Houses in Oaxaca

27 July 2019

A colonial era building I recently visited because it was the venue for a small crafts fair.

The city of Oaxaca was started by the Spanish is 1528  and still has many buildings of the colonial period even with its many earthquakes.  This lovely old architecture makes the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination.

All the writings I can find about Spanish Colonial architecture in Oaxaca are about the churches, missions and convents.  Masterpieces made by the Spanish crown and Catholic church, paid for by Oaxacan cochineal and built by the local indigenous people who were converted to Christianity.  What is interesting to me is what the Spanish colonial homes were like and how they influence the style of homes in Oaxaca today.

One can see some of the grand colonial homes today as many have been converted to museums and mini-malls. Typically these have a small entrance from the street that leads to an open courtyard surrounded by columned portico and behind that rooms.  They remind me of the Roman atrium style houses we studied in Latin class. Besides the open central courtyard these houses have few windows and a small secluded entrance, any opening to the street is likely to be covered by a massive door or iron grill (reja).  Some of these features continue in current Oaxacan homes.

A historic interior courtyard currently used to park cars. Convergence of Colonial Spanish influences and US car culture.

 

The climate and geography also influence the architecture.  The climate here in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, at 5000 ft in the tropics, is mild year round and no heating or cooling is required.  That is the benefit of being in the mountains, the catch is there are few level places to build.

A street next to a market connecting two principal thoroughfares. Obviously not open to motor vehicles.

Many places in Oaxaca are only accessible by foot as I found out while house hunting.   Floors often have a random step up or down, a constant falling hazard.  My small house, so called one story home, had 4 different floor levels when I bought it.

 

The windows of this historic building make you wonder what is the level/s of floor inside.

As the historic center of the city has gotten crowded the houses have gone up, two stories or more, on smaller pieces of land.  I saw a small house built on 6m x 6m piece of land, not even in the center of town.  It had 3 bedrooms, a balcony and everything needed for a family of 4, each room on its own level; not a tiny house but a new dimension on split level homes.

 

The  interior courtyards have either disappeared or been  transformed  into a smaller open space, but still paved.

The first thing that most Oaxaqueños do when they buy a piece of land  is build a wall around the perimeter of the property.  A wall with foundation and support columns.  This is an sizable expense for most people here. Once the wall is completed  you can live on the land; improvise a shelter, outhouse, have a barrel for water, cook in the open and plant corn, beans and squash on the land, ie., live.

Step 1. Build a wall around the perimeter. Sturdy gates to the street.

When more funds are available you can make a proper room in a corner, by just adding two more small walls and a roof. The roof and floor usually extend beyond the room to create a little sheltered area much like the portico.

Step2: Build a room in a corner.

This is what I saw at the humble home of my first weaving teacher.  The corner room has a window and door facing the porch which is where a floor loom and yarn were stored.  Later a second room was added right next to the first, also with a door and window facing the now extended porch.  When the kids graduated from college they build a weaving studio and a bathroom.

Stage 3: Adding a family weaving studio.

The studio has open walls on two sides and a large window like opening to the street, which closes with sturdy wooden shutters.  The columns inside the studio support the roof and the backstrap looms.  My weaving teacher was accumulating building materials to add two more rooms on top  of the two existing ones. Many buildings have rebar sticking out the roof so that additional stories can be added.

Most houses have been built piece meal, including the one I bought.  My house has a perimeter wall and  two different kinds of roofs, one made with bricks and arched (boveda) and other  a concrete slab.  The boveda is the older style so I think that that the first part of the house was built, in a corner of course.  The main street runs across the top of the house and a side street is to the left, a neighbor shares the wall on the right. The only existing door faces the back open area that was covered in gravel and used for parking, accessed through large metal gates on the side street.

This style of building limits the windows.  By ordinance windows are not allowed to face a neighbors property for privacy reasons.  Windows can face the street but increase the perceived vulnerability of the house.  Or windows can face your own open space, ie., the remnants of the courtyard. Because this house is on a corner and there is open space in back,  windows are possible on 3 sides.   The previous owner kept a 5 m strip of land at he back of the property and first built a wall of adobe and now has a two story building there.  No windows overlooking my place.

The grey adobe wall was built to define the new property line. The metal structure is an apartment over the workshop/garage. No windows overlooking my house.

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On 7 February I signed and paid for a small one story house  at 13 de septiembre, #400, Pasajuegos, Niños Heroes in Oaxaca de Juarez.  It is officially 1 block outside the historic center of the the city and next to a cultural and arts center, La Calera. I bought it from the owner of the Calera.

