Things That Matter

Indigenous Groups In Oaxaca Are Making Their Own Face Masks From Palms And Donating Them To Those Who Need Them Most

All around the world, masks are in short supply. And as more and more governments require their residents to wear masks whenever they go outside, a mask is a must-have accessory at this point.

In Los Angeles, you won’t be allowed inside supermarkets without one. In Mexico City, you aren’t allowed on the Metro (yes, it’s still running). In some parts of Latin America, you can be fined for simply leaving the house without wearing one.

Thankfully, communities around the world have sprung into action and have started making masks.

A group of Indigenous women in Mexico’s Oaxaca state have started weaving facial masks out of palms to protect their community.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, one group of Oaxaca women are doing good by their community and working to make masks from a local material that grows in abundance across the state – palm fronds.

The women, who normally work as artesanas, are helping impoverished Indigenous communities grapple with the threat of Covid-19. They’re weaving thousands of masks every week because of the scarcity and high-cost of surgical masks.

Images shot in Nochixtlán, a region home to a large Mixtec population, show the women separating the palm leaves into strips and weaving the masks one by one. It’s labor-intensive work but it’s paying off. The vast majority of the communities of Mixteca region, which has high rates of migration, marginalisation and poverty, are dedicated to making handicrafts from palm leaves, such as hats and mats.

“With this mask it is easier because you can wash it the same way, you can reuse it again, on the other hand the other one cannot be washed because it then becomes ugly. It is faster and cheaper, because now the masks are very expensive to buy,” said Serapia Lopez Lopez, one of the artisans.

Not only are they making them for their own community, they’ve also donated 5,000 to other Indigenous groups across Mexico.

Credit: International Indigenous Youth Council / Facebook

As Mexico has struggled to come up with much-needed medical supplies for healthcare workers and the public alike, this group of women are reaching out to help others.

Aside from taking their own time to create valuable face masks for their own community, they’re also sharing the masks with other Indigenous groups across the country. So far the group has donated more than 5,000 masks with plans to donate another 5,000.

Although Mexico hasn’t been hit as hard as much of the world by the Covid-19 pandemic, many say it’s just a matter of time.

So far, Mexico has almost 5,500 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 400 people have died. However, when compared to other countries in the region – especially the United States just to the country’s north – these numbers are low.

However, Mexico’s own health experts admit that due to low adherence to social distancing standards, the country is still on the curve up – meaning conditions will likely get worse before they begin to improve.

Meanwhile, the Zapoteca community is making masks out of traditional Indigenous designs and fabrics.

Credit: Diana Maza / Flickr

A duo in the Oaxacan city of Juchitan, have been creating cubre bocas using the traditional patterned designs of the Zapotec Indigenous community. They’re been able to combat the spread of Covid-19 while also helping support their traditional clothing brand, Gexa Boutique.

Seeing that their business sales were dropping due to the epidemic, they decided to use the fabrics and make the masks that include four protections: a cloth filter, a protective film, a satin cloth and the designed one.

To achieve the masks, the artisans were advised by nurses who guided them in the way and the sanitary measures they should have, which is why they have been acquired even by medical personnel from the Isthmus region.

So far, the couple have made more than 1,500 masks with guidance from the medical community, which is why they’ve even been bought by medical personnel from the region. Each masks costs $30 pesos (about $1.50 USD) and they’re both reusable and washable.

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This Oaxacan Artist Is Turning Sneakers Into Her Canvas For Día De Muertos And The Results Are Incredible

Fierce

This Oaxacan Artist Is Turning Sneakers Into Her Canvas For Día De Muertos And The Results Are Incredible

dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

As the Coronavirus pandemic has brought to a halt economies and countries around the world, it’s also helped shutter the businesses of artists who rely on galleries and street markets to sell their creations.

Mexico is one of the world’s hardest hit countries and artists in the country have had to get creative to find new clients and customers amid a global pandemic.

However, with the rising popularity of bespoke sneaker collections, one Oaxacan artist seems to have found the winning formula.

A Oaxacan artist has made sneakers her canvas and she’s highlighting her culture in this new medium.

Credit: dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

Mexico has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus-related restrictions have indefinitely closed millions of businesses across the country as tourists stopped coming to the country.

