Wednesday, May 16 – San Cristóbal
We headed straight for Guadalupe Hermosillo’s beautiful studio and showroom to pick up the iron crosses Mayer had selected when were here before the trip to Guatemala. They were all packed up and ready to load. Mayer had heard that there were antique stores “behind the cemetery.” It was close, so we drove there to look but found nothing.
Back in San Cris, Mayer again found the perfect parking spot, and we walked to Casa del Pan for a delicious breakfast of chilaquiles and eggs and superb brown bread. We stopped in every designer clothing store on the Andador, and Erica kept finding items that were “perfect for you!” so we both bought a couple more textiles.
In one small store we found a variety of folk art from all over. I spied an armadillo puzzle box, clearly from the artist we met in Santiago Atitlan. I asked the woman where these boxes were made and she replied, “Here in San Cristóbal.” When I decided to buy the armadillo a few minutes later, I said to her, “These are made in Santiago Atitlan, right?” and the woman said, “Yes,” appearing to be unaware that she had just lied to me moments before. It reminded me of what Clint told us: “Oh if they move their lips they will be lying to you about the origin of an item.” It’s not always true, but we definitely do see a lot of that in the markets. Apparently they think we will want everything to be made locally. (Buy why do that when you have a store that clearly has items from many different areas?)
Then on to the Santo Domingo market again where Erica had several more desires to fulfill. This time the SNA JOBIL store was open so we could see the finest quality weaving and the Textile Museum was open. The textiles there are so beautifully displayed in drawers that light up only when you open them.
We received a call from our beloved Marta Turok and had a great chat. Her chemo treatments were not too awful and she is now finished with them and feeling great. Her new cat scan will be in a few weeks.
Dinner was at BELIL with their folk art and delicious bread soup.
Thursday, May 17 – Drive to Tehuantepec
We were up early for many hugs and kisses with Erica before she climbed onto her shuttle to the airport for her trip back to Brussels. We had one more breakfast of huevos motuleños before we too packed up and started our two-day drive to Oaxaca. Our books on tape make the hours fly by. We found a hotel in Tehuantepec, called HOTEL CALLI, with a pool and beautiful grounds. Now the weather is hot, way up in the 90s, so the swim in the pool was super refreshing and fun!
Friday, May 18 – Arrival in Oaxaca
Up early for the “included” breakfast at the hotel and we are back on the road. This drive up and over the mountains to Oaxaca is spectacular scenery and beautiful little villages. We love seeing how clean the highway is, mercifully free of trash, and this highway has no wires! It’s gorgeous.
We arrived at our new hotel (we switched this year to one that has a pool and every room is a suite): POSADA SANTO DOMINGO DE GUZMAN.
We had pre-arranged to meet our friends Paul and Sandra here, to accompany us on all our adventures. Paul is my former husband from decades ago, and they are now very good friends who have visited us often in San Miguel. Sandra loves and collects Mexican folk art. They are both lawyers for the Federal government, he for the EEOC where he defends people who were wrongfully fired and takes on cases of age, race, and sex discrimination, and she, for Health and Human Services, where she investigates fraud! Both do good work, and conversations with them about life in this era in DC are fascinating and hair-raising. They say it’s basically even worse than we can see on the surface. So far, Trump has not been able to affect the work they do very much, but in time, Trump’s cruelty will affect their departments, and they may have to retire!
We walked to VISNAGA for dinner, always good, then strolled the Andador, the wide pedestrian boulevard lined with grand colonial buildings, gorgeously lighted at night. We went into the Museum of Contemporary art that was holding an opening that night. The whole walk was a lively Saturday night scene.
Back in the living room of our suite, we made plans for the week.
Saturday, May 19 – Ocotlán
Paul and Sandy were up early to walk down a few blocks to rent a car. It’s sad that our big van will seat only three, but it’s turning out fine. Only the drives keep us separate, and most of the time we spend together on our adventures. They met us at MARCO POLO for breakfast in the jungle setting with great food.