The street, 13 de septiembre, dead ends at the Panamerican highway, up the hill.  There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway there. All the traffic is foot traffic.  People who live on the other side of the highway cross the bridge and walk down the street to Niños Heroes or Madero to find public transportation.  Walking is the way most people get around Oaxaca.

Looking up the street to the Panam highway, the pedestrian bridge and the Cerro del Fortin.

It took 4 months to separate 5 m strip off the back of the property, which he wanted to keep as it oversees the service entrance to the Calera.  The gentleman that takes care of the Calera is building an apartment and workshop on this piece of land (5m x10m).

My house has a large master bedroom suite with bath, 2 more bedrooms , 1 more baths, a closet sized kitchen and a hallway. No living or dining rooms.

Second bedroom and bath

Third bedroom, with termite tunnels up the wall due to the wood floor.

Master bath

Master bath

Hallway

Closet sized kitchen

Backdoor

Exciting backyard

Actually the concept of a backyard do not exists here, this was used for parking.

What you can not see in the in the pictures, this small house has 4 different heights of floors.  Common here, the house was probably built piece meal and they just put the floor at an easy height.  You took a step up or down everytime you went from one room to another. The Master suite has arched ceilings, a charming old style.  But also an indication that it was built first.

I had been working with a architect, who not only designs the modifications and oversees the construction, and we came to the house and made some holes to see what was under the wood floor(a curious thing here) and where the reinforced concrete columns were. He came back with workers and found many scorpions living between the floor boards and the slab.

Large black scorpion near the backdoor.

 

I was busy getting all the services changed over to my name.  He had an uncle die in Veracruz and went off , he was executor of the will, and had to go to court.  Then he disappeared. By the beginning of April, 2 months after I bought the house I decided I couldn’t wait any more and I was going to move to my house renovations or no.  I gave notice at my apartment that I would be out by 15th of May.  I started looking for another architect.

I had no idea how long I was going to live in the house before we renovated it, so I fumigated, had the water system cleaned (there are both underground and rooftop tanks since the water comes from the city once a week.  Three months of neglect and the rooftop tank was empty and the solar water heater broke!  Anyhow I got things in working order and moved here on the 13th of May.

I bought a fridge and a washing machine (one delivery instead of two).  I brought both cats, Lola and Ixtle. Ixtle was terrorized.   Life was immediately better for me, ice, a stove that could brown meat and a washing machine.

I talked to 2 architects, and they both presented me plans for the remodel.  One’s plans make me cry and the other was exciting.  The exciting one is from a couple, both architects, she does the design and office work and he oversees the construction.  They were wanting to start work on the 20th of May, I had them wait until the 27th.

Exterior design

The plan

We took the 3rd bedroom and combined it with the kitchen and added a new space to make an open concept great room.  In addition there is a large covered terrace and folding doors so that it can all open into one large space.  The style is minimalist, modern and industrial.  No fancy materials, polished concrete floors and the sinks and counters too.  There are skilled artisans here who can do that kind of work.  The  floors have to been torn out to make them all one level, and the architects is taking advantage to put wiring and plumbing in before the floors.

So I am living in the other part of the house  while they work on the master bedroom suite.  They gutted it the first week, everything out of the bath and bedroom including the floors.  Only thing kept were the walls.  But the location and size of the windows and doors is all changed.  So basically my master bedroom space now is a muddy cave. And the backyard is full of construction materials; rubble, sand , gravel, wood,….

Backyard, aka construction materials.

But there is progress everyday, the master bath, has a new door , window, floor.  New electrical and plumbing went in before the floor.  They have poured the counter top, sink, shower wall too.   The shower wall has two niches, one on each side.  They are now starting the finishing layer of cement on the walls.

The sad news is that Ixtle ran away.  Too much with all the construction for him. He seems to be running with a group of cats in the Calera.  I don’t know where he came from and I don’t know where he has gone.  He spent two years with me.

Ixtle

The recent earthquake in February was centered along the northern coast of Oaxaca and Jamiltepec was one of two villages near the epicenter.  We had just bought malacates from one of the two remaining makers there and we asked what we could do to help.  Don Juan has gathered textiles that they make in Jamiltepec and is bring them to Oaxaca next week.  We are organizing a pop-up sale to help them generate funds  to rebuild.

