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Posts Tagged ‘Tlacolula de Matamoros’

Under the dappled sunlight filtering through the 500 year old ahuehuete trees in the panteón of Tlacolula de Matamoros, lovingly placed fruit and nuts nourish the souls.  (Click on images to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon, when the light and shadows dance on the graves, beautiful still lifes greet the departed, their living family, friends, and visitors.  It is a tranquil setting to contemplate the words of Octavio Paz (The Labyrinth of Solitude, the other Mexico, and essays, Grove Press, 1985, p. 54)

The opposition between life and death was not so absolute to the ancient Mexicans as it is to us.  Life extended into death, and vice versa. Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.

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If it’s Sunday, it must be market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.  However, it’s not just the market (one of the oldest and biggest in Oaxaca) that keeps me returning, it’s also the prevalence of fabulous murals decorating walls and sides of buildings.  Unfortunately, here in Oaxaca city, there has been a growing intolerance by the powers-that-be to these cultural and often political expressions. However, in Tlacolula, they seem to be encouraged and celebrated — and the Tlacolulokos collective has elevated mural painting to a high art form.

We discovered their latest mural a few weeks ago as we were navigating out way through Tlacolula on our way back from the Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola.  As with their previous work, using iconic imagery they continue to explore and honor the strength of the beautiful and brave Zapotec women of Tlacolula — this time, in what seems to be a “blue period.”

I was more than a bit puzzled by the above and very prominent words featured on the mural and had to do a little research — after all, that’s what librarians do!  It turns out, “Tokiolula” refers to the 1960s and 1970s when the Tlacolula market was known for selling cheap and often counterfeit goods — mostly from Asia.  That ended in the 1980s, but, unfortunately, has been creeping back.

As for Guish-Bac… “in Zapotec dialect of Tlacolula, Guish Bac is said to mean ‘in the middle of the sky’ or ‘in the middle of the path'” (Revista Cultural Bení Guish Bac Gulal – my translation) and, according to the footnotes in this dissertation, it refers to “people from Tlacolula.”

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Last Sunday at the weekly market in Tlacolula de Matamoros…

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Chickens

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Rebozos

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Seeds

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Lunch

It’s not just about produce, bootleg DVDs, tools, and underwear.

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I love Sunday market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros — the people, colors, food, cacophony, and frequent surprises speak to the life of Oaxaca.  So, after returning Saturday night from two weeks in el norte, I jumped at the suggestion by blogger buddy Chris that we go to Tlacolula the next day.  It did not disappoint.

Carnival rides were being set up where we frequently park and, in the usually deserted patio of the modern chapel at the intersection, several men were hard at work fashioning decorations.  We peered from behind the wrought iron fence but were quickly invited in.  They explained they were preparing for a festival honoring the chapel, the Capilla de la Cruz, all the while continuing to weave flowers out of a spiky, sword-like plant.

Especially during the Easter season, I’ve seen these flowers fashioned from palms, but these definitely were not palm.

Once home, I couldn’t resist doing a little research (I’m a librarian, after all!) and discovered it was a species of Dasylirion (aka, Sotol, cucharilla, desert spoon).  I can’t imagine what those spikes lining the sides of the leaves must do to their hands!

It was such fun talking with these guys and watching their nimble, practiced fingers at work.  After two weeks away, what better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca?  And, the market was still to come.

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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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After three weeks in el norte, all my bags are packed and I’m ready to return to Oaxaca.  While malls and supermarkets abound here in the San Francisco Bay Area, shopping doesn’t hold a candle to experiencing the Sunday market in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Sidewalk murals greet shoppers on their way to the mercado.

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Wearing traditional skirts, blouses, rebozos, and aprons, vendors compete for customers.

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Stopping inside the mercado for barbacoa de chivo is a delicious way to take a break.

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The apron selection, like everything else, is mind boggling!

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Lastly, another sidewalk mural to send shoppers on their way home.

There is nothing like the life and color of shopping in Oaxaca.  ¡Hasta pronto!

