simple. rambling. disordered. wild. my favorite kind.
as my time here draws to a close I'm moving slower and slower. sinking into the royal city of san cristobal de las casas more deeply. reading on the rooftop azotea while flotillas of clouds pass overhead.
every night I go out in the back patio and stare up at the sky. starshine at night. I like to see what orion is up to down here in chiapas.
I found this poem in a book La Duena let me borrow from her enormous collection. THE NEW WEEKEND BOOK. books written in the 20's intended to be the only book you'd need for a long weekend out of the city or a sea voyage. collections of poems, astronomy, games, music, first aid, and so much more. sort of like an iPad with the flipboard app installed. for the pre-digital world.
I stood and stared, the sky was lit,
The sky was stars all over it,
I stood, I knew not why,
Without a wish, without a will,
I stood upon that silent hill
And stared into the sky until
My eyes were blind with stars and still
I stared into the sky.
hmmmmm. I think flipboard needs a poetry section. maybe swap out the oprah section.
just a thought.
well anyway I'll just be here on the roof. reading, staring, thinking about starshine.
blissed out on uncluttered, simple, composition and blocks of color. it's where my camera eye travels to again and again.
after my morning outings i come home and do what i do best. laze about. being in this casita that smells of wood and roasting coffee beans is like living inside a storybook. my wing of the hacienda.
i've been reading the travel journal written by La Duena's great great grandmother, martha. Of a trip she took to spain with her 21 year old granddaughter on the cusp of WW1. it is beautifully written. reflections on the passage of time, continuity, aging, Spanish painters, the perils of train travel. simply fantastic!
sadly, i finished last night. sitting here in a big enveloping chair, my wool shawl over my lap, reading parts out loud.
we have been eating our breakfast inside the last few mornings because it has been cool. the dining room is all massive wood furniture, giant mantle draped with pine boughs, lit with hanging clay pots that have tiny cut-outs so the light fans out like stars on the ceiling, rich carpets over the stone floor, lovely embroidered and woven tablecloths and napkins. has a very spanish colonial hacienda feel to it. just la duena and i at the long wooden table. eating and chatting.
naturally, my imagination is powerless to resist the urge to run away with itself on such a dramatic stage.
found A SPANISH LOVER on a well-stocked bookcase in the casita this morning and started reading.
oh the luxury of putting down one story and walking into another!
it is nearly dusk and i'm setting off on another stroll.
but of course i'll have more to share later! i love your comments. thanks for each and every one. okay...girl reporter off on assignment. talk amongst yourselves.
Taller Leñateros was mentioned to me by several of you! Which is why I was really happy when I found it purely by accident during one of my wandering sessions this morning. It is literally around the corner from my casita. Where it lay hidden until today...just waiting for me to take that detour.
Not only was I given permission to photograph whatever I wanted, a soft-spoken young man took it upon himself to lead me around and give me a top to bottom tour. You can go on the tour too if you want in the photographs coming up next!
Again, because I can't make links when blogging on the iPad, I'm going to quote directly from their website. I will provide the link when I return to Moss Cottage next week.
In the highlands of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas lies the beautiful colonial city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. In the heart of San Cristóbal is a cooperative artist workshop for making handmade paper and innovative books. Founded in 1975 by Mexican poet Ambar Past, the cooperative seeks to preserve, support and promote Mayan and related culture, mostly in the form of paper, prints and artist books. Over the past 25 years it has produced several landmark books. In many cases the best stories are not only the ones found between the covers but the tales that record how the book came to be important in the first place.
We are the woodlanders who walk in the hills gathering dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees, collecting firewood without chopping down the forest. We come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of wood, of pitchpine and split encino for the hearths of the Royal City of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. We walk through the mist, leading our burros, selling firewood from house to house. We knock on people's doors, offering pine needles to spread on the floor, moss, flowers of bromeliads and orchids for manger scenes.
Ideas and images come to us in dreams. That is how it is with the Woodlanders: the Moon and the daughters of the Lightning give us dreams to light our way. We recycle our visions to turn them into art; we also reproduce the dreams of others: images from the ancient codices, from pre-Hispanic clay seals, motifs from Mayan embroidery and ceramics. The Earth also inspires us: we photocopy the fossil of the tropical leaf, the texture of a seashell. We relearn hand-printing techniques: xylography, basketography, petalography. We reinvent the unicorn so that its horn will perforate a cardboard pinhole camera, as found in 12th-century Arab documents discovered by the Chiapas alchemist Carlos Jurado, ritual master-counselor of the Woodlanders.
