.  Thus the mandiles of Oaxaca spoke to me and I listened.

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Reyna Mendoza speaking to her El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class.

My first “Oaxaca” apron was a maroon plaid cobbler style with only a moderate amount of embroidery. After a year or two, it became so much a part of my home attire that I bought another in brown plaid.  These are my workhorses and I wear them every day while cooking, cleaning, and even gardening.  And, I proudly bring my own apron to cooking classes and make sure to pack one when I’ve been invited to a fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle — putting it on to help clear tables. I always get smiles from the women (and some of the men, too).

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Me, the metate, and maiz at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

However, after countless Sunday market day trips to Tlacolula de Matamoros, not to mention, spending a lot time over the past several years in Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the fashion statements women, both young and old, were making, so I bought a slightly more elaborately embroidered pinafore style and then another and another.

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Three of my mandiles; the red is the newest.

I even dared to wear one recently in New York at my granddaughter’s first birthday party.  With children ranging in age from six weeks to six years, I thought it was a very practical fashion statement on my part.  And, guess who got one for her birthday?

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Birthday present to my granddaughter — a toddler-size mandil.

A good place to check who is wearing what style of mandil is at Tlacolula’s Sunday market.  And, should you want to buy one for yourself and/or give one as a gift, there are at least eight apron stalls at the back of the market on Sundays.

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Apron stall at the back of the Tlacolula de Matamoros market.

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Beginning Wednesday, April 25, there will be a four-day gathering of cooks in the Plaza de la Danza — and not just any cooks!  The second Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca will be hosting 85 traditional female cooks from Oaxaca’s 8 regions, representing 10 ethnic groups and 58 communities.  They will be offering more than 300 dishes, 30 desserts, 20 traditional beverages, and 70 varieties of tamales for sale from 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM each day in the Plaza de la Danza of Oaxaca.  In addition, there will be cooking demonstrations, lectures, and regional music and folkloric dancing to entertain diners.

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The Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca Facebook page explains that they are an organization that promotes the ancestral tradition of Oaxacan cuisine carried out by its women — an inheritance transmitted from grandmother to mother and from mother to daughter. 

As you can see from these photos I’ve taken during the past year in Teotitlán del Valle…

Recipes and techniques…

And love and reverence for the knowledge and experience continues to be passed down through the generations.

Last year’s encuentro was fabulously delicious!  If you are in Oaxaca or can find a way to schedule a last-minute trip here, I highly recommend attending this year’s Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca.  I’ll be there everyday and hope to see you.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, waiting for last Sunday’s convite, honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe, to begin.

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Watching and waiting from the best seat in the house!

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Waiting to process in the traditional red wool skirt and embroidered blouse.

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Little boys waiting to lead off the procession.

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Even a couple of little Juan Diego’s were ready and waiting.

The patience of the people of Oaxaca, even the kids, never ceases to amaze me.

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After yesterday’s beginning of Guadalupe festivities in Teotitlán del Valle, a day and evening filled with hundreds of wonderful people, music, dancing, parading and the accompanying ear-splitting rockets (more about the festivities to come), a solitary morning walk was in order.  Bundled up against bordering-on-freezing temperatures, I set off for the village presa (dam).

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There is always something in bloom, no matter the time of year.

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The reservoir is full and flowing over the dam.

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Ahhh…  My favorite way to start the day in Teotitlán.

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When Día de Muertos approaches, the panaderías (bakeries) work overtime to fill their shelves and counters with Pan de Muertos — an egg based bread, sometimes elaborately decorated, but always with a cabecita (also known as a muñeca), a little painted flour dough head, at the top.

 

The most intricately decorated bread comes from Mitla.  For a few years, Mitla held a Pan de Muertos fair and competition, with prizes for decoration.  Alas, because their bread is in such demand, the feria was halted two years ago as the bakers put a priority on attending to their customers needs — this is their livelihood, after all!

 

However, the small pueblo, Villa Díaz Ordaz picked up the slack and last year began holding a Festival del Pan de Muertos.  The village is off the beaten path and the festival hasn’t yet drawn much in the way of tourism, but it’s a wonderful event that blogger buddy Chris and I love attending (See his post, here).  Among other things, the event is encouraging and passing along to the younger generation knowledge and pride in the traditions and skills of their community.   And, in my book, that is a good thing!

 

Oaxaca city has also gotten into the Pan de Muertos promotion act.  A 6-day Feria del Pan y el Chocolate was held at the Jardín Carbajal.  One could talk to knowledgeable vendors eager to share their passion, buy bread and chocolate to take home, or just take break from the busyness of this time of year, to sit in the shade of the umbrellas dipping the pan into hot chocolate.  Yummm…

 

Why all this bread?  To place on one’s own ofrenda and to take to the ofrendas of relatives and extended family — its essence to nourish the difuntos (departed) when they come for their annual visit.

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Pan de Muertos on the altar of the chapel in the panteón in Teotitlán del Valle – November 1, 2017

It is a time of year when the difuntos also nourish the souls of the living.

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Yesterday, after missing the Fiesta de la Natividad because I was in the middle of my 6-week cross-country sojourn in el norte, I managed (courtesy of blogger buddy Chris and his trusty VW Jetta) to make it out to Teotitlán del Valle for the last day of the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario and performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma)

The dance is day-long and recreates the Spanish Conquest from the Zapotec point of view.

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Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche)

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Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

Miracle of miracles, the rain held off, the clouds parted, and the sun made a much welcome appearance.

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Foreground:  Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán 1 ro.)

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Foreground:  Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8vo.)

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As we approached the atrium of the Templo Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, the father of one of the Danzantes explained a venue change — due to some (hopefully) minimal earthquake damage to one of the bell towers of the church, the Danza de la Pluma was moved next door to the plaza in front of the municipal building.

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Juan Bautista Ruiz (Subalterno)

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno) and Señor Inocencio

A heartfelt muchisimas gracias to the people of Teotitlán del Valle, many of whom I am so lucky and grateful to call friends.  The warm welcome I received was such an incredible tonic to the grey days we have been experiencing in Oaxaca.

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Wool was brought to Teotitlán del Valle in the 16th century…

Spun into yarn…

Dyed with natural dyes…

In the 20th century, less labor intensive aniline dyes were introduced…

However, now many weavers are returning to their roots — harvesting and using natural dyes.

The history, culture, and art that is yarn is alive and well and living in Teotitlán del Valle.

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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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