Student News

Oaxaca #7: Cultural Immersion

Paulina Baltazar – June 12, 2018

Sim Bethel ’20 shares highlights of the groups visit to Tlacolula Market & Teotitlan Artisans Villages.

The first Sunday of Deerfield’s cultural immersion trip in Oaxaca, Mexico was spent at various artisan pueblos and a huge market. With a day filled with so many amazing attractions, it was difficult to choose only a few highlights. Outside of the City of Oaxaca, we drove to the Tlacolula Market where we visited the church of Santa María de la Asunción Tlacolula and various local vendors of different cuisines and artwork. The aroma from the fresh bread and the carne asada enveloped the entire area. However, for me, the highlight of the day, other than enjoying some freshly prepared carne asada, was our visits to the artisan pueblos.

In Tlapazola at “Mujeres del Barro Rojo”, Macrina, one of the women that are the creators of the beautiful pottery, and Macrina’s aunt, gave us a live demonstration of how the pottery is made and then heated in their homemade kiln. Using red and yellow clay, mixed with water and sand, Macrina’s aunt has been making pottery for almost 45 years. In a matter of minutes, a glob of clay was turned into a smooth, perfect vase – all by hand. Once the handcrafted pottery was ready to be heated, the ladies used their in house kiln of cement slabs and a huge fire to complete the process.

Later that afternoon, we visited Teotitlán, a place that specializes in the art of wool and tapestries. At the “Centro de Arte Textil Zapoteco”, we were showed how each primary color was made and how the mixing of them created different shades to dye the yarn. One of the most interesting origins of the colors was that red came from an insect that is found on the Nopal cactus. Once dried, the cochineal was crushed to create a vivid red dye. When placed in water mixed with dye, the yarn was dyed to perfection, creating perfect hues that would later be used to create intricate tapestries. To be able to see the entire process, from color extraction to final product, was a priceless experience. Seeing how people are able to create things entirely by hand reminds me of the simplicity of life and how different life is in other places around the world.