Day 4: Tlacolula Sunday Market in Oaxaca (Tianguis)
Imagine all the basics for living: food, farming… add living amenities, tools. Add a little bit of artisan crafts to the mix from other areas such as Black Clay Pottery (barro negro) from San Bartolo Coyotepec, Red Clay Pottery from the women of San Marco, and woven rugs from Teotitlan del Valle. The Sunday market in Oaxaca has all that and more. There were baby chickens for sale as well as live grown chickens, turkeys, and even goats for sale for slaughter.
We walked by a woman waiting for a bus, whose closed plastic shopping bag was moving like crazy. It wasn’t until we heard the squeal of the piglet that we knew what it was. While we tend to take things for granted in our country, this market makes you realize that there is a balance to everything. Necessity breeds invention and here you will find just about anything you may ever need for survival. Don’t miss the area where they have all the ingredients for cooking: fresh fruit,
regionally grown varietal peppers, squash blossoms, onions, carne asada, fresh cooked chicken with mole, fresh vegetables… all brought together under one roof. Hundreds of vendors using the freshest ingredients is why Oaxaca is known for its culinary richness.
The Women of the Red Clay
As we walked up the stairs to the church from the market, there were some woman beautifully dressed in their indigenous huipils, hair braided with ribbon, who smiled as they said, “Somos los mujeres de Barro rojo,” (we are the women of the red clay). They smiled and laughed when I turned around and acknowledged them. They were even more surprised when we spoke Spanish and discussed their “red clay” craft and buying wholesale for our store in Atlanta. After about 30 minutes of discussing how to pack, ship, and reorder the product, they invited us to their house in San Marco to see more of the work – and we hope to do just that. Craft buying is very rewarding when relationships are made. You know that, in your own small way, you are helping people who need it. I wanted so much to take photos of all the people, but some believe that you take their soul when you take their photo.
We noticed a vendor selling the baskets used by the other vendors to sell bread. Our minds quickly shifted to how we can make lighting from these and the other fishing baskets the vendor was making. Basket lights are popular for lighting, as they are natural looking and cast a beautiful pattern of light onto adjacent walls. We established a relationship with Raul and placed our first order. Some of the baskets were parabolic shaped, others like more typical conical baskets in various heights and diameters. We’re looking forward to seeing these in a few months when they get back to our U.S. warehouse.
Black Clay Ceramics
We met another artist who was from San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, famous for their black clay, or barro negro. We were going there the next day, so we didn’t want to go overboard on our purchase, but we liked the detail and quality of their work. We bought about half of everything they had, to give a nice presentation, and made an appointment to see them the next day in their home town. Update: After the artist packed the product and after we re-packed it in Oaxaca with better materials (bubble wrap, heavy duty boxes, and newsprint), nearly every piece arrived damaged to our Mexican warehouse. Many people don’t realize the difficulty in importing from small villages. This is one of them. This was one of the worst losses since we started this business in 1996. Thankfully, it wasn’t a large volume of items!