Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saturday Afternoon in Oaxaca

After a short siesta (construction still going on at the hotel) we went to find the new Museo Textil (Textile Museum).  What a beautiful find!  Again--the best of old and new.  Old colonial building, but with modern displays (acrylic bars and monofilament so that many of the articles floated in the air).  High arched ceilings.  Some of the pieces were backlit to show off the elaborate weave structures.  Sadly, one of the points of the displays was to show how the textile arts in the Oaxaca area have degenerated over the last couple of hundred years.  People are just busier, and these things take time.  This was carried to the sad extreme that I later saw in some of the vendor's booths at the zocolo (city square):  Native women with plastic knitting frames, turning out acrylic scarves for the tourists.  Heartbreaking for a textilian like myself--but these women have to make a living, and the average tourist will be happy with something made by a "real live native" without caring that it has nothing to do with generations of tradition.  Sigh.

No photography was allowed at the museum, but they do have a web page:  http://www.museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx/

And, of course, during our walk, we admired the architecture:

And we spend some time spotting two cultural icons:  Donaji and Catrina.

Donaji.  There are several variations on the story of Donaji--it dates back to the pre-conquest times and is sort of a Romeo and Juliet theme.  The Zapotecs and Mixtecs were at war with each other; a Zapotec princess (Donaji) and a Mixtec prince were in love with each other.  At one point, Donaji had to betray her Mixtec love in order to save her people, and was killed and decapitated.  Her body was found, but not her head.  Time passed.  A young shepherd saw a lovely lily growing in a field--he went to dig it up, and found the still-beautiful head of the princess Donaji, with the lily growing out of her ear.

Donaji is now on the coat of arms for the city of Oaxaca, and her image ( a tilted head with a lily growing out of her ear) may be found on many government buildings (and on the hoods of the garbage trucks).  She is a sign of Zapotec pride.  Some things just get a little lost in the cultural translation--a decaptiated head with a flower in her ear?

Catrina:  Many of the Day of the Dead figures show various skeletons doing everyday tasks, or in everyday poses.  The most famous of these is Catrina, an upper class lady with a fancy hat.  Depictions of her are everywhere, and she was a popular costume of girls going to school dressed up on Halloween morning.  It's really quite amusing to see these lovely, well dressed skeletons.   While we didn't get to go see the show, the "drag queen Catrina" poster looked like it would be interesting.

And a few more skeletons, just for fun (I ain't never seen a skeleton with bosoms before)

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