(The text in blue is howtheduck's take on the missing part of the entry.)
Kate got up this morning and found me passed out on the floor as usual. Those chocolate liquors we drank were to die for, but I guess not to make it all the way to bed for. After spending 4 hours trying to figure out the washroom and dumping water all over the plants outside, we made it upstairs where we found Fran and Alanna waiting for us. I told Alanna, I have this carved wooden armadillo with missing ears that Fran told me I could get fixed in Oaxaca for free, because Alanna is studying Mexican art and culture. I also told her if the people who fix the ears are near a restaurant where we could get cervesa and some grub cheap, that would be even better.
Alanna took her mother, Fran, outside for awhile so they could talk about the best place to go. I know this because I kept on hearing words like, “How could you?” and “These are people I work with” and “Next time I will pay your way to visit me.” When they came back in, Alanna said we were going to Ocotlan to see some artists she is working with.
(ETA: 5:30 PM EDT: The initial section of the first paragraph, which is highlighted in green, is now on-line. The real post reads as follows.)
Kate is now well enough to continue our travels and Alanna takes us to visit some of the artists she is working with. Ocotlan is about a half hour drive from the city of Oaxaca. The highways are good and we drive with one wheel over the shoulder line to allow others to pass. Alanna points out the shapes of ruins on the hillsides. There are glyphs alongside modern graffiti and we wonder if the messages are somewhat the same. Alanna figures the original artworks were community markers…boundary lines between villages. Considering that we haven’t changed much over the years, I figure they could be ads like: “Eat at Xolotl’s, good grub, cheap prices” and “Monteczuma’s Wagon Repairs”. Sure, they could be more political in nature, but I prefer to think the archaeologists read too much into these things.
We stop at a couple of artisan’s pottery shops and marvel at some comic female characters, sculpted with scanty dress, dancing with lascivious beaus. Kate buys a lady of the night, smoking a large cig. It’s so well posed, it looks like one of Bob McKinley’s characters, (wonderful doll artist, now deceased). The whimsy and the fine detail are delightful to see and, combined with superb craftsmanship, the Oaxaca province produces some of the finest art in Mexico.
There is a cochineal place along the way. This is a rare opportunity to see how cochineal bugs are cultivated and grown on cactus leaves. These tiny, soft pea-shaped insects crawl in their larval stage onto the leaf, put their mouth parts into the plant and stay there. They are covered in a white powder that protects them from the sun and come off easily when brushed onto your hand. Pop one, and the liquid stains your hand a rich dark red. This dye was sought after for centuries and was used among other things, to dye the uniforms of British and French armies. Until the discovery of synthetic dyes, it was the best known red coloring agent. It went out of favor, but now that we are more aware of the evils of synthetic chemical compounds, it is being grown once again. Indigo and ochre are also rich coloring agents as are nut shells, gourds and citrus fruits. Examples of naturally dyed feather headdresses, garments and wool are part of the display and it’s amazing to think that people in ancient times wore colors so rich and long lasting. I guess we always think of anything old as being in black and white.
María Angeles greets us at her taller (workshop) where about 10 young people are painting the carved wooden animals we are there to see. I present her with the armadillo I’ve brought – with the missing ears and she immediately sets one of her staff on the job of making new ones. There are shelves full of unpainted animals. The copal tree is the best wood for carving, but the tree is small and the wood needs to be dried well before it can be painted. Altogether, it takes about a month to do each piece, so the price is more than reasonable. María and Jacobo’s staff are experts. Their ability comes to the taller through word of mouth and many of these young artists are family members. They work at a long, sheltered table under daylight ,with no electric lighting. The fine lines and patterns they paint are done with firm, steady hands- a job for young people to be sure!
(Image: Either Jacobo Ojeda or Jesus Aguilar developing a nasty case of eyestrain for Lynn's amusement.)
(Image: A display of the family's craftsmanship.)
Most of the crafts are done entirely by one family. Each family creates a unique product and continues to produce their “signature work” for decades. There are other families doing the painted, carved copal, but in my opinion, this is the finest.
(Image: More artwork.)
Maria gave us cold drinks, answered all our questions and showed us on her hands how the dyes are combined to make brilliant colors. Using cochineal, indigo, lime juice and baking soda, she quickly turned her hand from red to brilliant orange, blue green, purple and violet. She amazed us all with the speed in which she did the demonstration. Again, the ancient peoples of Mexico wore rich and vibrant colors, a tradition still so evident today.
Maria’s family owns a restaurant across the road. After goodbyes with hugs and a promise to return some day, we went for snacks and a cervesa. The flowers that surrounded the patio were so unusual, we took more pictures. Sitting in the shade, admiring our new purchases (and my new ears) we talked again about how truly fortunate we are to be travelling with friends who love the art, know the area and have so many friends here.
(Image: Dull-witted Canadian tourist with the initials "L.J." mugging at camera in company of embarrassed member of Aguilar family.)
(Image: Different Canadian tourist looking at camera while admiring artwork.)
Hasta la proxima.
(Kindly excuse the opening paragraph; it came that way. Also, enjoy howtheduck's version of the missing text.)
- Lynn would rather believe that hieroglyphic writing was used to hawk eats and junk than to serve the religious and political purposes it was intended to. This is because she doesn't understand that in the Zapotec culture, literacy was for the elite.
- Lynn doesn't understand that they never actually did stop using plant-based dyes; it's just that the synthetics used to cost less. Now that we live in a post-peak oil world, it's time for the older dye-stuffs to make a comeback.
- Lynn doesn't realize that the Aguilar and Ojeda families are well known for the quality of their work. She doesn't even know their names, preferring instead to refer to them as 'local artisans'.
- Lynn doesn't understand that the Aguilars and Ojedas would probably sacrifice people to the old gods if it meant they got to use electric lighting.
- Lynn is obsessed with food and misspells common words like cerveza.
- Lynn is an idiot who can't spell, write coherently or permit things to be proof-read before springing them on the public.
- This entry is what people mean when they use the phrase 'Too long; didn't read.'