Archive for April, 2006

April 12, 2006

San Felipe and Oaxaca

This August, we decided that it was time to go back to Oaxaca. It had been over a year since we had last been there and we were excited to visit our artist friends, discover new artists and sit in the Zocolo for refreshment and people watch. 

We had not been watching the Oaxaca news until two days before our trip and discovered that there had been a strike of teachers, for better pay, that had been going on for several months. The Zocolo was taken over by campers and the government offices had been closed.

Sign : The Imperialist War Justifies the Rebellion

A group of over 1000 women, brandishing pots and wooden spoons had just taken over a television station and were showing video of the military mistreating peaceful protesters. The Zocolo was completely shut down except for a few businesses, and although the general feeling was that it was safe to be walking around, it looked like a war zone. There was sheet metal covering windows and doors, anti government graffiti on every building for at least 6-10 blocks outside of the center of town. Otherwise, it was business as usual.

Viva la lucha de los pueblos oprimidos, alongside an anti bush sign and people going to and from work

All of the street corners at the Zocolo had remnants of fires from the previous night, and the protesters covered by blue and tan tarps, ready to wait it out for the governor to leave office, and obtain higher pay.

San Felipe La Union

Some of our favorite alebrijes come from a very small, remote village outside of the city of Oaxaca.

San Felipe is a farming pueblo where corn is the main crop and because August is the rainy season, everything was in full growth. The ride out to San Felipe runs through many small pueblos and then into an expanding countryside. The roads begin with typical highways, and as you get closer, they become winding country roads, then dirt roads that we were thankful, had not been freshly wet with rain.

We lucked out with the weather, but it did take our driver an hour to find the town, which turned out to be a cluster of houses in the midst of farms that belonged to the extended family that we were about to visit. Here are a few photos of our directions angels. Three sisters dressed in red, who were thrilled to have found us, and their little goat.

We were informed to go down and to the left of the road along a small path, into the trees and corn to find the Santiago family. Our driver, Emiliano, who drives us everywhere in Oaxaca gave us a look that said, here we go again!

It was lush, green, and overgrown, the kind of path you take when you are backpacking, and find that no one has been there in a while to beat down the path.

We were greeted by the wife and children who said their husband wasn’t home, and that he only had unpainted pieces to sell and to come back in a few days to talk with him. She showed us photographs of his work, and we noticed that there was a faded poster on the wall from Rodney Strong Vineyards in northern California for a show that his work was shown in several years earlier.

Of course, it was the work we had come hoping to buy. His wife said that we might go visit his cousin at the top of the hill, who had the only telephone in the area. If we wanted to place an order, we could call his cousin and have the girls run down the hill to see if he was in, then we could speak with him directly.

We thanked her and asked if they had a bathroom that we could use before going back up the hill and we followed her further down the hill to a very primitive, but well kept and clean bano.

Up the hill we went afterwards to see the work of the cousin. Along the path we were ‘found’ by the elders, Martin, who was one of the original artists of this style of work. He beckoned us to follow him to his compound, down a ravine, and up into his natural courtyard where we were met by his gracious wife, and brother, who was ready with his duffle bag of pieces.

Martin and his shy brother, with their menagerie of animals.

We were struck by the humble manner of living and their kindness toward us. The men farm and carve, the women cook and take care of the home and family.

Here is a photo of the home made comal, which the family tortillas are made on.

The corn, being boiled down, over a fire, before being made into tortillas.

© All rights reserved, April 2006, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art