Taller Leñateros has created a multi-ethnic space for artists and becoming-artists. We foment artistic creation among the most marginalized communities. The Woodlanders invent, teach and exercise the art of handmade paper, bookbinding, solar silkscreen, woodcuts and natural dyes. We benefit the ecosystem by recycling agricultural and industrial wastes to create crafts and objects of art and rely on the sale of artist books, postcards, posters and printed shirts for our continuing success. We were once servants, washer women, wandering vendors and unemployed. Now we own our own business.Little by little, without subsidies or capitalist partners, pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, we have been able to buy and constuct the minimal equipment with which we work. We have managed to construct our Workshop with our own hands. The only resource we have had, and the most valuable, has been ourselves and the ideas of the collective, our rural- indigenous folk wisdom.There are places in the highlands where every passerby adds one stone to the cairn, a testimony to her or his presence and journey. The Woodlanders say this how the mountains grow through time. Our work is our stone for the pile, our scale to weigh the years, an offering for the new millenium.~Sent from my iPad
Taller Leñateros is rustic and filled with paper treasures. They do so much here and so much of it with recyled materials.
Everything has a purpose.
A series of prints fresh off the presses!
My young guide hopped on the bike and pedaled to show me how this contraption mixes the flowers with the pulp. Ingenious! This is what, for me, is at the heart of true creativity - problem solving. Figuring things out. Making something from nothing.
A book cover lying in wait.
I bought a few things I'll show you later. Materials I will recycle again for another book.
People are hard at work here contributing to the entire process in important ways.
A mountain of newly made paper ready for printing or bookmaking.
This is their 100 year old press from OHIO!
When you come to San Cristobal de Las Casas put this on your list of places to see!
p.s. I've figured out how to put more than 5 pics in a post. If you want or need to do the same get Video Email App for iPad. It is fantastic!
Christmas in San Cristobal de Las Casas seems more focused on the birth of Jesus than on consumer consumption. There are very few American tourists this time of year, but there are a lot of Mexican families from other cities and states. I love sitting in el parque (zocalo) on a bench and watching everyone coming and going.
I had a lovely time today when I took a wrong turn looking for some Argentine empanadas and wandered into the middle of an exhibit of nacimientos de navidad. Nativity dioramas! Lots of them.
And lots of families visiting them, laughing, pointing to this and that. The children and parents in a state of pure delight. I stood behind them silently taking in their joy.
One diorama was easily 200 sq. feet large! Set behind glass it was nearly all of the village of Bethlehem. Complete with rabbits, turtles, ducks, camels, sheep. Tiny houses with kitchens, stoves, elaborately constructed miniature furniture...EVERYTHING! And...a starry sky that turned from night to dawn to dusk! Magical & enchanting.
Shelley Noble I thought of you. You would have loved it!
I can't create links when blogging from my iPad, but go to Notes From Halfland in my sidebar to see the small worlds Shelley builds.
Earlier in the day I found myself in a church and before I knew it the church had filled and a wedding had begun. I was kind of stuck. Like when you accidently wind up in a funeral procession of cars. Like that. Then a fine band of mariachis started playing, the bride & groom walked down the aisle. I stood I sat I stood I sat with the rest of the congregation in their finest evening slash wedding wear. I crept out of my pew past 2 young ladies wearing dangerously high heels and made it to safety. Whew. All the way to the back of the church where 3 Mayan women stood taking a picture with a pink cell phone. What the hell, I thought, and took my camera out and snapped a picture too.
Then I went to the Amber Museum next door.
Headed to the bathroom.
Took one look in the mirror and let out a squeal.
My long sleeve button down shirt was inside out, the big washing instruction tag sticking out near my hip.
An hour later I was headed for home. My shirt right-side out. A bag of hot Argentine empandas swinging from my hand.
It's a good life, this one. I'm glad you're along for the ride.
I went to a museum today. When I got home I uploaded pics and noticed that Franz Blom's member card was renewed the year I was born. This was Thing 1 that excited me.
