Thursday, September 9, 2010

Please help flood victims in Oaxaca!! Please?

I have spent a lot of my life following natural disasters--AND despite the fact that my own life is its own natural disaster that needs saving, I always find myself heading off with backpacks full of stuff and money to assist those in need! I have this random altruistic vision that I am actually helping out humanity on some level, even if it is small. But sometimes, it defeating and exhausting. I never know if I should stop the insanity or continue with it!! Your guess is as good as mine...for now i will continue to follow my insanity, it's seems more natural.

As some of you may or may not know, We are currently living in's severly flooding out here. We are totally safe!! We live in a gorgeous 350 year old hacienda on one of the highest points of the historic district. We can go a mile or two down and everything changes.
I am in Oaxaca to create, grant write and mostly REST, which I do very little of nowadays...but there is a huge nagging that is coming my way...and it's really eating away at me, so I need to deal with this urge to help, at least a little. A little is good....right?

Right now I am fatigued. We tried saving a 5 week old kitten that just passed away on us at 2 o'clock in the morning and needless to's been a tough day. So to be setting up donation buttons and blogging is not exactly what I want to be doing. BUT my conscious is not letting me sleep, so I decided I need to listen to it and do something! (Two hours of my life is NOTHING....these two hours might make a difference to a Oaxacan family in need.

I don't know why my brain is wired like this?? I think it's because of my first experience with disaster that hit close to home as a youth. I don't remember how old I was, probably in the 8th grade, maybe, but a Tornado struck Saragosa, a small town near my hometown (Pecos, Texas) nearly wiping it completely out. I have a really bad memory, but I remember the tornado hitting a school during a kindergarten graduation--Enough said huh? Pretty devestating stuff!

One of my teachers was in this horrid natural disaster--SIGH!

I remember volunteering long hours of sorting, packing and helping to get medical supplies organized to get to the victims. I remember everyone walking around shocked and going thru with the motions of helping family members and friends who were victims of this terrible tragedy. I remember funeral services en masse and I remember wishing that it would all GO AWAY.

This experience haunts me and will forever continue to haunt me...memories like that don't go away, they just linger. Since then I have done relief work all over the world and have helped out more non-profits than you could ever imagine. Somewhere in the middle I even found time to co-found and dedicated many of my years on the war/disaster torn nation of Haiti. Although Haiti is an important chapter in my life, I walk farther away from it with every day that I live. It's an emotionally and financially draining country. BUT the foundation is still going strong thanks to our President Judy Hoffman who has taken the foundation to another level. Many of my friends are a part of the program and it is a village of amazing people pushing it forward.

Anyway.......Where was I going with all of this?

Oh yeah...I am sitting here in Oaxaca feeling guilty about not helping. My Uncle, who is more like a father to me, is always on me to help out my own country (I'm Mexican). Everytime I come home from some humanitarian mission he scolds me about the need to help in my own backyard. I take my scoldings and usually nod my head in shame. My uncle is currently behind me (emotionally, not physically) scolding me for doing NADA...ZIP...NOTHING!! It doesn't get closer to my own backyard than 2 miles away! AND..... guess what! I'M NOT HELPING!!! IRONIC HUH?

A NATURAL DISASTER 2 MILES FROM ME...and I'm ignoring it! Why am I ignoring it!??? I'm tired....I need a break....I don't want to see pain....I don't want to feel the suffering. I want to hide in my beautiful hacienda filled with exotic plants and gorgeous mosaic tile and shut out the world! That's why!

But...I can't. So here goes...I need your help...and I need it DESPERATELY!

Here is my plan...since i TRUST NOONE (years of experience talking) I plan on raising money via my paypal account and taking the money DIRECTLY to the area that has been hit the worst (not quite sure where that is ...I've been ignoring the news....Sadly) BUT....Depending on what is needed...either we buy it here and bus it in...or we give out cold hard Pesos...whichever seems better! Believe it or not...sometimes money doesn't function when there isn't anything to buy....interesting isn't it?

Currently I have some deadlines I am dealing I can't do anything until the 26th of September...which gives me plenty of time to beg for money! By then...I hope that things will settle and we can safely head out to the villages with an altruistic spirit in tow and my guilty conscious put to rest! And who might be our own family that needs help! We can't reach the village. Roads have been washed out...communication is out...the crops are flooded and in now you know why I want to tune this whole thing out?

Thanks so much for reading me out....I really appreciate you time...please help out by pushing the Paypal's's secure, I have a 100% verified standing. Gracias!!

Sandra Renteria....

A tired and weary globe trotting humanitarian...that needs a long long nap!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Frida Kahlo and the Zapotec Weavings of the Teotitlan Village

One of my favorite places in Oaxaca is the The Textile Museum which currently has a gorgeous exhibition featuring ancient Chinese textiles that is JUST jaw dropping. Although I can spend hours with a loop staring at the details, there are also hundreds of books dedicated to the weaving artform that make me feel like a kid in a candy store.

Over the years I have collected hundreds of textiles- Huichol yarn weavings, HMong tapestries, Haitian Drapos, Mayan huipils, Quiero tribe antiquities and and on and on. Textiles are easy to collect and easy to shove in a backpack, thus the ever expanding collection.

