Following a final pool side coffee in the cool dawn of Oaxaca, we checked out of our hotel and were met by our smiling guide Laura.
Our destination today was the studio of the Mujeres del Barro Rojo – women of the red clay – located in San Marcos, Tlapazola, about an hour west of Oaxaca City. The morning drive was beautiful through the Oaxaca Valley, surrounded by Sandstone Mesas, passing small towns, farms and Mezcal operations. After about 40 minutes we left the highway and headed up into the hills, bumping along dirt roads through smaller towns until we reached San Marcos, Tlapazola, a small town of 3500. The town was an auditory relief after the endless parades, loud speakers and noise of Oaxaca City.
We found the Barro rojo studio and by our incredible good fortune it was the studio featured in the book – Mujeres del Barro Rojo. What an experience our day turned out to be! We were met by Elia one of the potters of the cooperative who welcomed us into the studio (along with a number of family dogs), consisting of a closed court surrounded by dwellings housing 4 families. Piles of firewood used in the firing process were drying on the roof tops along with corn. Our lovely guide Elia took us through the construction process of a pot from gathering the iron oxide rich clay and sand, to throwing the pot, to firing and glazing.
During the process we began to chat through our interpreter Laura about life in the village and how the art of the Barro Rojo is gaining respect and becoming known world wide.
Elia told us about her sister Macarina whose efforts, personal sacrifice and travel have brought world wide attention to the work of the red clay potters. Then something magic happened, as Macarina herself joined us. Our conversation morphed into 5 women discussing the emancipation of women in Mexico, Macarina’s challenging journey to publicize and bring respect to red clay potters, business practices, village life, dreams, goals, gender bias, the challenge of sexual violence in villages and many other topics. 5 women from very different backgrounds sitting in a courtyard woven together in a very timeless way.
Mary, Laura and Macarina
I will let Mary tell it in her own words.
“What a day! Honoured to spend it with my sister and 2 other sisters who are amazing artists. Change agents and wonderful human beings living in San Marcos, Tlapazola in the Oaxaca Valley, Mexico. One of the sisters , Macarina, has been reshaping the way that women’s voices are heard and respected in her community for her entire life as a gifted potter. Her designs have been on display at MoMa in NYC. Her powerful presence will stay with us for a very long while.”
Anne, Elia, Macarina and Mary
A good day
This day will take a long time to digest and we chatted quietly after leaving the studio. Our side trip to the town Cathedral on the way back to the vehicle was well worth the detour. A beautiful 17th century building kept in immaculate shape by the care taker and in use today.
Our trip to the airport for our flight to Mexico City included a stop for an excellent roadside lunch.
After an uneventful flight to Mexico we landed in the rain (our story of challenges with the transport to the hotel will wait for another time) and are now at an airport hotel. We leave for Vancouver tomorrow.
This has been an amazing trip, one that will take a while to completely process. Thank you for following along with us! Until next time – adios por ahora!