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Last week in Tlacolula, as friends and I were studying the “¡Solo Dios perdona!” mural by the Tlacolulokos collective, the storekeeper next door advised us that if we liked that one, we should check out another spectacular Tlacolulokos mural a few blocks away.  So we did.

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He was right — it was indeed stunning in SO many ways!  We came face-to-face with three strong, proud, and beautiful Zapotec women of Tlacolula wearing their stories.

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There was the traditional white blouse with its crocheted yolk, the black and white rebozo twisted into a head covering, and there were the prized gold and pearl earrings.

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But, so too were the tattoos of iconic Catholic imagery of Virgen María and Jésus wearing his crown of thorns juxtaposed with pre-Conquest grecas of Mitla, a Spanish galleon, and the heart-dagger of betrayal.  This is one powerful mural!  And, the story doesn’t end here in Oaxaca.

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It is estimated that 250,000 Zapotecs live in the greater Los Angeles area — “making it the largest concentration of Oaxacans outside of Oaxaca thus earning its unofficial title among Oaxacan in the United States as Oaxacalifornia.”  (The Voice of Indigenous Resistance in Oaxacalifornia)  Thus it was appropriate that Cosijoesa Cernas and Dario Canul of the Tlacolulokos collective were invited to create eight massive murals, “Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A” for an exhibition at the Los Angeles Public Library.  They hang “below murals by Dean Cornwell, whose depictions of California’s history, completed in 1933, ignore Native Californian cultures and ‘fail to recognize the suffering of native peoples during the European conquest, as well as their exclusion from society…'” (New Murals Celebrate the Culture of Oaxaca in L.A.)

The murals at the Downtown Central Library in Los Angeles will be on exhibit in the library’s rotunda until January 31, 2018.

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For anyone who still wonders why in the world I have chosen to live in and thrive in Oaxaca, go see the latest Pixar movie, Coco.

Entrance to the Panteón de Xochimilco, Oaxaca – Oct. 31, 2017

The filmmakers “based the Rivera family — a multigenerational matriarchy headed by Miguel’s formidable abuelita, or grandmother — on real-world families with whom they embedded while visiting the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guanajuato between 2011 and 2013.”  (How Pixar Made Sure ‘Coco’ Was Culturally Conscious)

Panteón in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

From the elaborately embroidered blouses and animated fantastical alebrije to the cemeteries and “life” of Día de los Muertos, Oaxaca provided an inspiration for the film.  (Coco, la nueva película de Disney-Pixar inspirada en Oaxaca)

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

It is the music and messiness, color and cacophony, and finding joy in just being.

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

“We absorbed details in every place that we visited, but the most valuable thing was the time we spent with Mexican families.”  (How Coco’s Directors Celebrated the Film’s Mexican Heritage)

Ofrenda display in the Biblioteca Pública Central de Oaxaca Margarita Maza de Juárez – Oct. 31, 2017

It is the Oaxaca of fiestas, street dogs, and papel picado.

Papel picado projected on the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Oaxaca – Oct. 30, 2017

Above all, it is about the importance of family, living and dead…

Public ofrenda in the atrium of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, Oaxaca – Oct. 31, 2017

“With all of its music and folklore and artwork, and the story itself, audiences so far feel Coco respects their families, living and remembered.”   (Mexico, Music And Family Take Center Stage In ‘Coco’)

Panteón Municipal de Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca – Nov. 1, 2017

And, respect for one’s heritage and traditions.

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This is the Oaxaca I fell in love with and treasure.

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

This is the Oaxaca that captured by heart, daily enriches my life, and I call home.

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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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The dead don’t arrive in the valley of Oaxaca all at once.  The cosmic difunto air traffic controller has scheduled their arrival at different times on different days, from October 31 through November 3, to avoid celestial congestion.