Currently, along with getting ready for a couple of exhibits States side, I have decided to do an in depth study on Frida Kalho and her amazing wardrobe. I hope to have completed a body of work that focuses on Frida and her fashion sense within a year or so.

Frida's style screams traditional Mexico- Zapotec weavings, intricate embroideries, embellished textiles and patterns galore. Mexican pattern work is very inspirational and inviting; I am looking forward to delving into the history of each particular outfit that Frida wore for that very reason.

One really cannot study Mexican fashion without understanding the history and culture which heavily influences every nuance of Mexican wear. Today, Abel and I ventured to Teotitlan Del Valle, a gorgeous village rich in history and culture to study and wander. This Zapotec village still maintains its original dialect and is a prosperous place that seems to hold time still by preserving it's history. Most locals are still dedicating their lives to the spinning, dyeing and looming of wool. The colours are vibrant and the designs maintain the imagery of the past. These weavers have followed in the footsteps of their anscestors in the tedious process of their creations. The land and all of it's riches continues to stay with the families that were born of the Zapotec lineage.
This village is infamous for their high quality weaving created from natural dyes and weavings made with traditional looms. Here is a photo of the home of one of the more established local weavers....few starving artists in this region. Weavers live quite well (not all live as well as this one...but they are definitely NOT struggling) their highly sought after crafts bring busloads of tourist from all over the world seeking to buy their exquisitely crafted wares. This always makes me happy to see an artist rightfully enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Today we had the pleasure hanging out with Elia and her father Gaudencio Mendoza whose works we have for sale in our Etsy Store. They are a terrific family- I am looking forward to trading with them.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gals Grafitti in the City-La Calle Tambien es de Nosotras

I have always loved grafitti! It fascinates me to think about what it takes to emotionally and physically create a piece of this nature. I can imagine the artist quickly doing spray strokes with their cans and being as precise as possible while always watching their back to make sure there are no repercussions.
I personally could never be a grafitti artist, I am not decisive enough and change my mind too many times to specialize in this medium. By the time I figured out what I wanted to do, I would more than likely be handcuffed and in a police car shamed that I wasn't speedy enough- facing vandalism charges with not even a finished piece to be proud of during my fingerprinting moments!
Although I could never be a grafitti artist, I still love to admire it and the artists brave enough to defy the authorities. Today there was an opening exhibit showcasing the local talent made up of a group of females! It was interesting to see works on a projector shuffling thru original works around the city ; however, I am looking forward to seeing their creations in person. The projections were just a tease, but enough to get me excited about stumbling upon their works. There was a particular artist, OMega, whose work I love and am determined to find one of her pieces as we head out during our daily adventures.
Kuddos to these gals who are willing to live on the edge and get their message on walls around the city. I admire them!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why I love Oaxaca....Let me count the ways....FOOD!

FOOD! My high school chemistry teacher used to say..."The way to a man's heart is thru his stomach!" I totally agree with him and feel that this saying is not gender biased. So obviously...FOOD is the first thing that causes me to feel nostalgic about this great city. Whether it's a juicy mango covered with chili and lime that drips all over you with every bite or a more epicurean styled dish that sends you to another planet, one thing is for sure, when it comes to food I do not discriminate. I will try everything ONCE; be it a tamale snuggled up in a basket carried on the head of a local or a crispy cricket fried and dipped in chili- I'm game! BUT...I will not eat everything TWICE. I have to like it to eat it again, and that is where I begin to be more discerning about what I will eat again. Fool me once....;-)

I think my food obsession started when I landed in the emergency room with a severe food allergy. After spending months figuring out what it was I was allergic to, I found out I was deathly allergic to MonoSodiumGlutamate. Needless to say, I always have an EpiPen with me regardless of where I am. MSG is EVERYWHERE! But that isn't where my food allergies end, throw in sulphites, sulphates, sodium benzoates, nitrates, nitrites and on and on and on. So what does that leave me with? Cooking everything on my own and making sure everything is fresh and has not an ounce of preservatives in it. Life in the United States is really tough on me because everything is so heavily processed. I have learned to modify my diet causing me to spend an average of 3 to 4 hours a day in the kitchen cooking, which I have learned to enjoy.

In developing nations, processed foods are a luxury item, thus making them more expensive and less available. Fresh produce can be found within a blink of the eye. Most vendors, sitting on the corner. who are selling their fresh cut up mango picked the fruits from their tree that morning and send their kid to go pick more as the bounty depletes. It doesn't get any fresher than that. It is easy for me to eat on the street here in Oaxaca, and I don't have to be terrified that I might end up with a huge bite of MSG.

A lot of North Americans are afraid to eat in "third world" nations. I have been travelling for the past two decades and have ended up in the hospital twice and that was in the United States. Food poisoning can happen anywhere and germs are everywhere. I always encourage people to get away from the old myth of "never drink the water or eat the vegetables washed in it". I truly believe that you are missing out on the entire travel experience if you don't allow yourself to eat the street food. It's the best food around!

Well I'm off, heading off to a concert tonite. Looking forward to it...will post photos later.

OAXACA....Follow us during our time here.

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