Two weeks on a Behind the Scenes fiber tour of Oaxaca! What could be nicer? I had been anticipating for a couple of months, after seeing a post about these tours on Facebook. You can check out their website at http://www.btsadventures.com. Cynthia Samake, who writes and exhibits indigenous fiber art, takes small groups of fiber and art oriented people to villages and through cornfields to meet artisans at work and arranges hands-on experiences as well. On this trip we were accompanied by Chloe Sayer from the British Museum, a well-known authority on Mexican folk art . Both were fluent in Spanish and had long friendships with the artisans we visited. There were only three tourists--me, friend Margot (who is a knitter and weaver, very knowledgeable about religious history--and her daughter in law, Katey, a new graduate of Rhode Island School of Design concentrating in fiber. A formidable group, no?
We had mostly good weather with a little rain from (I think) Hurricane Edwin. No bad winds, though. We visited museums and open markets, lots of churches, a cochineal farm, a mescal plantation and restaurant, ancient sites (Monte Alban and Mitla), weavers and dyers and spinners and woodcarvers and potters, tinsmiths, chocolate mixers, painters, and many proud advocates of the traditional arts of Mexico. We traveled by bus over the mountains to the Isthmus of Mexico at Tehuantepec and celebrated the Assumption of the Virgin Mary with the Mayordomo and the elaborately costumed, dancing residents of the barrio. We bought huipiles (embroidered blouses) and wore them, with flowers in our hair, for the Mass and dancing.
The festival goes on for a week; we attended two days. On our first day, all the little girls were dressed up like this and on their best behavior. And there was a guy with a huge wooden sawfish on his head who danced around, surrounded by other fishermen who threw nets over the spectators. There was a parade through the barrio with a band, oxcarts, and much hilarity. And the Mayordomo, with great dignity, offered mescal to the important men of the town--and to us. It was an honor, and tasted pretty good. Kind of fruity, very strong. Hospitality is an important virtue; we were offered plates of delicious food, soft drinks and beer, fried grasshoppers and turtle eggs. It was just amazing.