El Interior’s Journey & 2019 Mexico Buying Trip Recap

For more than the 40 years that El Interior has been in business, founder, owner, folk art specialist and buyer Marcia Lucas has journeyed to Mexico and Guatemala. In past years, she would drive her van down to the Mexican states of Michoacán, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Jalisco, State of Mexico, Puebla, Morelos, Guanajuato and Chiapas; occasionally traveling further south to the highlands of Guatemala. Over the expanse of almost a half-century of traversing Meso-America, she has built and sustained working relationships and friendships with Indigenous artisans and their families who create the beautiful works of art she buys. We sell these one-of-a-kind treasures from Mexico at our store on West Lynn in Austin’s Clarksville neighborhood.

Marcia embarks on buying trips two to three times year. Once a year, she guides travelers on a tour to all of her favorite places around the city of Oaxaca and the villages in the surrounding countryside (you can view pictures from2018 and 2019 on our blog). Included in the tour are several famous archeological sites, as well as a mescal palenque, a small home workshop where Oaxaca’s famous mescal is made, distilled and aged.

“I had a lovely breakfast this morning with renowned Zapotec Curandera and Midwife Doña Enriqueta Contreras. Some of you may remember the several talks she gave 12 to 15 years ago at El Interior. She is healthy and is taking good care of herself and sharp as a tack! We had breakfast at the organic market, La Cosecha… a great outdoor spot.” Doña Enriqueta, now 83 years old, has been a friend of Marcia and El Interior for many years. She visited Austin a number of times in the 80’s and 90’s with the Indigenous Women’s Network and the Foundation for a Compassionate Society.

Pinoteopa Nacional dancers. 

In Oaxaca, the group of artisans that Marcia purchases from are primarily Zapotec indigenous families. They are the potters, the Pedros and the Aguilars; the dressmakers: Rebecca, Rachael, Betti, Eva, Antonia, Olga, Amalia and others who sew, embroider and weave the blouses and dresses that our customers love. These families welcome Marcia and appreciate the continuity of her trade.

El Interior’s long-standing commitment contributes to the sustainability of the indigenous communities she visits – their income, artistry, cultural values and well-being. What Marcia receives, most of all, is the great pleasure in sharing in Oaxaca’s cultural traditions and seeing the folk artists and their communities thrive. This is her perspective from her experiences buying fine Mexican clothing, textiles, and folk art for the last 40 years.

This is El Interior’s Journey, and these are Marcia’s photos and stories from her Summer 2019 buying trip to Oaxaca during the annual Guelaguetza festivities.

“What a joyful time to be in Oaxaca!” — Marcia Lucas

Celebrations of traditional Zapotec Culture in the Tehuantepec Calenda in the streets of Oaxaca. Zapotec women from the isthmus of Tehuantepec on a float in Oaxaca City. “They’re celebrating their identity and their community’s traditional values. This is also an act of reciprocity, a way of giving back to their community. The participants sponsor the gifts they are giving — the float, the band, their very special and costly dresses, to the candy, the various treats and the mescal they are so freely sharing,” says Lucas.

During the summer Guelaguetza festivities in Oaxaca City, indigenous communities from around rural Oaxaca gather to celebrate their cultures. Two coastal Mixteca communities, Pinotepa Nacional and Jamiltepec, offer their traditional comida and dances in a small park in the capital city.

Part of the fun was, “Yum! Eating piping hot, homemade tamales!” with long-time friend, artisan and guardian of her coastal Mixtec culture, Doña Glafira.

Doña Glafira of Pinotepa Nacional — weaver, embroiderer, beader and keeper of her culture.

“A neighboring diner offered us some delicious aguardiente — fire water — flavored with tamarind. I tried a sip – Strong! ”

Corn tamales full of iguana and mussels wrapped in corn husk and banana leaf wraps.

Doña Glafira enjoys tamales on an outing with Marcia Lucas in Oaxaca.

Tamale and Taco Vendors from Pinotepa Nacional on the Coast visiting Oaxaca City for Guelaguetza

The brightly painted wooden spindles that these Jamiltepec women have put in their hair are used for spinning cotton and other fibers for the clothing and textiles they make.

Jamiltepec women relaxing after dancing.

“I have my purchases for El Interior all packed up! Soon, we will be offering up new treasures at El Interior! Last Friday I came upon this joyous celebration of Graduation—the joy of being in Oaxaca! I will miss you.”

Watch a short video of the graduation parade, with its wonderful brass band music.

Another parade! This one celebrated the 150th birthday anniversary of Macedonio Alcala, a great Mexican Composer born in 1869. One of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Oaxaca is named after him, the gorgeous Teatro Macedonio Alcala.

Painter Frida Kahlo dances with her husband Diego Rivera.

Painter and muralist Diego Rivera swirling down the street.

Marmotes, giant puppets. Puppet of Macedonio Alcala namesake of the parade is on the right in hat and tie.

One of Mexico’s most famous patrons of art and culture, internationally known Zapotec artist Francisco Toledo. He passed away on Thursday, September 5, 2019.

Francesco Toledo’s death is a MAJOR loss for Oaxaca! Rest in peace and gracias for your generosity, honoring the Zapotec belief in reciprocity and always giving back to your community.

A Oaxacan Tradition: The lovely, dancing “China Oaxaqueñas” holding flower baskets atop their heads.

Young men dancing down the street carrying their beautiful standards – translucent art on tall bamboo sticks.

A new mural of Macedonio Alala.

This picture was taken at the restaurant La Olla in Oaxaca; it shows a lovely display of almost thirty varieties of corn being grown in Oaxaca. Oaxaca is where corn was “born” around 10,000 years ago. The “three sister” crops, corn, beans and squash, are the foods that sustain life in the villages of Oaxaca. Each family farmer saves seeds for planting from one year to the next. With the return of the daily rains, the milpas, or corn fields, are on all the villagers’ minds right now. Some fields are responding beautifully, while others, not so well.

Scenes from the market in Oaxaca!

Marcia enjoying the mural in front of the Sanchez Pascua Market.

Glorious sunflowers!

Thank you, Oaxaca!

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