SMU in Oaxaca

During winter term 2009-10, seven students will earn Art History/CF credit studying ancient archaeological sites, Colonial art and architecture, folk art and religious fiestas in the Valley of Oaxaca, the Sierra Norte, Sierra Madre del Sur and on the Pacific Coast as part of SMU-in-Oaxaca.

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Testing our talents

An update from Anne, a graduate student in history with a focus on the U.S. Southwest and Mexico who is doing research on Indian history:

We ended our year weaving, so why not begin it by weaving, too?

Having sufficiently recuperated from the previous night’s entertainment, our eager group paid a visit to Santo Tomas Jalietza to work with several women, all family members. Here we sat on our knees and used a backstrap loom to make entirely different kinds of textiles than the previous day. (Photo left, Estel using the backloom.)

The backstrap loom is pre-Hispanic, however, these particular weavers use factory-dyed cotton thread in their weaving in order to move at a faster pace and to keep up with high demand.

Jan1-2.JPG This group of women artisans has received all kinds of awards and accolades for their exquisite work. We all took our chance with the backstrap loom, and it is clear that while some of us have the patience required to create this type of weaving, others of us will have to use our talents elsewhere – perhaps papier-mache. We’ll just have to wait and see. (Photo right, Megan and Rachel learning weaving techniques.)

Once again, we received a nice traditional Zapotec lunch, which helped personalize this workshop even more.

Jan1-3.JPGDuring the evening, we traveled to La Cuevita to take part in the New Year ritual of the Zapotec. For me, this was the most exciting excursion so far on this study abroad trip, and one of the neatest events to witness in my lifetime.

Considering that we were some of very few outsiders at this gathering made it even more special. Though outsiders we might have been, the local attendees took great pains not to make us feel so. I felt that our group blended into the scene quit well.

We set off fireworks, paid our respects to the small cave where the Zapotecs place their hopes for a prosperous year (photo left) and watched traditional dancing. What a night to remember!

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