Friday, March 09, 2007

It´s Friday Night in San Cristobal

... and it is rather interesting!! First, I found another weaving cooperative here in San Cristobal that has garments for about 20% less than what I´ve been spending at the places we´ve been taken to. hmm.

And then, there´s a demonstration in the Cathedral Square! Gotta look up FDLN, maybe it´s Zapatistas. They´re an orderly, if quite loud, bunch. A lot of police presence too... but everyone is in a good mood. From what Chip says, this is standard operating procedure. Everyone knows the dance steps, no one steps on any toes.

(have I mangled enough metaphors yet?)

I did see a bit of a spat, but it seemed to be of the get-in-your-face name calling. And the object of the anger just turned and walked away. Rather fast, but just walked away.

Chip says there are 150,000 people in San Cristobal, and another 150,000 in Chamula. It´s amazing to see this many people living so densely in an agricultural area. Apparently, there is a long history - pre-Conquistador even - of Chiapans being migrant workers. Work a long ways away for months, come back for a season or two. The weaving and other crafts are letting the women be a lot more self-sufficient.

My spanish is picking up quickly, but it´s the tourist spanish. In the food market (which Bjo says is quite the 16th century setup), there was a woman knitting. I complimented her on it - Que Bueno! and showed her my socks. I´m not quite sure what she asked me, but I think she either wanted to buy them, have me teach her how, or something. She was rather shocked that I told her I´d sell them for $15 - 150 pesos.

We also found the LYS (Local Yarn Store, for all you non-knitters). Geesh, talk about acrylic!! It´s not the frou frou eyelash yarn, but it does have the metallic threads added in. Either that, or it´s bright neon colors. yikes...

Turns out, the Chiapan weavers do spin for themselves, and have rather pampered sheep. But most of the tourist weaving is out of either acrylic or cotton threads they order out of Guatemala. They can order any color out of the Pantone catalog. I almost bought one of the big bricks of yarn (pictures will have to wait until I get home, the connection speed just isn´t working for flickr). But, you know, I really don´t need more yarn.

OK, stop laughing.

If I thought I could get away with it, I´d have smuggled a maguey plant, the kind used for fibers, for making baskets and bags. If I could have gotten some seeds, I would have in a heartbeat. I got a lot of good film on Pedro, who makes net bags in a sprang technique. Que chedo! (how cool!)

The maguey that Pedro has is ideal for fiber-- all you have to do is scrape the leaves and you get the fiber. Most varieties are of the soak, rot, and stink for a couple of weeks kind. I talked to Chip about how much I believe in Seed Savers, etc, and I think I got the "yeah, ok, we´ll do that" agreement that never quite happens.

That´s all for tonight... say good night, Gracie.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Oh, well...

It seems as I´ve added insult to injury, because I wasn´t supposed to spill the beans. Mea culpa, mea culpa maxima.

Ok, ok. I´m still pulling for the camera to return, hope yáll are too. hmmm. Mexican keyboard again.

Deep breath. Hope Bjo forgives me sooner than later...

We´ve been taking a dye class each morning, and each afternoon is spent with the weavers. Oh, how cute Lucia is... about = this tall, and such joy in her. I feel like I´ve done this in a previous life, or maybe it´s just having done some Navajo tapestry once or twice. Plus, knowing counted cross stitch is a help, because it´s all very mathematical in its progression. Don´t get me wrong, you don´t need to know math, except that if you do ¨this¨ in one row, you do ¨this¨ in the next row to make the right thing happen. One up, one over type of stuff.

The dye class has been good, and I have lots of video to show. The only dye I´m unfamiliar with is chaouk, a wild tagetes (marigold), which gives the usual yellow. We´re also doing indigo and cochineal. It´s fun to see her setup and the way she´s organized things. It *will* have an impact on the next Dye Retreat.

Ok, and Chip Morris is a real treasure. So many stories, and so interesting. He says he knows where we can get some spindles, and he has some in his basement if they´re not there. I gotta tell you, though, the spindles I´ve seen the modern Mayans use aren´t anything to write home about. They´re pretty rough and primitive, but then, that´s what makes them interesting, isn´t it. I´ll do my best. If the spindles at Chip´s are like the ones in his mobiles, they´re commercial anyway.

The costumes are the most impressive. Each village is about 10 miles away from another, and light years away at the same time. Each one is the center of the world, too, by the way. Chip says that there is about a 6 month turnaround in fashion, meaning that they have to have a new outfit. It goes from blues to greens, to reds, etc. But at the same time, each is still identifiable as being THAT village because the shape and construction are the same.

