Hands and soul of Oaxaca

On 22 March 2016, the National Museum of Popular Culture in Mexico City opened a major exhibit related to various ethnicities of the state of Oaxaca and, of course, its handcrafts.

Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) by a troupe from Coyante (Puerto Minicio), Pinotepa Nacional, on the coast of Oaxaca performing at the opening of the event. (credit Alejandro Linares Garcia)

Oaxaca is one of, if not the, most ethnically diverse states in Mexico, with one of the highest indigenous populations. One reason for this is its extremely rugged terrain, which kept many communities practically incomunicado with the rest of Mexico and even today, traveling north/south over its two main mountain ranges is a challenge to anyone who has any tendency to car sickness.

Members of the Navarro Gomez family of Santo Tomas Jalieza working on backstrap looms (credit Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art)

It is one of Mexico’s richest states culturally, preserving many traditions including economic ones. However, this does mean that the state is one of the poorest. One traditional economic trait that has survived is handcrafts, from those who still make for their local communities, to those who have managed to take traditional works and adapt them to more modern markets, such as Oaxaca’s very important tourism trade.

Opening of the event with governor (3rd from left) and culture secretary (4th from left) (Credit: Alejandro Linares Garcia)

The exhibition is called Manos y alma de Oaxaca (Hands and soul of Oaxaca), and seeks not only to exhibit all of Oaxaca’s major handcrafts over 570 municipalities, but also a number of agro industries from traditional chocolate and mezcal making, to those who have been experimenting withe new products using traditional resources.

The event is sponsored by entities of both the Oaxaca and federal governments, with the governor of Oaxaca and Mexico’s Secretary of Culture attending the opening. In addition to the typical exhibition and sales of products, there are various events from book presentations, traditional dance, culinary demonstrations and conferences on the state’s landscapes, music and more.

Adelina Pedro Martinez working on a ceramic heart at the family workshop in San Bartolo Coyotepec (credit Alejandro Linares Garcia)

The website for the museum is http://museoculturaspopulares.gob.mx/  Unfortunately, the schedule events related to to the exhibition, which extends to the end of July, is not online at the time of this writing. Below is a brief list of events and dates through May:

April 14-17 Sale of handcrafts and food products

April 15 1800hrs Book presenttion “Oaxaca de mis amores” by Guadalupe Loaeza

April 28- May 1 Handcraft sale focusing on basketry.

May 18 1800hrs Presentation “Imagining geometry: song and poetry of Oaxaca”

May 28 18-2200hrs Oaxaca Night of Museums

May 25 1800hrs Butaquito, a musical group dedicated to son

May 25 1800hrs Baltazar Velasco y the Chileneros of the Coast

(Featured image courtesy of the National Museum of Popular Culture)



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