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Posts Tagged ‘women’

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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What can I say?  Lately, I have been having way too much fun to blog.  A Gran Convite on Tuesday evening kicked off the festivities celebrating Oaxaca’s 486 birthday and inviting one and all to the previously mentioned, 2nd Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca opening the following day.  Beginning at the Cruz de la Piedra, the parade came to a sparkling climax in front of the Cathedral.

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Wednesday began with an early morning ringing of the Cathedral’s bells (and several other churches, I’m pretty sure) and the booms and bangs of cohetes announcing Oaxaca’s official birthday.  Then the event that I had been hungrily awaiting — the opening of the four-day gathering of Oaxaca’s traditional cooks at the Plaza de la Danza.  It was worth the wait!

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Mixtec ritual of Aromas y Sabores del Alma using basil and rosemary to open Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca.

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Machacado mixe, Caldo mixe from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec in the Sierra Norte.

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Chileajo amarillo from Huayuapan de León in the Mixteca.

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Ingredients on display by Carina Santiago of Tierra Antigua restaurant in Teotitlán del Valle, in Oaxaca’s Valles Centrales.

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Cochino a la cubana from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca being served by cocinera Rosario Cruz Cobos.

There is also an expo-venta of Oaxacan artesanía at the Palacio Municipal adjacent to the Plaza de la Danza.

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Some of the best red clay pottery from San Marcos Tlapazola for sale.

I took yesterday off to do my volunteer gig at the Oaxaca Lending Library, but I’m returning to the Encuentro today, right after I post this.  My stomach is already rumbling!

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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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I was recently in Mexico City, where I spent hours at the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building marveling at the three floors of murals by Diego Rivera.  And so, in honor of International Women’s Day, some of the women in the murals…

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Happy International Women’s Day to the women of the world!  May your strength, creativity, intelligence, and love prevail.

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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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Wishing all my sisters, whoever and wherever you may be, a happy International Women’s Day.  The struggle continues, because…

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San Juan Guelavia, January 2016

From an article today:

An estimated 120 million girls and women under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts – around 10 per cent.

More than a third of women worldwide have also experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with this being most common between a woman’s teenage years and menopause.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of a billion more women are in the global workforce today than a decade ago, but they are only earning what men did in 2006, according to the World Economic Forum.

And one in 10 married women are not consulted by their husbands on how their own cash earnings will be spent.

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March 8 is International Women’s Day — established by V. I. Lenin in 1922 (I’ll wager this is news to most), revived by women in the USA in 1968, and recognized by the United Nations in 1975.  We may have come a long way, but the struggle for equal rights, respect, freedom from violence, and control of our own bodies continues.

However, the hard work, warmth, strength, creativity, and dignity of the women of Oaxaca continues to inspire me.

¡Feliz día internacional de la mujer!  But, as news around the world and the Inequality in Charts reminds us, LA LUCHA CONTINÚA…

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Today, south of the zócalo, the streets were well protected…

Don’t tread on the women of Oaxaca!

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Braided with love (and a little pain).  Ahhh, I remember it well…  Thinking of you, mom.

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Triqui mother and daughter near Santo Domingo, Oaxaca city, 2014

3 generations on top of El Picacho, Teotitlán del Valle

3 generations on top of El Picacho, Teotitlán del Valle, 2014 Día de la Santa Cruz.

Queen and mother at 2nd Viernes en Llano, Oaxaca city

Queen and mother at 2nd Viernes del Llano, March 2014, Oaxaca city.

Feliz Día de la Madre to all the beautiful, hardworking mothers of Oaxaca and all over the world.

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Old news, I know, but couldn’t resist…  Mitt may have had his “binders of women,” but Oaxaca has her walls of women and they could kick some serious @#$!!!

Liberty  ~  Equality  ~  Respect

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My mom was a folk dancer.  She had studied ballet, tap, and acrobatic dancing when she was young and brought that training and muscle memory along with her when she took up folk dancing in her mid thirties.  I spent many hours over the years watching her dance; the Kamarinskaya from Russia, Swedish Hambo, Fandango from Portugal, Mexico’s Jarabe Tapatio, and so many more.  In addition to being a talented dancer, she made her own costumes.  A dressmaker’s dummy was a permanent fixture in her bedroom, yards of colorful cotton fabric and braid were piled next to the sewing machine, and in the evenings her hands and eyes were often occupied embroidering pieces for a new costume.