FEBRUARY EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY

for

JAMILTEPEC, OAXACA

POP-UP TEXTILE SALE

Wednesday, 21 March

Crespo 213

4PM

Backstrap Woven

Embroidery

Huipiles

Blouses

Aprons

Skirts

Bags

Table linens

Further information

Karren K. Brito

001 937 767 8961

Here are a few of the casual photos of items they will be bringing.

Huipiles

Aprons and skirts

Blouses

Bags

Table Linens

Come and support these people who lost much in and act of nature and are trying to generate funds for their own recovery.

In response to several request we have organized another  silk tour.  In this tour you get to try your hand at the tasks needed to transform mulberry leaves into silk attire.

Hands-On Tour

Silk in Oaxaca

Karren K. Brito, Pablo González Marsch

Monday, 12 March 2018

9am-6pm

Meet at 9 am at the Oaxaca Lending Library and travel to Teotilan del Valle, a nearby Zapotec village famous for its weavers, to the studio of Arteseda. Rina, Aurora, Miguel and Reynaldo will receive you and show you their studio where they weave and dye silk, cotton and wool and raise their silk worms.

First you climb up to mulberry grove to see how the trees are planted and tended and the leaves collected for the silkworms. Then you will see the space and beds where the silkworms are raised. There are not any silkworms feeding this time of year, there may be some eggs. You will work with the harvested cocoons, both yellow and white. Some cocoons will be perforated because the moths have emerged. Others have been stifled. They need to be sorted, ones for spinning, ones for reeling,and cleaned before degumming by boiling for an hour.

While the cocoons are boiling you will have lunch at a the local traditional restaurant, El Descanso. Pablo will take you to see Santa María, a XVI century baroque style church in the center of Teotilan del Valle. It shelters several altarpieces and some slabs with ancient Zapotec engravings. This catholic church was built atop an ancient platform.

Once the cocoons that have been selected for spinning are boiled, they need to be dried then opened to prepared them for spinning. The prime cocoons are reeled hot and wet once softened by boiling. Once you find the end of the silk thread the larva spun you can simple unravel the cocoon to produce fine silk filament yarn. The dried, degummed cocoons need to be stretched and fluffed before spinning. You will have a chance to try spinning the silk fluff with a supported spindle and/or a spinning wheel.

You will then return to the OLL by 6 pm.

Arteseda does have a shop on the premises en Teotilan del Valle and a booth a the Pochote market on Calle Marcos Perez in Oaxaca de Juarez on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Limit 12 participants

Cost person: MX$900 (includes transportation,materials, lunch and bottled water)

To register contact Pablo González Marsch at marsch@prodigy.net.mx or call

(52 1) 951 134 7391 or WhatsApp.


For tour questions contact Pablo, for technical questions about silk  you can leave a comment here and I will get back to you.

THIS TOUR HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

Backstrap weaving in Mesoamerica has pre-hispanic origins and is the oldest, most common and highly reguarded art.  Zapotec and Maya goddesses weave.  Weaving is considered a way of communicating with the gods.

Yet watching an accomplished backstrap weaver can be as baffling as enlightening.  I have two up-coming events that are designed to enlighten you about backstrap weaving.

Victoria Hernandez, an Amuzgo,weaving brocade on her backstrap loom a San Pablo Cultural Center

1. A lecture/demonstration on Backstrap Weaving by me, Karren K. Brito, on this Friday, January 19, 2018, 5pm at the Oaxacan Lending Library.  This lecture will be in English.

 

Arturo Hernandez of Mitla weaving on a backstrap loom.

2. A one day tour, A TASTE OF WEAVING, on Friday, 2 Feburary 2018.  Tour leaders:Karren K. Brito and Pablo Gonzalez Marsch (both bilingual).

We will go to Bia Begung weaving and dyeing studio in Mitla. Maestro Arturo Hernandez weaves on a back-strap loom, and has many floor looms for production weaving and an efficient natural dye studio which he will shows us.

Each participant will have their own prepared back-strap looms. Karren and Arturo will be helping teach you how the weaving proceeds.  You need to open the sheds in the right sequences and pass the shuttle. 

We will take a break from weaving and Pablo will take you on a tour of the Mitla ruins with their designs inspired by weaving and have lunch at a local restaurant. Then we will return to the weaving studio for more weaving before, returning to Oaxaca.