We drove in our separate vehicles to OCOTLÁN. Our beloved artist there is José Juan Aguilar, son of one of the famous Aguilar sisters and the finest artist in the family. He has moved out of the family compound where we have always met him, so met us at the Pemex to guide us to his new home. It is spacious and tidy (as opposed to the family compound which always kind of appalled us with its crowded, messy, and even filthy appearance). We were warmly greeted by his wife and three daughters, now 20, 18, and 15. But we got a big surprise: his wife just had a fourth daughter, a two-month old sweetheart called “Milagro,” (miracle!) It seems this baby was a pretty big surprise for them also!
Mayer and I had a good time selecting pieces. His arrangement with Paul and Sandy is that he gets to select everything he wants first, and then they are welcome to shop. They are very understanding and respectful, and very eager to shop. They are loving seeing Mayer at work, and being in this wonderful workshop and meeting the artist. The pieces that they most wanted were ones that Mayer had not selected, so they were very happy!
After smiling good-byes, the knife artist was just across town. Mayer had let him know, and he had Mayer’s order all ready.
Then we wanted to try to find an artist we had met at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market, and whose work we know. The artist is blind. First the GPS took us way out in the country, a beautiful drive, but turned out to be the wrong town. But we did find them and what a treasure. We opened the door on the street to a large, country compound with several buildings, a big, mostly dirt yard, big pretty trees, and a huge abundance of art work all over crowded onto shelves and the floor. The artist was there working, and he is indeed blind. He was building a planter with a decorative braid, all by feel, and sculpting small parts to add to it. His wife and others in the family were happy to show us around. They also work in clay. We had a good time selecting pieces out of the many options and love what we selected. When we finished, Paul and Sandy triumphantly presented pieces they had been eyeing and hoped we did not select. It’s all working out beautifully!
They agreed to pack the pieces and deliver them to our hotel.
We were all hungry. The drive back to the city was easy and pretty, except for all the topes, but back in town, we got into a traffic jam. I was riding in the car with Paul this time, and we lost Mayer, whom we had been following and were left to our own Google maps to get us home. We did arrive within a few minutes of each other and all agreed to find the closest restaurant possible. It was 8 PM by now. It turned out to be two doors down from the hotel, Italian and quite satisfactory except for the super loud fans that actually did little to mitigate the heat.
Back at the hotel, we found the complete royal wedding on You Tube, and watched it on my computer. We found it pretty darn boring and kept fast forwarding, but all of us but Paul endured to the end. I love Harry and Meghan, but the service was pretty awful. They should have let me conduct it.
Sunday, May 20 — Arrozolo
We walked to PAN AM for breakfast for great food, then drove to ARROZOLO. The road entering town was in super bad repair. We don’t remember this from last year. But the town is so clean and attractive! We drover directly to the studio of FRANCO RAMÍREZ and his wife, Nelly. She was pregnant last year, and we loved greeting the new baby. We browsed and selected pieces and feel very excited with our selections. Sandy kept saying, “That is a fantastic piece. That is gorgeous.” Again, they were able to select pieces we had not chosen and everyone was super happy. While we were figuring out our final selections with prices, Nelly appeared with big slices of watermelon for us. Oh, was it refreshing. In a miracle development, Franco is driving to Mexico City and Querétaro tomorrow and agreed to deliver the piece directly to our gallery! Totally amazing. We told Sandra and Edu, and he will spend the night in one of our guest rooms!
We wandered into and out of about eight or then other shops in the town, including the workshop of Claudio and Teresa Ojeda, with whom we have done a lot of business for a number of years, but not recently because their work became too expensive. Teresa right away said, “Hi Mayer!” and it was a fun and friendly reunion, even though we did not buy anything.
What impresses me is this: Even though various artists used to have distinctive styles, the work in every shop now looks a lot the same. Everyone is now trying to emulate María and Jocobo Ángeles, who pioneered extremely fine geometric designs painted on the wood. Each shop used to have distinctive styles, but they all seem to be doing the “gecko” designs with widely varying quality. The Ojedas have still kept their distinctive raised dot designs.
We drove back to the hotel where Mayer and I greatly enjoyed a swim in the hotel pool, even though afternoon rains had cooled the air and it was not beastly hot.
We walked all the way to the zocolo but Mayer’s choice for a restaurant turned out to be closed or not where it said it was going to be, so we walked back up to the CATHEDRAL Restaurant and enjoyed wonderful service and delicious food.