Mom died in 1989, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.  So, on this Mother’s Day, this is for you mom…

Multicolored huipil with peacock design

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Jewel toned embroidered huipil with peacock design

Zinacatán, Chiapas, Mexico

Black skirt embroidered on the diagonal with flowers

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Black dress with gold-tone embroidery on sleeve and bodice.

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Geometric yellow and red embroidery on purple skirt with lace bottom

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Close up of the back of a brightly embroidered huipil on black velvet

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

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Today, May 10, is Día de la Madre in Mexico and it is celebrated in much the same way as in el norte.

Sign under papel picados at Casa Mayordomo Restaurante: "Feliz dia mama

The celebration migrated south from the USA in the early 20th century and was embraced and promoted by the Catholic Church AND the anticlerical Revolutionaries.  As for their reasons, I will quote from Liza Bakewell’s book, Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun.

… around the 1850s the Liberals… were nervous about women’s growing participation in the public sphere.  Establishing motherhood as venerable and the home as sanctified… would give women a sphere of their own where they could be boss.  Also, it would keep them off the streets and out of the workplace where they had begun to compete with men for jobs.

Under their watch, everyday motherhood became an exalted madre-hood…. The twentieth-century Revolutionaries who succeeded them took the idea and ran with it, adding in 1922 a ritual, Mother’s Day… [p. 84]

Needless to say, the women of Mexico have not stayed home!  As I write, hundreds of women are marching on Mexico City, participating in the March of National Dignity: Mothers Looking for their Sons and Daughters and Searching for Justice.  And, as for the workforce, according to a report citing the 2010 census, 33.3% of women work and this doesn’t even include those working in family operated enterprises.

However distasteful the reasons behind the establishment of Mother’s Day in Mexico, it does nothing to diminish the need to honor these beautiful, hardworking, formidable, and loving women.

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Woman with rebozo on her head, sitting on side of hill with 3 children

Woman at the reins with 2 boys in a horse drawn cart

Close up of woman holding a baby

¡Feliz Día de la Madre mis compañeras!

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As the promotional material for Ma (yo) en Oaxaca, Mujer (es) Arte y Cultura explains (loose translation), like a skilled weaver, women create the fabric of life… part of the history of humanity, intelligence that moves, the look that looks, which is regarded in the construction of better horizons of life for her and those who are around her.  And so, from May 3rd through 13th, the women of Oaxaca are being celebrated with workshops, exhibitions, lectures, and concerts.

Last night, under the supermoon, one of the accomplished women of Oaxaca, Alejandra Robles, gave a free concert, just a block away, in the Plaza de la Danza…

Ma (yo) en Oaxaca is a party for all of the principles of inclusion and participation to make possible the knowledge and appreciation of the cultural richness of groups which, for various reasons, have been marginalized.

¡Viva las mujeres!

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Hip hop is probably not the first thing that pops to mind when you think of Oaxaca.  However, I can assure you, there is more to Oaxaca than colonial architecture, religious processions, colorful traje (costume), and traditional music.  As repeated blockades and occupations attest, and the El Silencio Mata posters illustrate, there are voices struggling to be heard.

For one of those voices, check out this trailer from the documentary film, Cuando Una Mujer Avanza (When a Woman Takes a Step Forward), about “Mare” a young Zapotec hip hop artist from Oaxaca.  As the promo states, her unique life experience is a rarely heard perspective on life and community liberation.  As an up and coming MC in a state known for popular and indigenous rebellion, Mare’s life and experience has been channeled into very powerful and conscious rapping and singing.

Update:  Check out the article, Mare Is a Rapper Hell-Bent on Equality for Women in Mexico.

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For a whole variety of reasons, this is so appropriate not just here, but…

all over the world…

And, given the current war on women’s hard won reproductive rights, it’s especially pertinent during this “election” season in the USA.

Silence does indeed kill!

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