First thing on Saturday we visited a laquer-making family and learned all about how the famous Mexican laquer-ware is made, by hand. Our hostess went through the whole process, rubbing layer after layer onto the gourd. She starts with white powdered clay, and used a grease made from boiled insects to attach each layer. After 3 layers each, she then adds powdered charcoal to the mix. Each time she polishes vigorously with cotton to get the luster. Finally they paint designs -she used her hand as a palate!
Oh yes, it was also just another festival day in Chiapas (this continues until January 22). This one was called the Tuxlateros and on this day the men dress all in white, with straw hats and red embroidered sashes. The women dress in fancy white blouses, black and white checked long skirts, and black and white headdresses.
I never understood the significance of any of it, but how we experienced it was by going to a wealthy private home. The hosts were throwing an enormous party, with an enormous shrine honoring the recently deceased mother-in-law, many beautifully turned out guests, music, and generous helpings of pozole. Their version was served cold in painted gourd bowls.
Out in the street, swarms of people were filling a painted wooden cart with fresh fruit, and tying festoons of pineapples onto the sides. Soon the entire town was once Again swarming through the streets, heading on a route that would stop at all the churches to drop off fruit, load up more fruit, etc. Who knows why, but this day felt more sober and subdued than the previous day's have been.
We eventually broke off and went to the town food market, which was small and indoors, but had many varieties of food that we were unfamiliar with. I drank something new, tescalate, that I liked a lot. It is bright orange and includes corn, chocolate, and annato seeds, among many other ingredients.
It was hot, so we went back to the hotel and dangled our feet in the pool and drank a margarita to cool down. At 3 pm we left Chiapas da Corso and drove up into the mountains to San Cristobal, where we will spend a week. It's a high altitude Colonial town, a whole new world. More soon on that.
Pretty quickly we went to a place called Na Bolom (House of the Jaguar) to spend an evening. This is a guest house, cultural center, restaurant, research facility, and museum founded in 1951 by Danish archaeologist/explorer Franz Blom and his wife, the Swiss photographer and conservationist, Gertrude Duby. Here we were treated to many rooms full of artifacts from early indigenous cultures throughout the region, and tons of photos of early days in Chiapas. There was a talk on Mayan textiles and so much more, much of the evening in an elegant huge library with roaring fire in the fireplace (it's cold up here in the mountains).
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