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Posts Tagged ‘Teotitlán del Valle’

On November 30, I went to the opening of the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) — an innovative collaboration that paired thirteen visual artists from the USA and France with thirteen local artisan families.  It was a fabulous and jam-packed event infused with the energy of conversation and creativity.  Unfortunately, with so many people in attendance, seeing the art was challenging and I vowed to return.

Running into weaver Antonio Lazo Hernández, brother-in-law of Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras, when I was in Teotitlán del Valle for the first day of the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities, gave me the nudge I needed to make time to actually see the show before leaving for my el norte trip.  At the opening, I hadn’t even realized that Porfirio and his family (Antonio, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, and Javier Lazo Gutiérrez) had been paired with Peter Liashkov to create a piece for the exhibition.

“The ability to leap freely about our imagery without any constraints” — Peter Liashkov

Their collaboration explored the story of the Danza de la Pluma — linking images of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 danzantes to symbols used in the dance.  They even incorporated the well-worn sandals of the dancers.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the poem, Judge Softly, urging us all to,

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

“From the dialogue between our two cultures, we were able to make the references to diversification and syncretism visible, where there is always a cultural responsibility joined with a tragic story… something tragic for some and good for others… it produces new dialogues” — Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras

Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky runs through the end of February.  There are twelve other amazing collaborations that demonstrate “what can happen when we accept our differences and our similarities; it is an example of coexistence under the same blanket of stars.”  If you are in town, it is a show not to be missed.

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Looking back, it seems appropriate that I welcomed 2018 under the watchful eye of Cerro Picacho, Quie Guia Betz in Zapotec, that looms above Teotitlán del Valle — a mountain sacred to her people and where they make a pilgrimage to the top on Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).

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January 1, 2018

And then said farewell to 2018 in my Mill Valley hometown at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, the “Sleeping Lady” — mountain of my childhood dreams, teen driving lessons, and place of retreat.

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December 31, 2018

Two of my favorite places in the world — mountains that never cease to bring me a sense of peace, joy, and renewal.

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Yesterday, we said farewell to the Teotitlán del Valle, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 guys — and two little gals.

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El Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe marked the end of this group’s three-year commitment to dance for their faith and community.

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With well over one thousand family, friends, community members, and visitors watching, they danced their hearts out.

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And, after the skips, squats, twists, and leaps ended, there was nary a dry eye in the house.  It was a fabulous night!

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If you are in town… As background to the December 12, Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle, blogger buddy Chris (of Oaxaca-The Year After fame) and I are again doing a presentation at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  It will be on Tuesday, December 4 at 5:00 PM.  And, new this year:  There will be very special guests!

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From the library’s description of the talk, “The Danza de la Pluma, with its giant feathered headdresses, is one of the most famous dances performed in Oaxaca and is particularly special in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle.  The dance, dancers, and village all have rich stories.  Come join Chris Stowens and Shannon Sheppard, who have spent several years observing and learning about this amazing culture, for a presentation filled with stories, photos and video.”

Alas, it’s not free.  Besides memberships, presentations like this are what keeps the library afloat.  The cost is 90 pesos for OLL members and 130 pesos for non-members.  Reservations can be made using the library’s Online Store.  Hope to see you on Tuesday!

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Today, at 3:00 PM in Teotitlán del Valle, as leaves in the mountains and fields rustled, the arrival of the difuntos (departed) was announced with the sound of cohetes (rockets) and church bells.  Incense burners were lit and placed in front of ofrendas in each home’s altar room — the smoke and scent of copal helping to guide the spirits home for their yearly twenty-four hour visit.

Tonight they will feast on tamales amarillos — special tamales that are traditionally served three times a year in Teotitlán — in July for the Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, in October for the Fiesta de la Virgen del Rosario, and today, November first, in honor of the returning difuntos.

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As we have done for many years, blogger buddy Chris and I came to the home of Zacarías Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez with our offering of pan de muertos and a bottle of mezcal to place on their altar — paying our respects to their difuntos.  In turn, we were offered mezcal and cervesas (beer), followed by the aforementioned tamales amarillos.

The tamales were days in the making.  Several of the family’s organic free range chickens were sacrificed; corn from their milpa was nixtamalized to make a silky smooth masa; and the ingredients for mole amarillo were toasted, chopped, blended, and boiled.  The final preparation began at 3:30 this morning — 250 tamales were assembled, filled, and wrapped in fresh green leaves from their milpa and placed in the steaming pots.  The results were to die for!

For me, more than painted faces and parades, this is what makes experiencing Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca so special.

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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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