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January 12, 2010 - Teotitlan del Valle Oaxaca Mexico

Written by GingerBlossom Published in
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This trip started off with a classic "circus jump". For the uninitiated, that's where, after operating all day, the carnival or circus breaks down, packs up, and hits the road that night for the next stop. In my case, the circus jump was working all day Sunday (and sneaking in a quick cross country ski for both dog's and human's fun quota), then packing, catching the 1:50 a.m. Mexicana Red Eye to Mexico City, hopping on a bus to Oaxaca, then 7 hours later catching a ride out to Teotitlan. I guess I could've flown from Mexico City to Oaxaca, but I've traveled on the cheap for so long that old habits die hard. Cheapness used to be out of necessity, now it's, in part, out of eccentricity.

So my first night in Mexico, I was nicely ensconced in the Montano family bungalow. Sounds great, except that first night had record breaking cold temps and no heat in the bungalow. At least tonight I've got three big Zapotec rugs to throw on the bed. I'll need to find a hot water bottle for heat before I get to Jalisco,. One time in Chihuahua it was so cold that I filled up a gallon water jug with hot water to warm up the bed, then some time during the night it sprang a leak - you can imagine the rest.

I'm so glad to be down here. I didn't get to Oaxaca last year, but some of these families I've been doing business with for close to 25 years. I was going to have breakfast with the Motano family this morning, but was too hungry to wait for them, so I hiked up to the market to scrounge up something to eat. Jackpot! bean tamales and a dish of nopalitos (nopal cactus with the thorns scraped off) and I almost starting beating my spoon on the table for pure joy when they ladled the mole sauce over them.

Rug buying is going pretty well. This particular Zapotec town has so much history. They were weavers, on backstrap looms, even before the Spanish arrived. The looms they use still look like they came over with the Spanish Armada, they're big wooden floor treadle looms. In the first half of the 20th century, there were no major roads though the Isthmus, so several of the Zapotec families here would pack up mule trains with their handwoven serapes and blankets and trade throughout the Isthmus, bringing back bananas and poncillo, or brown sugar cones. The young generation now trade their weavings via the Internet and PayPal. Twenty years ago there was only one phone line in the whole village so if you wanted to talk to someone, you called the number, hoped someone was there to answer, send a kid on a bicycle to get them, then you'd call back in 40 minutes and hope they were there. Now there's at least 4 internet cafes that I know of, and I've seen two TelCel mobile phone stores. Even with all the changes, this village is loaded with charm, there's still cow poop in the road, still goat herds vying for sidewalk space, and still 2000 years of Zapotec history. One time I saw Beatrice on the corner with a bunch of girls and women, all ages, and she told me later that it was 5 generations of the women folk from her family. I asked her if her great-grandmother knew the youngest kids, and she said, no, but that it didn't matter, just that the chain continues. I took a picture of Beatrice today with her first granddaughter, and she looked pretty happy with her little link in her arms, wonder if she remembers her comment from years ago.

Beatrice's family were also the ones who set me up in Ru'u gich - Zapotec for "edge of the village". Ru'u gich was being built for when their son got married. When I stayed there, it wasn't finished yet, so you could climb up on the roof and get the most unbelievable view of the night sky with no light pollution to spoil it. The only electric lights that you saw were from San Marcos Tlapozole, the Zapotec village on the other side of the valley. Teotitlan is higher up, so the San Marcos lights just looked like stars that had fallen from the sky. I'd get my water for washing up by lowering a bucket on a rope down the well, then hauling it up by hand. Unknown to me until years later was that Beatrice's family was worried about me staying way out of the village by myself, so her dad, Gaspar, would spend a good part pf the night sleeping in his truck outside of the compound. Talk about Guardian Angles hovering close by.