Thing 2 was sinking into LIVING MAYA during my mid-day siesta and becoming so engrossed, so deeply riveted by all I was reading. So much so that I didn't even notice that just outside on my terrace a thick carpet of pine needles were being carefully spread over every square inch of floor. When i came-to and stepped outside I felt like a kid who sees snow for the first time. I walked over the pine needles in a trance. And that was Thing 3.
But back to Thing 2: Here is what I read...a bit of history quoted liberally (nearly entirely) from LIVING MAYA by Walter F. Morris, Jr.
The Highlands of Chiapas rise sharp and isolate above the tropics. At night the stars shine close and cold, and at dawn fog surrounds the sacred mountains and steep cornfields. As the sun rises, the volcanic peaks loom above the clouds like islands dreaming of the sea.
Within each mountain dwells an earthlord, the mythical being who directs the clouds, the rain, and the riches of the earth.
Just below the summit of MOSS mountain, the most sacred mountain of the Highlands, three cross shrines mark the entrance to three small caves. Crosses are gateways to the earthlord's underworld domain. The shrines are to the Holy Ancestors who are the supernatural elders of each community. They watch over their people, punishing those who deviate from tradition, and teach shamans how to restore the well-being of lost souls.
When the Spanish entered the scene in the 16th century the Maya in this region were at war with the Chipanec. The Maya joined the Spaniards to defeat their enemies. Once the Spanish conquered the Chipanec however, and renamed the province of Chiapas after them, they marched up to the Highlands and promptly enslaved the Maya.
Chiapas history might have followed the same tragic path as the rest of Latin America had it not been for the intervention of the remarkable first bishop of Chiapas, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas. He convinced the Spanish king to free the Chiapas Maya, ban the conquistadores from Maya lands, and permit the Dominicans to convert the Maya peacefully to the True Faith. It was a noble experiment that succeeded in protecting the Maya of this region from some of the worst abuses of the conquest while convincing them to adopt the Catholic religions as their own. Ironically, Chiapas Maya Catholicism retains the music, pageantry, and devotional rites introduced in the 16th century. Many of the rituals and beliefs that appear most exotic to observers are actually customs that were practiced 400 years ago in Spain!
Thing 4 was going to the Na Bolom Museum which is where all the photos in this post were born.
You'll excuse my unbridled enthusiasm. It really cannot be helped.
unfortunately food photographed at night is dull. but let me assure you that the taste was very thrilling. below we have quesadillas. 2 different kind - picadillo & chorizo con papas. just prior to ordering these i had a verde chicharron & a tinta taco. sometimes i like to order things i haven't had before and see what arrives. this was 2+2+2 night. the other part of the equation were 2 cold coronas. delish.
the night before i ordered pollo molcajete. it's one of those things you order that makes everyone at the other tables look at you and wonder where the other 8 people who are sharing this with you have gone. just for me!
this came with it.
mmmmmmmmmmmm.....i'm out the door this second to forage for food. we'll see what i come up with!
Here are scenes from another Tzotzil village called Zinacatan. They speak the same language as the CHAMULANS, but there are many differences in culture. Men take only 1 wife here, their church is still in good standing with the Vatican and resembles a traditional Catholic church slightly more. It has pews, there are no healing chicken sacrifices performed by shaman, no candles melting into the floor, no pine needles covering the floor and no Zinacantecans inside. Their religious statues are adorned with thousands of flowers which cover every inch of the statues except the face and parts of the body. Bright & beautiful. Although their brand of Catholicism is more closely aligned with church teachings they are polytheistic like the Chamulans. and of course no cameras allowed inside.
The 2 indigenous groups are cordial to each other and occasionally there is intermarrying.
As in San Juan Chamula, our guide took us into a home where we got a better picture of daily life. We saw women weaving cloth, making tortillas, tending fires.
I loved seeing evidence of ordinary life being lived. Here, as in Moss Cottage, there are dishes to be washed.
The Zinacantecan women wear completely different clothing. different colors, and no black furry skirts. Theirs are made of cotton. Both groups of women NEVER cut their hair. I saw many women with large buns nearly on their foreheads. They wear it this way after it is washed so their backs don't get wet or cold.
