I spent Thursday and Friday visiting markets, wandering around churches and watching the processions in honor of Semana Santa (Holy Week). The silent procession through town on Friday night lasts for about an hour, as barefoot and hooded men lift wooden crosses and others carry statues depicting the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
On Friday afternoon, I met with two journalists from Televisa, the largest television station in Mexico. Juan Manuel Vignon, a hilarious older reporter who has covered Oaxaca for 18 years, said the federal government’s economic development efforts in the Mixteca region, where I am headed this weekend, have been sporadic at best. “Compra la coche , pero no la gasolina” (They’ll buy the car, but not the gas).
On Saturday, I spent the day with Yamilet, one of the Televisa reporters who has been a tremendous help with showing me around and setting up contacts in Juxtlahuaca. We visited the small town of San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for its “barro negro” or black clay. Valentino Nieto Real, a 79-year old potter, showed us each step of the process made famous fifty years ago by his mother, Doña Rosa. His shop has become so famous, in fact, that it is lined with photos of the family with Nelson Rockefeller, Luis Miguel and Jimmy Carter. On each street in San Bartolo different families sell hundreds of variations on the black clay pottery; Valentino told us that 60 percent of the population make a living from pottery.