The limit is 5 people.  The tour costs 1600 Mexican pesos per person and includes:

  • transportation from OLL at 8:30 am and returning to OLL about 6pm, transportation to the ruins and to lunch
  • Bia Begung studio visit
  • Use of the prepared looms and instruction
  • Guided tour of Mitla ruins (pre-hispanic Zapotec)
  • Lunch, with non-alcoholic drinks ( alcoholic drinks cost extra)
  • Bottled water

For further information contact Karren by leaving a comment here.  To sign up contact Pablo at +52 1 (951) 134 7391, by WhatsApp or by calling or an email to marsch@prodigy.net.mx.

Silk lecture and tour

4 December 2017

 

I have worked with silk since 1989 and was thrilled to find a active silk production here in Oaxaca.  If you are curious about silk here in Oaxaca there are two upcoming events that might interest you.

On Friday, 15 December here at the Oaxaca Lending Library I will give a lecture/ demonstration on local silk production and products.  Information and registration here.

The following week Pablo González Marsch and I have organized  a one day tour to a studio that raises silk and transforms it into textiles. You will be doing  the processes involved in transforming cocoons into silk thread.


Hands-On Tour

Silk in Oaxaca

Karren K. Brito, Pablo González Marsch

Monday, 18 December 2017

9am-6pm

Meet at 9 am at the Oaxaca Lending Library and travel to Teotilan del Valle, a nearby Zapotec village famous for its weavers, to the studio of Arteseda. Rina, Aurora, Miguel and Reynaldo will receive you and show you their studio where they weave and dye silk, cotton and wool and raise their silk worms.

First you climb up to mulberry grove to see how the trees are planted and tended and the leaves collected for the silkworms. Then you will see the space and beds where the silkworms are raised. There are not any silkworms feeding this time of year, there may be some eggs. You will work with the harvested cocoons, both yellow and white. Some cocoons will be perforated because the moths have emerged. Others have been stifled. They need to be sorted, ones for spinning, ones for reeling,and cleaned before degumming by boiling for an hour.

While the cocoons are boiling you will have lunch at a the local traditional restaurant, El Descanso. Pablo will take you to see Santa María, a XVI century baroque style church in the center of Teotilan del Valle. It shelters several altarpieces and some slabs with ancient Zapotec engravings. This catholic church was built atop an ancient platform.

Once the cocoons that have been selected for spinning are boiled, they need to be dried then opened to prepared them for spinning. The prime cocoons are reeled hot and wet once softened by boiling. Once you find the end of the silk thread the larva spun you can simple unravel the cocoon to produce fine silk filament yarn. The dried, degummed cocoons need to be stretched and fluffed before spinning. You will have a chance to try spinning the silk fluff with a supported spindle and/or a spinning wheel.

You will then return to the OLL by 6 pm.

Arteseda does have a shop on the premisses en Teotilan del Valle and a booth a the Pochote market on Calle Marcos Perez in Oaxaca de Juarez on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Limit 12 participants

Cost person: MX$900 (includes transportation,materials, lunch and bottled water)

To register contact Pablo González Marsch at marsch@prodigy.net.mx or call

(52 1) 951 134 7391 or WhatsApp.


For tour questions contact Pablo, for technical questions about silk  you can leave a comment here and I will get back to you.

How to grind chocolate

29 October 2017

In Oaxaca chocolate is second only to corn in the traditional cuisine.  A friend told me that the gods gave corn for daily substance and chocolate for fiestas.

Traditionally one can buys cocoa beans in the market and prepares them to your own taste.  (Do you know what cacao beans look like?)  First they are toasted over a wood fire on a round ceramic griddle (comel)  also used to prepare tortillas, the substance of every meal here.


Here, in the center you can see the place to toast beans. The brush like thing, made from local plants, is used to push the beans around on the hot griddle.  How you proceed next depends on what resources you have.

If you are just one woman, you grind your beans on the gridstones, tejates, that you see to the right and left of the griddle in the photo above.  You mix in sugar, cinnamon, almonds according to your recipe and taste.  Different communities add in different things.   The ground chocolate, a moist grainy paste falls into the tray at the bottom.  This paste is then mixed with either hot water or milk  and frothed  to be served as hot chocolate.  Grinding on these stones takes experience and strong arms, it looks simple but requires a technique and experience.

Now if you have a few more resources, like and old bicycle and young men, you can grind your toasted beans like this:

 

Note it takes two young men to do what one housewife can do:

 

If you have even more resources such as four strong men you can then use an electric mill to grind your chocolate.

These mills are common here in the city, in some markets and stores selling chocolate, that is the ground moist paste used for making hot chocolate.  In some markets you can take your own toasted beans and ingredients, and have them grind it for you.

