Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A place of cult?


Those who know me know if I agree with the translation or not...(but I am sure the English meaning was not intentional).This sign was posted at the entrance to the cathedral in Puebla.

Puebla cathedral





Construction of the cathedral began in November 1575, was stopped in 1626, and was subsequently restarted in 1640 when the bishop of Puebla, Juan de Palafox, was ordered by the king to finish it. it has two towers, the tallest in Mexico, one of which has no bells. According to legend, an underground river passes under that tower and if bells were placed in it, the tower would collapse.
The interior is truly beautiful.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Puebla, last stop before the US





Puebla, city capital of Puebla state, Founded 1535 as Puebla de Los Angeles, the city was historically a link between the coast and Mexico City. The official name is Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza, in honor of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, who defeated the French forces there in 1862. Although smaller in number, the Mexican army won this battle but they did not win the war. The French conquered the country, and in 1864, a European emperor(Maxamillin) was put on the Mexican throne(this is the origin of the holiday Cinco de mayo which most Americans is the most important Mexican holiday and mistakenly believe that this the independence day) Not so, the 5th (cinco) of May only celebrates the victory of one battle over the French, and is really only regarded as an important date in the area around Puebla) It was taken (1847) by U.S. Gen. Winfield Scott during the Mexican War. French troops captured Puebla in 1863 but were ousted by Porfirio Díaz in 1867. Puebla was the center of a large earthquakes in 1973 and 1999 which have caused intense damage to the city and its surrounding region.
The site of Mexico's first textile-producing factory, Puebla has cotton mills, an automobile factory(Volkswagen)onyx quarries, and pottery and food industries. Talvera which originally came from the Moors who conquered Spain for a time and left the heritage of this kind of pottery which the Spanish later brought to Mexico. The colored tiles that decorate buildings and numerous churches are very characteristic of this town. I find Puebla to be the most "Spanish" of the cities I have been to in Mexico. The cathedral, built between 1552 and 1649, is one of the finest in Mexico is huge and imposing, but I personally find it cold in appearance, (at least on the outside) the gray almost cement looking stone does not have the warmth of the green stone used in Oaxaca for churches and large public buildings or the beautiful pinkish/golden stone used in Zacatecas..

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

not about my trip to Oaxaca, but true, nonetheless!

Swedish Vodka maker Absolut is stirring up a little nationalistic pride in Mexico with their new ad depicting what Mexico would look like in an "Absolute World". But it is stirring a few feathers in El Norte, that’s for sure:(I would imagine the usual political idiots are now furiously pouring their Absolut vodka down the sink)

The U.S.-Mexico border lies where it was before the Mexican-American war of 1848 when California, as we now know it, was Mexican territory and known as Alta California.

Following the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo saw the Mexican territories of Alta California and Santa Fé de Nuevo México ceded to the United States to become modern-day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. (Texas actually split from Mexico several years earlier to form a breakaway republic, and was voluntarily annexed by the United States in 1846.)

The campaign taps into the national pride of Mexicans, according to Favio Ucedo, creative director of leading Latino advertising agency Grupo Gallegos in the U.S. Ucedo, who is from Argentina, said: “Mexicans talk about how the Americans stole their land, so this is their way of reclaiming it. It’s very relevant and the Mexicans will love the idea.”

But he said that were the campaign to run in the United States, it might fall flat. “Many people aren’t going to understand it here. Americans in the East and the North or in the center of the county — I don’t know if they know much about the history. “Probably Americans in Texas and California understand perfectly and I don’t know how they’d take it.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

More on Textiles





and at the beginning the wool yarn

some examples of the rugs that are made on these looms, I have some in my home that I have purchases over several trips.

Besides the back strap loom, the other major type of weaving is by the hand and foot operated wooden loom. You can peek in shops and homes and see this type of loom. The ladies are using this type of loom to make a rug. (photo taken in Santa Ana de Valle)

Textiles an ancient art



The Zapotecs were weaving in the valleys of Oaxaca as long ago as 500 B.C. The Aztecs conquered them and made their textiles into a tribute item for the Aztec empire. After the Spanish Conquest the Zapotec weavers were put to work by the Dominicans which were the dominant sect of the Catholic church in this part, indeed in most parts of Mexico.

Many weavers still use the natural dyes to make the rugs. See my post on cochinilla here.
Many of the textiles for the table or shawls (rebozos) and other types of weaving are still made on back strap looms that those pictured here, you can still see the Triquis in the market using these.

Friday, April 4, 2008

works of Rudolfo Morales

My theory of this painting of the women with guns and the surrounding dogs, is his sympathy with women who are abused by their "dogs" of men, but who knows?

In the museum next to the restored church you can see his last painting of his home town, Ocotlan as well as some of his other work. In this painting he shows the living and the dead, the flowers and fruits of the place he loved.

