Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The State of Chiapas - Amatenango del Valle

In 2008, I traveled to Chiapas with no expectations other then to see another part of Mexico.  Wow, was
I amazed and delighted.  It was nothing like I expected.

Somewhere over the years I had found a book published by Telmex on Chiapas.  I had perused it with
every intent to read it from cover to cover.  Never happened - still hasn't!  I did however throw it into my stuff when leaving town and had made a couple of notes from photos of places I definitely wanted to see
based on our proposed itinerary.

One of the places not on our itinerary, but that I wanted to go for sure, was Amatenango del Valle, a Tzotzil village of women potters.

So, one day I walked down the street in San Cristobal, found a travel agency, walked in and found a guide.

It IS that simple.  Hired him for the day with the destination being the village of women potters.  As luck would have it, he knew the women quite well and off we went.

In about 45 minutes, after riding through and by exquisite, verdant green fields of corn and other crops, we
arrived at the home of the grand dame of pottery and her family.  We were invited into their home and their courtyard where they were potting and painting.

I immediately recognized the woman in front of me as the woman in the book.  I pulled it out, shared it with her, asked her to sign it.  She had never seen a photo of herself.  A friend was made.

Here are some of the photos from that glorious day of discovery.
 This woman was the elder of the community.  She never stopped her work to talk with us or to look at the book on Chiapas.  I presume her huipile (blouse) is the one that designates their village as it is on the girl in the photo as well.
 With a teeny tiny brush, this young woman was painting her ancient symbolism on this pot. Of course all this pottery can be purchased in San Cristobal, but I've always enjoyed purchasing from the artesan themselves rather then from a store or market.
 Here is Simona Gomez Lopez seeing her photo for the first time in the book.  I so, so wish I had asked her to write her Tzotzil name instead of her Mexican name!  Notice the head coverings.  I asked the guide where the style came from as I had not seen this in other places.  He said the Moors brought it to Spain.  There are many examples of Moorish architecture, particularly in Chiapa de Corzo.  Imagine!  Stone instruments from
around 7000BC have been found in this village!
 Huipiles hanging on the clothesline - oh my,   I so wanted to buy one to return with to San Miguel.  I think, yes I think, she said $150USD.  I am probably wrong and missed out on an opportunity to own a treasure.
I politely declined.
Above is the page from the book with Simona and a photo of the village.  I believe if you click on it it will enlarge and you can read the copy.

The photo of the guide, whose name I don't remember and one of the women was something I didn't even realize I had caught until I got home and had the film developed.  Yes, this was from an old film camera.
The photos stills makes me chuckle out loud. The look on the woman's face of him holding the broom is priceless.

  I literally carried those two rooster all the way from Chiapas to San Miguel on my lap to prevent them from getting broken. I still have them in the garden! Aaaah, the heart and mind of a folkart collector. 

  My memories of Amatenango del Valle.  If you go back to the entries in 2008, I wrote about it then as well.


TakeToTheHighwaydotcom said...

What a great story! I love the picture of the woman seeing her photo for the first time. Priceless...

Babs said...

Me too! I wish, in retrospect, I had made a copy of the photo for her, but, some day I'll get back and take it to her.


marilyn said...

Barbara, i was so sad for you when i read your post about having to cancel your trip to Chiapas.

I'm going on the second trip 13 April. I wish you would be well enough to go on that one.

This village is mentioned in the itinerary as a possible side trip, I knew it would be of interest to even more so. I'll remember your photos & maybe i'll be able to see & photograph the same women. Now, someone you've never met will be thinking of you on 18 April!! Lena James

Babs said...

Lena Enjoy your trip! I lost the whole $950USD, so I can't possibly go in April....but, it's okay.

When I traveled with David to Chiapas in 2008 that was his first trip to Chiapas and he didn't know a lot of the side trips to take. I noticed he had it on this one! Do go.....I don't know if you'll get into this woman's property, but go anyway. There is a little market in that town as well.

marilyn said...

of course that would be a huge hit 2x$950. i'd have to wait at least a year if it happens to me.

thanks for telling me i might not get into her property. so many side trips are suggested i appreciate your insight on this village.


Retired Teacher said...

I was in Chiapas ages ago... it was the summer before the Zapatista rebellion, whatever year that was. I visited a couple of the villages, but I didn't make it to Amatenango. Sounds like a fascinating excursion. And to be able to show the lady potter her photo in a book... what a serendipitous experience!

lauriec said...

Dear Babs, thanks as always for sharing your stories- I too was saddened to learn that you had to cancel your trip and hop you can go sometime soon.

Chiapas has long been on my list of places to go and your tale of Senora Gomez Lopez was lovely- it is also so nice that the people you met are named. We hope to go to Chiapas while we are staying for a few months in SMA.

We are about to depart for our first driving trip to SMA - we arrive April 1. Your blog has been so enjoyable,inspirational and instructional to me as I keep in touch with SMA from afar.

Oh, and so LOVE the roosters!

Anonymous said...

Hi Babs. This post is wonderful! These are the kind of side trips I love when I'm in Mexico. My husband and I also find a local driver/guide and always find fantastic places and people this way. One thing and another with a daughter's health has kept me on the fence post about getting to SMA...but I will get there one day. And now I'm thinking of Chiapas where I've never been. Hope you are feeling better!

Babs said...

Bill and All - I save articles about places I want to travel. You probably do also. AND, if those articles show local people, I bring them with me. In this case it was a book, but I've traveled many places with newspaper or magazine articles about people and then given them the articles. In Oaxaca, it was a joyful experience once as the father had died and now the family has the article about him!

Babs said...

Lauriec, Chiapas is a LONG way from San Miguel, but doable by bus, air and a long, long day of travel.

Safe travels on your drive down. A year or two ago I posted about driving down from the border and many people have used that post as their guideline for the drive!

It's a beautiful drive.

Babs said...

Thanks Angelinem - YOu'll get here when its the right time. Nice to always have something to look forward to.....