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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Working in rhythm

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:

Tlapazola_firing_pots.jpg Although I have enjoyed every day of the program so far, today might just have been my favorite. Because of my academic and personal interest in Native crafts and continuation of tradition, the red clay workshop at Tlapazola was right up my alley.

Here we interacted with three generations of women potters. They work quickly and with great love. They used cornhusks to work the clay and to bring the piece to a desired height and thickness. They do all of this without a potter’s wheel, using the same techniques as in pre-Hispanic times.

Tlapazola_potters.jpg What I found most remarkable about this workshop was the interaction between the women as well as our group of onlookers. They finish each other’s sentences without hesitation and act as a unit, while still maintaining very individualized personalities. We not only watched them at work, but we engaged in memorable conversations about their lives and their histories, making this day very personable and touching.

I could not wait to purchase some pieces, as a way to both bring the makers into my home and to maintain a relationship, however distant, with the potters.

It is here that we also witnessed the impact that family members working in the United States have on the lives of those remaining in the community. While it might not be much money for some of us, the smallest amount makes a monumental difference for those here. Understanding the ramifications of this perhaps makes some of us more sensitive to an array of immigrant issues, but I only really speak for myself.

We were lucky, too, because they also fed us a yellow-based mole with chickens that came from their home, making this a well-rounded and deeply satisfying experience.

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