Rodolfo Morales


All over Oaxaca you see the evidence of this remarkable artist who died in 2001.You can wander around in his house just as if he were waiting around the corner.

the following is excerpted from this article written by Stan Gotlieb:

Morales was a Zapotec, born of working class parents, in a small town near Ocotlan de Morelos, a regional market town about 30 miles from Oaxaca city, Maestro Rodolfo rose to be a very wealthy man, with paintings being displayed in major galleries throughout the world. Many who have had his talent and good fortune turned their back on their roots, but not Rodolfo.

The Zapotec traditions include a committment to sharing good fortune with others. The Zapotec word for this social service, transliterated into Spanish, is "Tequio". It is similar to tithing, where labor may substitute for money. In the poorest villages, it is how the roads and the schools get built: everyone gives some labor (or money) to a common project to benefit the community

His contributions, mostly through a foundation he set up in later years, includes the renovation of fifteen churches and cultural spaces throughout the municipio of Ocotlan.

There is a permanent staff of architects and other experts overseeing all the projects, but each and every project hires local young people, mostly women, to do the work of restoration.

Morales gave his house in Ocotlan, a colonial house, to the Casa de Cultura (state culture ministry) of Oaxaca. Aside from the beautiful garden, and the Maestro's studio, it contains a computer classroom. The Maestro noted, a few years ago, that computers were the future, and immediately bought a roomful so the local youth could learn.

La dolorosa





On Holy Thursday visits are made to “the seven houses” or churches, with altars set up for “La Dolorosa”, (Our Lady of Sorrows) with "chía" seeds sprouting green out of clay animals (symbolizing the Resurrection) and flowers and leaves of the maguey plant.

Pictures of this day before Good Friday. I think perhaps the chia seeds to symbolize the resurrection are unique to Mexico.
These photos were taken in the house of Rudolf Morales in Octolan, expect for the first photo which was taken in Oaxaca city, cannot remember where exactly.

can we just go staight to the ice cream?




a first confirmation "princess" outside the church, adoring family trying very hard to get a smile.

falling blossums


the African Tulip Tree Native to West Kenya and Uganda was still brilliant.


by the time I left Oaxaca in the last week of March, the jacaranda flowers were falling and the yellow mesquite flowers made a carpet underneath the trees.

San Bartolo Coyotepec museum and town


"the heritage of an ancient culture shows the treasures of the world"
(translation of the Spanish at the top of the photo) There is a small but very interesting museum in the town square, this photo as well as the pieces in my photos were there)the sincerity and pride of the family in this picture is profoundly evident. Not sure how long ago this photo was taken, my guess is in the last 20 years, but only a guess. The type of black pottery that San Bartolo Coyotepec is famous for is still made in this area in the way, without using a wheel methods for 2000 years. Part of the craftsmanship was lost for several centuries although the local people still made hand worked pieces but of a dull clay color. Then one day Dona Rosa Valente Nieto Real rediscovered the secret of her Zapotec ancestors by smoking and then polishing the pots with an agate rock until they shone with an almost hematite looking metallic finish. Today the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec is still making the shiny black pottery, completely hand formed and smoked in wood fired kilns dug directly into the earth.
















































(the clay Catrina (well dressed skeleton) is interesting because on her skirt are costumes representing the regions of Oaxaca, which are all different in terms of custom and sometimes language.

There are sixteen groups and the number of speakers of their language according to the 2005 census are:

However, the regions are usually divided into 7 or 8 distinct cultural divisions as represented by the smaller skeletons on the skirt.

Monday, March 31, 2008

scenes from the mercado





Wal-Mart is in Mexico, but the mercardo still thrives, for now at least. The sights, smells, colors are always fascinating. And Wal-Mart does not sell grasshoppers with chile and limon! (as shown in the second photo)




Saturday, March 29, 2008

A sacred well and the end of time....
















I have seen the tall golden spikes of the maguey used in alters at this time of year, these maguey flower were placed outside the garden surrounding the sacred grove





This small town has a sacred well that is formed by the roots of some very old (as in thousands) trees called Auhuehuates, they are a kind of cypress and I think related to the cypress trees we know in North Carolina, although these trees keep their leaves all year. I read about this town on the Mexican textiles site and was intrigued.






The villagers have built a walled garden around the trees, and obviously value this very ancient, sacred site. The trees looked stressed because of the dry season and the water was very far down past the massive roots into a pool at the bottom. It was hard to tell how deep the water was because of the dark roots. Every year in Oaxaca (and indeed in many, probably most, other places in the world) the ground water level drops and most of the surface water is contaminated.


When I was riding back in the collective taxi (these taxis do not leave until there are 3 people in the back and 2 passengers and the driver in the front) the ladies in the back seat were chatting in Zapotec and I was talking to the driver in Spanish, the ladies were listening of course.



I expressed concern for the tree, the fact that it looked a little sick and the water in the well at the bottom of the roots was so far down. Everyone at this point burst into laughter which continued for at least a few seconds, they then told me that the idea that the tree would ever die was just simple not possible, the idea was so ludicrous that it made them laugh.


In their minds this tree and sacred spot had been of their lives and part of their history for untold generations and would live forever. However, when they stopped laughing, we did talk about the fact that water is less available every year, but they simply could not wrap their minds around the inevitable conclusion, and maybe that is a good thing.