Sunday, January 6, 2013

Oaxaca Dia de Los Muertos Dia Siete

Today is Wednesday, October 31, and it is the American day of Halloween.  Halloween appears at times in Oaxaca but it is not the big deal that it is back home.  Why would it have to be when they have Dia de Los Muertos?

I am moving a bit slow this morning as I only make it done to breakfast by 8:30.  The reason is that we have another day of excursions planned and today has been a day I have had circled on the calendar since I signed up:  papermaking factory.

Standing outside the hotel waiting for our rides, I finally captured the parking side for the lot across the street that I have been shooting over and over.  And, the ubiquitous VW Beetle also made an appearance and let me take its photo.

Then Juan and the vans show up and we are on our way.  Time for more Fuzzy Out the Window shots:

We start the day with a visit to Santa Maria Atzompa and the studio of world famous ceramicist Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz.  As with many of our stops on this trip, the exterior of the buildings are nothing to impress and sometimes the interiors are not all the special either. 

This is true today:  an unassuming exterior on a small street leads to a space that does not appear to be even adequate for what happens here.  The art is just the opposite:  it is fabuloso. We are in the studio of ceramicist Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz and her family.

And then we are off again by van and you know the drill:  Fuzzy Out the Window Photos:

And once again, it is time for a little action--this time by what looks like the local police force.  Still, big automatic weapons. With fewer officers of the law around and no one actually pointing a weapon at us, I decided to snap away. 

We have arrived in San Agustin, Etla, and I am so excited because this is the home of the papermaking studio that for me has been the most anticipated highlight of the trip.  Our first stop on our walking tour is the San Agustin Etla Church.

Just past the church is the Centre for the Arts of San Agustin (CASA), the creation of Mexican graphic artist Francisco Toledo.  He was so successful and loved his home town so much that he has gifted back wonderful opportunities to display and experience various forms of art.  This facility rocks with many airy spaces that make it hard to remember at times if you are inside or outside.

As we left the Centre for the Arts of San Agustin, we headed down the hill towards the papermaking center. 

El Taller Arte Papel Oaxaca is a former hydroelectric power plant which was converted by Maestro Toledo into a paper making facility by adapting old water pipes and a power plant. At this facility, the employees make paper from tree bark, plant fibers, and cotton.  Everything is locally grown and our first orientation was from Juan and a young papermaker who did an excellent job of talking to adult foreigners through our excellent interpreter and guide. 

Do not expect a spectacular studio here:  instead, there is a rustic functionality in an almost outdoor setting.  For those not interested in papermaking, please move on--otherwise this is pretty much how paper is made all over the world by all papermakers.

After the paper is made out in the workshop, dried and pressed, it travels to another building where some of it is transformed into journals, kites and other types of creations for public consumption. 

So when a bunch of artists descend on a place like this, we got consumption.

I bought some paper for book making but not enough, as it turned out.  At this point in the trip I was unsure how anything was going to get home but I knew that shipping was tricky because of the timing of my departure so I probably did not buy enough paper from this place.  Also, I did not get a journal but would make up for that later by buying one in town. 

Next it was off to the buffet lunch at Hacienda Sta. Martha de Barcena Restaurante which has one of the largest buffets I have ever eaten at.  All great Mexican dishes, all in abundance, and all in volume.  While the food was good, this place also called to me as a photographer and luckily we did not appear to be in a hurry to get anywhere so I had time to roam the grounds.  Check out all the cool stuff they have at this place:

Then it was time for all of us to get back in the van for the ride to the hotel and that means its time for another round of Fuzzy Out the Window Shots: 

And on occasion, looking out the window, you see something that is utterly amazing like a little boy in his Halloween/Dia de Los Muertos costume

get a puppy.  Yup, he got a puppy.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

When we got back to the hotel, KD told me about some shops she had been to earlier that had cool art so we went for a walked armed with our cameras.

We found an artist's studio and gallery where he was preparing a sand sculpture for Dia de Los Muertos.

KD was intent on shopping for art at the two studios located across the street from each other.  On the walls of both the studio and gallery spaces was a lot of this wall art.  Pretty amazing and inspirational stuff. 

I was very impressed with the work of the screenprinting artists on sale at the workshop.  Today I bought three prints in one shop and one in another.  All three of these prints are by the same artist:  Beta.  Here are what the prints look like once I got them home:

This last print, which is the largest of them all, is framed in an old frame that I had in my stash.  I painted it and then framed the print with the old wire from the frame on the front of the glass that protects the print, adding to the sense of a barrier that the barbed wire makes in the print.  This image hangs above my computer workstation and I look at it each day.  So sad. 

It is Halloween back in the U. S. A. so the group decides tonight is going to be our night to indulge in face painting.  Our face painting artists were tattoo artist Jessie McNally (seen in the background) working on Solange Belleforte and Andrea Matus de Meng who is giving me a black eye.

My camera; photographer unknown

My camera; photographer unknown

My camera; photographer unknown

Here we are:  David Donley, Michael de Meng and me. 

Photographer unknown

Photographer unknown

KD (Kristy Duncan) getting worked over by Jessie

Marci Donley, Katherine Engen, Lois Inman Engle and Marilyn Weiss


It is the night before Dia de Los Muertos in Oaxaca and we are in full makeup.  Once again the cry goes up:  "To the zocalo!"

One of the most famous symbols of Dia de Los Muertos is La Catrina, a female skeleton with a big hat that started in art and has morphed into a costume for the event.  Tonight we are fortunate enough to join La Catrina comparsa as it works its way to the zocalo.

Deb, Marci, KD, Marilyn and Vicki

Then we ate at La Cafeteria del Jardin, our personal landing zone on the zocalo.

Michael de Meng 

Andrea Matus de Meng

Katherine Engen

I am paraphrasing myself but when this little tyke came around and was paid real Mexican pesos to do this I believe I said something like, "Why didn't I think paint my face, grope women and get paid for it when I was ten?"  Thus began the legendary career of the boy-man known as


On the other hand, this may be a classic case of the old pot calling the new kettle black (photo by KD)

Photo by KD with a little help from Photoshop Elements

You can see the full set of photos from this trip at