I spied this gorgeous handmade shawl casually tossed over a clothesline. These are part of the womens' daily dress when they leave their houses. A trained eye can tell which tribe of indigenous people the women belong to by noting their clothing. Cesar told us that this sameness in dress keeps the tribal identity intact. There is a sense that everyone belongs to one another. What is done to one is done to all. Members of both groups are expelled from the community if they join one of the Mormon, Jehovah Witness, or Protestant churches which come to this area to evangelize.
The men of both groups of indigenous Tzotzil also wear different clothes. The hat below is worn by men.
Here in Zinacatan I saw many greenhouses spread across their small valley. They grow many flowers both for income and rituals.
"Thus, the Tzotzil town of Zinacantan is surrounded by seven 'bathing places' of mountain-dwelling ancestors, with one of these sacred waterholes serving as the residence of the ancestors' 'nursemaids and laundresses'.As in the pre-Hispanic past, an important part of ritual takes place in or near such landmarks, in Yucatán also around karstic sinkholes (cenotes)."
I am so deeply fascinated by what I am learning. I want to devour every book ( there are so many!) in my casita on Mayan culture when I arrive home for my mid-day siesta.
Other worlds. Other lives.
Cesar, our guide pointed out that polytheistic people are much more tolerant of people's differences than monotheistic. He was referring to all of the evangelizers who have come into Chiapas, both past and present, with intentions of knocking some religious sense into the indigenous people. He also shared that many fundamentalist christian groups continue to come to these areas to "help", but it seems like many have an agenda related to CHANGING those pesky & resistant Mayan beliefs.
I have so many things to say about my visit to this village today. My mind is crowded with the BIGness of what I saw and felt.
I want to tell you about how the pine needles are sacred to this group of indigenous Mayans, the CHAMULANS. How they covered the floors of the church, how slippery it was to walk through them, but how each footstep crushes the needles and releases the pine scent through the air.
how there were candles burning on the floor, and groups of Mayan women huddled together sitting and murmuring. About how I could hear the soft hum of voices, and when I stood very still and closed my eyes I could hear that they were actually chanting in Tzotzil. And it was so beautiful. And I tried really really hard to squeeze back tears, but they came anyway. All that happened. To me. Today.
But I'm not finished because I also want to tell you about how the number 13 is significant to their beliefs for many reasons, one of which is that there are 13 layers of heaven. 13 layers of heaven. wow.
When I heard that I got out my notebook and scribbled it down.
About how they believe there are not 4 directions, but 5. North, south, east, west, and CENTER.
I'm not done yet because I also have to say that their church is no longer associated with the vatican since they expelled the last Catholic priest from their town in the '60s. They pray to many many saints. All of whom were encased in the most enchanting glass cases you can imagine, draped with rich fabrics, and strands of manzania fruit around their necks. I do not think many things are holy. But those big saints with their big dark eyes following me around the room felt like it to me. They did. The big mirrors hanging around their necks shone with soft golden light. These are the saints the Chamulans revere the most.
I don't have photos of all of that because cameras are forbidden inside the church. But I took pictures with my mind. And I'm going to store it all safely away in the big diary in my heart where I keep the most special things. bEcause that's where it all belongs.
And one more thing. These crosses are ancient Mayan symbols, not christian crosses. And another thing...that is to say...if YOU ever travel to San Cristobal de las Casas and a local tells if you want to go visit the indigenous villages that you are to just go stand in front of the cathedral at 9:30 more or less and wait. Do not bother asking, but how much is it, or who exactly will be there, or how will they find me, or this all sounds so vague...are you SURE? wouldn't it be better to make arrangements with an offical tour operator? Just go stand there. Don't kavetch. The guide will find you. And I really really hope you'll get the guide that I had, Cesar. Oh and if you get a chance taste the POSH (alcoholic beverage used in rituals).
And only take pics when your guide gives the go-ahead and not one second before or after. Otherwise you might get expelled from San Juan Chamula like that priest did in the late 60's. And you wouldn't want THAT would you?
My posts are out of order because I am currently only able to post one photo spread at a time. So I do each one but then they are backwards. Ha ha heh
So I changed the time on each to make them line up better. Figuring the best way to post via iPad has a learning curve, but I'm getting the hang of it. Sort of.
P.S. also seem to have done something to my regular banner...hmmmm. Strange as didn't go into banner area. Whoops! Will have to remain as is till I get home can't fix from iPad...
Sent from my iPad