I get a kick out of the Chamula women - their skirts are dyed black wool (a sour earth recipe - gotta research that more!), then woven, fulled, and combed to look shaggy. Que cheda! (how cool!)

And there´s a distinct similarity in construction with the East Asian sarongs. They´re a sewn tube, which is pleated and held in place by a belt.

Let´s see, what else to write. Hotel Paraiso is very cool, very colorful, very small rooms, and very cold. The restaurant is very good, the best in town.

We had to move out because of a prior booking... argh. The name is something like Hotel Parado, which translates to Hotel Hotel. Or so says Josh, our guide, but then he´s got a sense of humor that almost equals me and Bjo.

I´m running out of things to say, getting hungry for supper. Oh, the chocolativo at the hotel is just plain ... heavenly, if you don´t mind the pun. (Hotel Paraiso, get it?)

OK, now I´m just getting goofy. Chocolativo will cure that, for sure.



Please send all your positive energies to Chiapas, Mexico, San Cristobal to be exact. Bjo has left her camera somewhere, either in a cab or in the cafe, and we can´t find it. Let´s help it find its way back to her...


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

If this is Tuesday....

Well, let´s see... for one thing, when they tell you there are cyber cafes all over, they´re right. They don´t tell you that the keyboards are for spanish, and that there are strange keys in places you´re not used to. And that the connecting times are rather slow. And that you better be aware of what those error messages are in English, because the spatial similarity is the only thing that´s going to help you get what you did wrong.

Oh, and the connecting speed is going to go waaayyy down after everyone gets home from school, at 2 or three.

So, I´m trying again to upload some pictures. Flickr is telling me the one I tried to upload yesterday is 0k, but I can see it there, dammit.

Am I tired and cranky? a bit. I´m doing this before lunch, and we´ve been very busy. And it was cold last night, and we didn´t fire up the little portable heater in the room. Tonight, you bet we will!

This morning, it was back to Maddalena´s house for more dyeing, and this afternoon we go back to Chip Morris´ house to do some more backstrap weaving. Those poor ladies, coping with la gringas locas!

Well, I need to go eat, and flickr isn´t liking this arrangement, so I´m signing off for now. This is a great trip ... don´t mind my crankiness!! If I could post pictures, you´d see much clowning around with Bjo... be sure to look for Ruth and her machete going after Bjo after a smart aleck comment.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bjo and Ruth do San Cristobal

We started out Friday... going through LAX was great. The trip was great. The Mexico City Airport was not. It took us 2 hours to get through Migracion and so we missed our connection to Tuxtla Gutierrez. ooof.

We´re too old to do the damsels in distress, so we did two bitchy (and hysterical and very tired and cranky) old broads. Aviacsa airline finally waived the extra fee for the rebooking, and a very nice manager lady who was on very friendly terms with the Holiday Inn shuttle manager (kiss kiss) got us a ride and discounted room. Nice room, and it turns out that the mattresses were better than El Paraiso anyway.

We finally caught the connection to Tuxtla Guttierez (sp) and then took a taxi up to San Cristobal. It was an interesting ride. The driver´s name was David, but he didn´t speak English. He had a great time with us, though, giving the gringas a fun drive. Let´s just say they don´t drive that way in LA.

San Cristobal is awesome, but don´t believe it when the guidebooks tell you that you´ll always find someone who speaks English. But Josh (our last minute guide replacement) is good, and he takes good care of us.

Saturday afternoon we walked around and discovered a marvelous artisan´s market. Pictures are slowly uploading to Flickr... I may not get them all in tonight.

We met Chip Morris last night at dinner, which was at the hotel and very good, by the way. Chip looks like an old hippy, but is really an old, opinionated academic, with a passion for textiles. He also speaks several of the Mayan dialects, which helps a lot.

Today we toured a couple of Mayan towns, Chamula and Zinacantan, and the weather was drizzly. I bought a nice warm jacket at the women´s collective in Chamula, and it would even be nice to wear in the Library.

When we went to Zinacantan, at a place that translates to "Work of the Women in the Center," we were treated to homemade tortillas, and the fillings, cheese, salsa, and ground up toasted squash seeds. They also gave us some poshe, fermented sugar cane -- supposedly to get us drunk so we would buy lots of stuff. I almost bought a skirt... but somehow she didn´t come down from 500 pesos to the 50 I had in my pocket.

Bjo say hi, and she´s gonna do her own bjotting at