A traditional drink to warm up in chilly moments here in Oaxaca is hot chocolate served with a individual bread, pan y chocolate.  The chocolate is served in a bowl, a generous about, with the very important froth on the top.  The bread is dunked in the hot chocolate.

Wishing you “pan y chocolate” for all your chilly moments!

Many Ways to Weave

27 March 2017

When I have started people weaving on a backstrap looms, I start them with a narrow warp that doesn’t require any sticks. Once they can do plain weave, warp-faced, I show them how to make a pick-up design with  paired floats. Laverne Waddington has a good description of this process on her blog.  Mostly we use our fingers and maybe a popsicle stick to beat the weft in place. There is just a shed loop and heddles and the pick up is done either with fingers or a large needle.   Here  in Oaxaca a large needle is a common tool for pick up.

Here in Oaxaca de Juárez, the capital of Oaxaca state, a group meets weekly to weave.  This year every one has been working on narrow warps and either plain weave or paired float designs.

This technique is used here in Oaxaca by the indigenous people who live on the northern coast of Oaxaca.  Here I have not seen many narrow bands woven in this technique but  wider cloths with multiple design bands are common.

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photo by Karen Elwell. I think these are natural dyes.

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photo by Karen Elwell

We went to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca on Saturday to register for a backstrap weaving brocade class in April given by a woman coming up from Carranza, Chiapas.   Bonfilia Bautista Tapia from Pinotepa de Don Luis, was finishing a workshop on  this paired float technique and she and her students were weaving away.  Here is a picture of her loom:

It is very interesting that she has a second set of heddles and a second shed rod behind the usual ones used to do plain weave. Both of these extra shedding devices deal only with the red warps in the design band; the shed rod has all of the odd numbered pairs over it  and the second set of heddles raises the even numbered pairs. Here is a close up so that you can see the pairs of red warps going over the second shed rod and the sparse green string heddles are around the other pairs of red warps within the design band.  One usually uses a second weaving sword   when using the second set of heddles/rod, but I don’t see one in the photo maybe because she doing plain weave at this moment.

Here on this student loom  you can see the second smaller sword. It is right behind the plain weave string heddles.  It looks like it still has the warp pairs he picked up to make the bar design he just wove.

two sets of heddles/shed rods and two swords are visible here

All of these lovely woven critters are made on 25 pairs.  Here is some more student work with enough detail that you could make the same designs.

And one more photo of a fragment of an interesting critter woven in this technique, the brown is hand spun brown cotton, coyuche,  that has been grown here since pre-hispanic times.

And yes, there are 5 pick floats in the bars between designs.

So there you have another way to weave paired float designs  using pattern heddles and shed rod.  Might be especially useful when doing multiples of the same design.

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Last week was a rough week, I haven’t felt so betrayed since JFK was assassinated.  I may not live long enough to see to have a president of the quality and values of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Having her as president at the end of my life would have been recompense for the long battle our lives, hers and mine, have been,  just to be recognized for the professional contributions we have made to society.

I have been looking forward to participating in a Waje (https://www.facebook.com/waje.com.mx/) event since I learned about them and on Saturday, 12 November I got to spend and evening orchestrated by them.  In anticipation, I thought the experience, on a Saturday evening– the evenings here in Oaxaca are very beautiful, and my favorite– I tried to calm my mind and open it all sensory experiences, new and old. I tried to be in the moment and mindful.

From the time I contacted them, I was treated with dignity and respect.  The invitations had been planned to give a spare contemporary style.  The event was called Cenizas Vivas.  We were transported to an outlying village and into a outdoor space under a huge  flor de cacao, or cacahuaxochitl tree (Quararibea funebris) .  The path to the table was lit with luminarias and the table was elegantly set, under hanging candlelights.

Each course had a story.  Respect for tradition, variation, and innovation was evident. The start was chocolate, mezcal and cream, all very Oaxaqueño.  The next 3 tiny plates were eaten in pre-columbian style, with our fingers. Chia seeds, squash blossoms and huitlacoche all made an appearance.  img_3515The meal continued with interesting ingredients and thoughtful preparation, and impeccable presentation, many edible flowers included. A breathtaking palate cleanser. We had wines or local beers.  Seasonal ingredients.  Ambiance was Day of the Dead with marigolds everywhere.

