Oaxaca has been my dream for a long time what with the colourful folk art and craft, the food and the rich culture and we ended up heading down for 10 days after a super successful interview at the American Embassy where I applied for and was passed for a 10 year America Visa which would be ready on our return before flying back to Baja. Perfect flow and mini-adventures 🙂
Porfirio Gutierrez master weaver- Teotitlan de Valle
We explored hilltop and various craft villages Oaxaca is renounced for. A highlight was San Martin Tilcajete where the famous painted wooden Alebrijes are created. There was a huge range of quality and we saw many amazing artisans at work but none surpassed the work being created in the workshop of Maria and Joseph Angeles. It was a huge operation with various areas for the different stages of production. From start to finish each figure takes a couple of years what with curing time for the Copal wood. The highly detailed painting takes about a month and it was great to see so much beautiful work in progress with the proud makers happy to pose for photos with their creations. A lot of the paint is made with natural materials and each symbol and pattern represents traditional heritage and culture including symbols from nearby temple sights such as Mitla. The whole idea of the craft villages is pretty foreign to the western mind. A whole community who focus on one craft and pretty much keep to similar styles and forms pretty much sums up a lot of the mentality I see in Mexico, that of the collective norm being prized higher then the individual creative process. The majority of the tourists support this with the purchase of small hastily painted wooden animals, with no interest in the artisan who created it. The ones I were really drawn too were larger and very intricate and perhaps pushing the boundaries of the style such as the amazingly self assured artisan apprentice who had self created an animal that was 1/3 rabbit, 1/3 snake and 1/3 goat!
For Nathanaels birthday we took a special trip up into the Mountains to escape the chaos of the city and the frenzy of vending activity. We choose to head for Lachatao which was the oldest of the Pueblos Mancomunados. The other surrounding villages have organised themselves into a coop where they organise tourist hikes, accomodations, sweat lodge ceremonies and horseback rising. Lachatao has gone it alone and it was slightly harder to find information about. I always like that. It generally means only the really hardy, adventurous travelers get out there. We hitch hiked out of the city which actually hadn’t been our plan but we were left bus-less and confused. It suited me fine! I always feel more in control with my thumb out pointing the way I want to go but we hadn’t done it together before and with 2 it can be hard. It was super flow and beautiful, our last ride was with the chief of Police of Amatlan who had been driving a pick-up that I mistook for a Collectivo- I boldly asked where he was heading and threw the bags in whilst he was parked up getting a new tire. Everyone laughed in the shop and we were kind of oblivious till I went to pay when we arrived in the tiny little mountain hamlet and he refused, explaining who he was. Ha! Fantastic, only in Mexico.
We spent 2 blissful days and nights up in our little hilltop log cabin and as predicted there were no other tourists! We walked trails and visited the little churches which blended the imposed Catholic religion with the old native spiritual practices. We had a very powerful experience at the recently excavated native ceremonial ground out on a plateau above the village. They have reinstated it and its being used for solstice ceremony each year. It was an incredibly powerful place with a beautiful fire circle and space for the entire village to sit. There were overgrown pyramid like structures all around and I found it hard to leave. Felt like home. Each night we ate in a little restaurant with magical views out over the valley below. We were fed simple local fair that was incredibly delicious and after mentioning that it was special occasion at breakfast whilst Nathanael was elsewhere, he was presented with a birthday cake and candles and all the people we had met came out and sang the Mexican birthday song! So special!
Returning to Baja we brought back a couple of kilos of 100% cacao which we had ground fresh with cinnamon, an amazingly beautiful naturally died woven rug or ‘Topete’ from the famous weaving village of Valle de Teotitlan, my fresh 10 year visa and many memories of the rich culture of Oaxaca and its people. We will return…….