Monday, May 21 – Oaxaca – Tribos Mixe
Breakfast was at the Olla restaurant, upstairs. Then we found a copy shop and walked not too far to a DHL office where I was able to send four signed copies of a contract for e-rights for China back to the Dijkstra agency.
We were able to drive in Paul and Sandy’s rental car, together, because we knew that the wood carvers we were going to visit would bring our purchases back to the hotel; we did not need the van. Paul used to drive a taxi in New York during grad school, so he’s a skilled driver, topes and all. Our destination was TRIBOS MIXE, the other wood carvers we represent. They are right on the edge of Oaxaca City. Their spread is super clean and well organized, with lovely small gardens here and there and stone paths and walls. We all helped select animals with Mayer the final arbiter. It takes a long time so both Paul and I had a little time to read also.
We were near an antique dealer with whom Mayer had been corresponding (ALFREDO, so we found him and Mayer found some wonderful old mezcal jars. Then back home, and dinner at ZANDUNGA, a short walk from the hotel.
Tuesday May 22 – San Bartolo Coyotepec
This was a day of serendipity and good luck. Breakfast at PAN AM again, and the antique store next door was open. Sandra found a spectacular vintage Taxco necklace and worked out a good price and bought it. It was a gorgeous piece, and a rare find! She’s thrilled. Mayer loved a painting he saw, looked up the artist who turned out to be well-known, got excited, and then investigated closely and discovered it was a print that someone had painted over in some places to add texture. “Too good to be true at that price,” he said.
It was back to the hotel where José Garcia Antonio’s son delivered all the clay work we had selected. The van is getting so full already that Mayer is a bit worried. We may have to miss some of the villages we had planned.
Now we set out in the van and car for the black pottery town, San Bartolo Coyotepec. We are impressed with how very clean and tidy this town is. The park is gorgeous with huge trees, and there is no trash around! Mayer had pre-ordered pieces from one dealer at the market (CAMARINO LÓPEZ AND CARMEN FAVIAN) with about twenty stalls. While those pieces were being packed up, we all shopped at the other booths and bought a few items. I found some armadillos and got to talking to the seller who said she had many more at her home, and that we should walk with her to her home. We decided to do that and are so happy we did. A ten-minute walk took us to a big clean welcoming home with a big show room, the home of her sister-in-law, ADELINA PEDRO MARTÍNEZ and her brother ANTONIO. The work was excellent quality, and Adelina and Pedro were super friendly. We discovered she is the sister of the most highly respected artist in town, Magdalena, whom we know from the Santa Fe Folk Art Market and the Chapala Fair. We had a long, lively conversation with Adelina, and here’s what we learned.
- Most Coyotepec clay used to be fired hotter so that it was more vitreous and therefore more useful for holding water, etc. The more vitreous clay is called PLATEADO. When some clay was under fired, they discovered it was blacker and prettier, so more people started firing at lower temperatures for the famous black pottery. This was in the 40s or 50s.
- Pottery has been made in Coyotepec for 2,500 years. They have found pottery in tombs and have dated the pottery. Doña Rosa became famous for “founding” or “inventing” the black pottery, but this is a myth. Here is the reason she became famous: Trains used to come through this town on the way to Ocotolán. When they stopped here, people were lined up with their black pottery to sell. However, they allowed no photos and covered their faces because they believed photos would rob their spirit, and they spoke no Spanish, only Zapotec. Doña Rosa allowed her photo to be taken, and she spoke Spanish, so she became famous.
- Adelaina’s grandfather was good friends with Doña Rosa and used to sell with her when the trains came through.
Pedro agreed to take us to the studio of Magdalena, who welcomed us warmly, along with her husband Raul and her 13-year-old daughter, Naomi. Again, the grounds were green and pretty and manicured. Magdalena’s studio was small with barely enough room for all of us. She was seated at her work table and continued to work with clay the entire time we talked. It was a lively and fun conversation. Her work is by far the most refined of any Coyotepec artist, and is priced accordingly, very expensive. Typically, she brings about ten pieces to the Santa Fe fair, and sells out the first day. She told us she has a list of orders that is a year long. We decided to get on the list and ordered five pieces plus a tree of life, which we will pick up next May! Paul and Sandy also ordered a tree of life.
We had to get back to the hotel in time to meet ALFREDO, who was delivering the antiques Mayer bought yesterday.