Each ingredient was sourced from a local grower or producer. We were told the stories of many of the courses. There are people out there who still care about what they are doing and producing, making sure that the spinach leaves  they provide are at the peak of their flavor or providing cilantro with flowers.  These marvelous young men are doing their research into special growers and suppliers, innovating new preparations and combinations. These events support not only the these inspirational endeavors but  a whole chain of growers and suppliers what work with care and heart  to produce the best they know how–not what corporate food companies want– to be uniform, last forever in the stores and make the most profit– taste and nutrition lost.  The pace of the meal was just right, in both amount and timing.

I hear the same themes about the food that I hear about the textiles here:

Tradition

Variation

Innovation

That is how to preserve the cultural heritage that is unique to Oaxaca.

A lovely, magical evening.

 

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I had a very special, quiet, enlightening Day of the Dead here in Oaxaca thanks to the Zapotec weaver, Arturo Hernández, who invited me to San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

The Zapotec peoples are a pre-hispanic group that built Monte Alban that have kept their language and beliefs.  Their idea of death is quiet different from ours; what I understand is that they believe one has two lives and they are not that different.  One has a life here then one dies and has a life on the other side, doing the same kind of things – eating, playing baseball and missing loved ones.  On this one day a year the departed come back to visit, to the joy of those left behind.

We arrived before noon and proceeded to the cemetery that was a hive of activity.  People going in were carrying flowers, huge bundles of marigolds, cockscombs and many other flowers and fruits.

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The flowers are to lead the loved ones back to this world; the follow the scent and the glow of the marigolds.  Once back to the grave site they are treated to their favorite fruits which have been lovingly cut up ready to eat.

 

fullsizeoutput_60bThen the visitors, the dead ones, are lead back to their homes; they follow the incense, copal, or a path of marigold petals.  Most people leaving the cemetery were carrying smoking incense burners, either in their hands or in buckets to protect them.

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The cemetery was a caldron of scents- flowers, fruits, marigold and copal incense.  But as noon approached the cemetery emptied, by noon the departed ones were back in their homes.  Their living loved ones were so happy they set off fireworks.  The empty cemetery was awash in flowers.

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In the homes altars had been constructed for the departed.

We left and returned to Sr. Arturo’s home and were feed festive food; mezcal, beer, turkey in mole and freshly made tortillas.fullsizeoutput_60cSr. Arturo did not have an altar in his home, his mother who died 3 years ago would return to her house where his sister currently lives.  There was an altar in his sister’s home and he would visit it later in the afternoon taking an offering.  Typical offerings are favorite foods of the departed, chocolate.

We set out to see an altar and learn a bit of the oral tradition of the Zapotec culture of Mitla.  We went to the home of a local historian/cultural guardian and were issued into a room with this huge altar that takes up the entire width of the room.

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The garlands are made of a small fresh fruit that is abundant now. There are bananas, apples, oranges and other local fruits and corn stalks in the corners.  Marigolds and a special bread, highly decorated, that they only make in Mitla.  Everything has been selected with care and respect for the local tradition.  On the left is a mat made of palm leaf for the beloved ladies to sit on and a bench on the left for the returning gentlemen, just like the places provided at parties.  The arrangement on the floor has a special spicy scented wild flower, collected from the mountains, called flower of the dead.

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In the middle are some wild orchids also.  The fruits are: jicama, chayote, sugar cane, and a squash.  The large gourd to the right has peanuts that have been toasted with spices.  In front is a traditional incense burner ( you can see very similar ones at the Monte Alban ruins) with copal and a votive candle.  I wonder if the candles came with the catholic church.

We sat quietly , were served mezcal, then beer and pieces of the Bread for the Dead.

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The decoration on the bread is elaborate, made with an icing like substance that is not very sweet.  As we sat around we were told tales from the oral tradition in the local Zapotec culture.

One was a sweet and romantic tale of Manuel and Manuela who had been together all their childhood and adult life.  The one of them passed over into the other realm and left the other behind.  The living one was sad and wanted to be with their beloved.   The happy ending was when the departed returned and they left together for the realm of the dead.

This is the raconteur and guardian of the Mitla Zapotec traditions.

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The following morning the dead ones are offered traveling food, to last then until they return in a year and they all return to the cemetery and their realm by noon the next day.  The village was very quiet while the dead ones were visiting in their homes.

 

These rituals are unique to Mitla, here in the city of Oaxaca the altars were full of papel picado , sugar skulls and catrinas.  The city was in party mode. Halloween has mixed into the festivities.  Here are some altars from the city:

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