Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More on Mothers’ Day: Celebrating in Teotitlán del Valle

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By Susan Aycock

I celebrated Mothers’ Day twice this year: both on the holiday as celebrated last Thursday in Mexico and again on Sunday in the U.S. (In Mexico, they keep a fixed date of May 10, whereas in the states we change the date around to keep it as the second Sunday in May).

 Though I’m usually out in Teotitlán del Valley every Thursday anyway teaching English classes as part of En Vía’s loan enrichment program, we had cancelled class for the fiesta. Not only would most of our students and their families be attending the Mothers’ Day celebration in Teotitlán, but the entire municipal building where we hold classes, as well as the town plaza just outside, would be occupied with the fiesta. Honestly, there’s always a fiesta going on in town. Or a parade. Or both.

I had stopped by the weaving shops of a couple of En Vía borrowers on the way to the fiesta, including Josefina, who was one of the program’s very first loan recipients. Mother of four children herself, her youngest, six-year-old Maria José, was getting ready to participate in a dance for the celebration. Josefina helped her into her full, ruffled skirt and embroidered blouse. María José was hopping around so excitedly she almost couldn’t stand still enough for her mother to add a little lipstick and blush.

 “What’s the name of your dance,” I asked her? “The caballito dance!” she squealed. Kidding, I asked her if she was a caballita (little horse). “No, silly!” she said. “The boys are the caballitos!” And not wanting her to be late – for hers was the first dance of the event – we piled into a moto-taxi and headed to the town square.

The whole plaza was covered with a big white tent, good insurance not only against the blazing afternoon sun, but also for the possible showers in this early rainy season. Up against the steps of the municipal building were piled a beribboned stack of door prizes for the raffle: woven market baskets and a host of coveted household goods like dishes, glasses, pitcher and glass sets, blenders and the clear king: a full-sized refrigerator.

 At least half the town’s 6,000 or so residents turned out for the day’s festivities. The older gentlemen wear slacks and straw hats, the women traditional plaid skirts (actually just pieces of cloth tied with a sash), floral blouses, braids and rebozos, or shawls, on their shoulders or heads.

Being at least six inches and sometimes a whole foot taller than most of the indigenous women (and I’m only 5’6”, not exactly a giant in the states), I guess I stood out in the crowd in my turquoise visor. At least a dozen women, former and current students in the English classes and weavers I know from town, shouted out greetings to me as we waited for the fiesta to begin. I can manage “hello” in Zapotec, but not much more; it’s a tonal language, all soft sounds pitched inflections. (But of course, they all speak Spanish too (which means our English classes introduce a third language).

The traditional nieve served on Mothers’ Day – prepared in the municipal building where we normally hold English classes – was brought out on trays and passed around to all free of charge. Nieve is a frozen treat more like sorbet than ice cream, and these were festively red and white: white leche quemada ice cream (literally “burned milk,” like a vanilla custard) with a topping of rosy pink tuna (which has nothing to do at all with tuna fish, but is made of the red fruit of the prickly pear cactus).

The band began to play, the first dancers came out. The caballitos pranced and threw their handkerchiefs down; the little girls (including María José) danced and smiled and completely captivated the crowd. Alas, I didn’t get to stay for the whole fiesta; the last bus from Teotitlán back to Oaxaca leaves at 6 p.m. and you’d better be on it if you don’t want to be waiting down on the highway three miles away to catch a ride back to the city in the dark.

I ate the piece of sweet corn cake, given to me at the fiesta by one of my students, on the bus back to Oaxaca City (about an hour away), and got soaking wet walking back home from the bus stop in the rain. Nothing, though, could dampen the wonderful feeling of belonging here, with my own children so far away on Mothers’ Day.

And yeah, the kids (who turn 26 and 28 this week). Bryan, the younger one, called me on Sunday morning to wish me happy American Mothers’ Day. He was sitting with his girlfriend at the feet of the Grand Tetons outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he lives. My older son, David, Skyped me that night from Katmandu, Nepal, just having trekked back from Everest Base Camp One, halfway through his trip around the world this year.

Kids grow up and if you’re lucky in this economy, they leave home. My own left not just the house but the state and even the country, as did I. I used to be a suburban Dallas housewife and now -- I’m not. And in choosing a new place to live, I’ve gotten to choose new family as well to stand in as my own.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day! Recognising the ways that Mothers Invest for the Future.

The great majority of the women that En Via works with are mothers. Today we wish to recognise the ways in which as mothers and businesswomen, women are working hard to provide for their children and families.


Ameli and her son Axel, in Diaz Ordaz.

 One of the primary reasons that En Via lends money to women is that statistically, women have shown to invest in ways that directly benefit their families and communities. We see this time and time again as we hear that profits from businesses are used to support children through school, or to provide them with healthcare, or other essential aspects of their development.

 We know that each individual loan is making an impact on the lives of many people because we know that the women we work with are sharing not only the financial profits of their projects and businesses with their families, but also the knowledge and self-esteem that comes from their participation in the program as a whole.  


Amelia and her daughter and expected baby boy, in Teotitlan.

Recently we had the pleasure of visiting with one of our borrowers, Enedina Gonzalez Alvarez, with a tour group. Enedina is a weaver, and like many of our borrowers, she invests her loans in a family business that produces tapetes, or wool rugs. Her husband and children introduce themselves to us as we arrive, and it is clear to everyone that the family is a very close unit.

 Oscar, Enedina's 17 year old son, hurries over with something to show the group; a great big bag of seed pods that will be used for naturally dying the wool the family will use for weaving. His face is glowing with pride as he stands by his mother as she explains the process to us.

Later I ask him what he thinks about the En Via program. Regarding the tours, he said he loves to have the chance to meet new people and interact with visitors. “The loans help our family and other families we know a lot”, he says seriously.


Enedina and her sons Oscar and Romero in Teotitlan.

 I often wonder about the type of role models that are being encouraged and created, and am delighted to hear Oscar say that he is learning from his mother and family about how the money is best managed.

 Enedina tells me how one of her favourite parts of the work is the way she works everyday with her family. They have 4 looms that are arranged side by side in the patio.

Oscar says that they exchange ideas, and even sing together sometimes as they weave. “I enjoy the time when we are together.  When I am by myself working I feel lonely”, he says. 

Romero, Enedina's younger son of 14 years, is also interested in the visit from En Via. “I think it is a good program that is helping the community”, he says. “I am proud of my mother, and I am grateful for what she teaches me”.

 There are mothers of all ages and backgrounds in our program. Many have told me personally that the most important thing in their lives is being a mother. We have the privilege of knowing many of their children and of seeing them grow and develop over the years we have been working in the communities. All of us at En Via wish to congratulate all the mothers of the program for their hard work, and for the ways in which they continue to support their families as well as their communities as a whole. To all mothers everywhere, Happy Mother's Day! 


Rosa, a single mother, stands with her daughters outside her house in Tlacochahuaya.