Santa María Atzompa’s departed are among the first to return, arriving on the night of October 31.  Flower and food vendors line the walkway leading to the panteón as grandparents, parents, teens, and small children stream in with arms full of flowers, candles, buckets, and brooms.  Because is built on a slope and there are almost no paths, footing can be treacherous, especially in the dark when only candles on the graves light the way.  At one time, perhaps tombs were positioned on a grid, but no more and it seems to be filled to capacity.  I guess that’s why one side of the panteón has been opened up (one of the walls removed), the field beyond leveled, and a new wall around the field, connected to the old, constructed.  (You can click on images for a larger view.)

On November 1, in the early afternoon, it has become our custom to visit the cemetery in Tlacolula de Matamoros, before bringing pan de muerto and mezcal to the home of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  In contrast to the higgledy-piggledy of Atzompa, the panteón in Tlacolula emanates a sense of order and serenity.  I wonder, could the tranquility comes from the 500 year old ahuehuete trees (hijos of el Tule, we were told) that reign over the tombs of the departed and make for an amazing play of light and shadow throughout?

On November 2, we returned to Teotitlán, but I will save that for another blog post.  However, that was not the end of the road.  In the category of, no rest for the living, the following day we drove south to San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is the village known for their beautiful flowers and exquisite floral embroidery.  And, it is said that because the living are so busy providing flowers to other parts of the valley, the departed wait until November 3 to return. (See the book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca by Shawn D. Haley and Curt Fukuda.)  I’m sure, like we, the difuntos are dazzled by the intricacy of floral designs that family members have created to decorate their tombs in welcome.

Octavio Paz writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “Life extended into death, and vice-versa.  Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.”

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Sunday is market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros and I was so ready to escape the city.  No bloqueos blocked our way and Sunday traffic was even lighter than usual, thus the drive was uneventful.  In addition, though rumors of gasoline shortages have been rampant, we had no trouble filling up at one of the numerous Pemex stations along our eastbound route.  Once we arrived, we found the market was a beehive of activity, aisles had us crowded shoulder to shoulder with shoppers from Tlacolula and the surrounding villages.

The color… the energy… the bounty… the people… the smells… the street food…the life.  It was all just what the doctor ordered!  And, when I got home and turned on my computer, a documentary on market day in Tlacolula popped up on my Facebook news feed.  (h/t Zeferino Mendoza)

It may be from 2012, but not much has changed.  This Sunday open air market (tianguis) is one of the oldest continuously operating in Mesoamerica.

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A few weeks ago, blogger buddy Chris and I returned to Tlacolula de Matamoros for the 5th annual Festival de la Nieve, Mezcal, Gastronomía.  Besides yummy food, ice creams, and drink there were vendors of textiles, baskets, and barro.

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These are the women of San Marcos Tlapazola and their elegant and functional pottery.  I already have several oft used pieces, including a comal.  However, the girl in the red dress and blue apron above, talked me into a little salsa dish.  How could I resist?

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You can always find these women of red clay selling their wares on Sunday market day in Tlacolula and, if you are in the market for a comal, they stroll the aisles of the Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca city almost everyday.  That’s where I got mine!

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And, if you want to see these gals in action, check out the video Mujeresdelbarrorojo.

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In Oaxaca city…

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In Tlacolula de Matamoros…

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They are seen and they are watching.

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To borrow from Meredith Willson, it’s beginning to look a lot like Muertos…P1150004

Everywhere you go.

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No “five and tens” here…

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Just a street stall set up in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Beginning to shop for my Día de Muertos ofrenda.

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Yesterday, we slowly but surely wound our way around a major blockade and made our way 20 miles southeast of the city to Tlacolula de Matamoros.  The reason for our tenacity?  Their calenda (parade) in honor of la Virgen del Rosario (Virgin of the Rosary) was happening.  A major feature, not to mention highlight, of Tlacolula festivals are the marmotas.IMG_9781

Little boys begin by carrying little marmotas; big boys carry big marmotas; and men carry gigantic marmotas.  As for the latter, the guys definitely must rely on a little help from their friends.

IMG_9824Time for change of shift…

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IMG_9827That didn’t last long…

IMG_9829Time for another shift change.

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