It’s been a long time since I’ve posted which leaves a lot of catching up to do. Two weeks ago we finished our 6 week session at the language school, Solexico, and had four days reserved for research on our independent projects. This time, of course, was spent unproductively enjoying Oaxaca state’s beautiful beaches and eating fresh caught seafood.
The trip to Puerto Escondido (the main beach town) was rough–a seven hour van ride on twisting mountain roads. There was more than one of us who woke up the next morning with large bruises on our heads where they repeatedly banged against the windows of the van. However, we made it there safe and sound at 6 a.m. Thus, the first hotel we spotted, we got a room. The next day was spent lounging on the beach and maneuvering our way around the city and finding new places to eat to satisfy cravings for fresh-caught fish. The following day we traveled to Mazunte (another, less touristy beach town) in a bumpy collectivo and spent the night eating more food and dealing with large, aggravated scorpions. The following days consisted of more beach hopping, lots of lounging on hammocks and reading Kurt Vonnegut (a favorite author among the group)–not to mention the obvious popular pastime of beach-goers (swimming!). By the end of the trip, we were all significantly more tan and no closer to finishing our final projects.
The week after we were split up into three different groups and shipped off to two different towns to work with non-profit organizations or weaving cooperatives. My group was one of two headed to the famous weaving town of Teotítlan to work with the weaving cooperative called Bii Dauu. This cooperative consists of at least 10 families, many of whom are related in some way, that produce tapetes (rugs) and an assortment of other weaving related products. The most amazing about this cooperative, in my opinion, was the use of all natural dyes that were harvested from a community “huerto” or farm. Though many weavers claim to use only natural ingredients, it is in fact very hard to turn a profit because the cost of the sustainable production of its natural dyes often breaks even in the less busy seasons. For this reason, most weavers buy their already-dyed wool from vendors and are able to sell for a lower cost. This however, was not the case at Bii Dauu as many of the weavers held a strong belief that the use of natural dyes was simply more environmentally sustainable and responsible. During the week, we learned all about these beliefs while working in the garden and learning the process of producing beautiful rugs from natural dyeing agents and wool.
Our days started at 6 a.m at which time we would wake up, eat, and head to the farm for work. This included making biofertilizer, constructing beds for plants, watering nopales (cacti in which cochineal bugs are grown and harvested to produce a red dyeing agent) and composting soil and already used cacti pieces. This usually lasted for less than 3 hours–the allotted time–and ended in impromptu basketball games with our supervisors (who were surprisingly good at it and beat out even the tallest of our members). After this, we would head home again for more food. Being sufficiently stuffed, we often snuck in a nap before heading out for more class. This time was generally filled with our learning the process of dyeing the wool, using the looms, or making our very own mini-tapetes. Another meal of sizable portions followed, again followed by another class with similar themes as the previous one. We were all well fed and worn out by 8 p.m, which became bedtime for the majority of the group.
One thing to note about the people of Teotítlan is their dedication to their culture. Everyone except for the newest generation spoke Zapotec, a language indigenous to the area since pre-Hispanic times. This was spoken everywhere: at the table, among family members, in the street, in the small mercado and in the school while simultaneously learning Spanish. In addition, it was common to see people shaking hands on the street or whenever someone entered a room in order to express greeting. This produced an air of a close-knit community with a common history and an uncommon language (though they were happy to teach outsiders a few Zapotecan words). They also welcomed each person whole-heartedly into their homes, giving up their own beds (in a few cases) or loading our plates with enough food to satisfy even the hungriest of stomachs. Many were very eager to practice their english or share stories and history about their town and people who all regarded us with warm words. By the end of the trip, we all felt as though we were part of this community and had a strong desire to return in the future.
Though we had all stayed in other villages earlier in the program, we all agreed that this was the most informative and inviting community of them all.
Hasta la próxima,