As these restrictions have impacted the livelihoods of millions of Mexicans, many have been forced to get creative. For one artist from Oaxaca, Doris Arellano Manzo, the choice was clear: a canvas is a canvas — it could be stretched over a wooden frame or stretched over a pair of athletic shoes.

Like other artists worldwide who are succeeding at beating the pandemic’s economic challenges to their careers, Arellano is learning to adapt — to be less conventional and to think quite literally a bit smaller: she now paints her art on sneakers.

Thanks to the pandemic, Arellano felt she needed to reinvent herself and her craft.

It all started in July when Arellano and her daughter Frida – a communications and social media professional, realized that Arellano needed to think outside the traditional. It was obvious that museums and galleries would likely remain closed for sometime, so how else could they bring her art to her clients?

“Since I love to paint, I can paint for you on a large canvas just as well as I can on a small one,” she recently told the newspaper Milenio. “As far as I’m concerned, while you have me here with my paints and paintbrushes, I’m thrilled.”

Each pair of shoes is unique, she said, “because it’s all done by hand, not by machine.” She describes her style as “traditionalist contemporary,” and says she is drawn to evoking the rites and customs of Oaxacan traditional culture.

Her Día de Muertos collection is garnering international attention.

Credit: dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

Arellano’s latest collection features shoes with colorful abstract designs in bright cempasúchil orange, with lush floral wreaths and, of course, featuring the iconic Día de Muertos Catrina.

The collection was timed perfectly since so many are looking for non-traditional art amidst a very non-traditional year.

Her latest collection of work, all painted on athletic footwear, is entitled after the celebration she’s commemorating, Día de Muertos.

She says her collections are an homage to traditional Oaxacan festivities that couldn’t take place in 2020.

Credit: dorisarellano_pintora / Instagram

In addition to her recently released Día de Muertos collection which has been very popular, Arellano has created art with other Oaxacan themes.

In fact, when she first began her art-themed sneaker collection in July, at Friday’s suggestion, her sneaker art was based on the enormous festival of Guelaguetza. The Guelaguetza is a traditional Oaxaca cultural festival that had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic.

In some ways, she said, the enforced isolation of the pandemic has been a huge challenge for artists like herself, but in other ways, it’s actually been familiar.

“The work of an artist is a bit enclosed,” she admitted. “We go out when there are exhibits, when we have to go introduce ourselves in public or do interviews.”

Still, she said, the pandemic caught the art community flatfooted.

“Artists don’t have a way to show their work during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s all been halted, and we have to go back and look for new formats for the public to see what we are doing.”

It seems like 2020 has been the year of handcrafted sneaker lines.

Although Arellano is working hard to infuse her own culture into her art and her new sneaker line, she isn’t the first to do so. Just this year Nike released its take on the traditional holiday with a Día de Muertos-themed sneaker collection that had fans of both the holiday and the sneaker company excited for.

Then we got news that Bad Bunny was releasing a custom Crocs line – which flew off the shelves and are now selling for more than four times the original retail price. Plus, recent rumors say that Bad Bunny will also be launching an Adidas collaboration at some point in early 2021.

People have long been obsessed with bespoke sneaker collections, but thanks to the pandemic people are looking for new ways to support artists and satisfy their shopping cravings. We can’t think of a better way than by supporting local Indigenous artists like Arellano.

You can get more information here.

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Mexico’s Famed Día De Muertos Events Are Going Virtual, Meaning It’s Easier Than Ever To Join The Celebrations

Culture

Mexico’s Famed Día De Muertos Events Are Going Virtual, Meaning It’s Easier Than Ever To Join The Celebrations

Jan Sochor / Getty Images

In Mexico, traditions are sacred and family is everything. So when the Coronavirus pandemic hit Mexico and threatened to take away many of the country’s prized traditions, people sprung into action to think outside the box so that communities could continue celebrating the year’s many traditions but in a low-risk way.

It’s this commitment to tradition and ingenuity that is helping Día de Muertos traditions live on this year, despite the surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.

Día de Muertos is usually celebrated across Central and Southern Mexico with large celebrations that include people from the entire pueblo. Well, obviously this year that isn’t exactly possible (or at least safe) so authorities are creating new ways to bring the important celebrations to Mexicans (and others) around the world.

Thanks to Covid-19, our Día de Muertos celebrations will look a lot different this year.

Typically at this time of year, Mexico bustles with activity and cities and pueblos across the country come to life full of color and scents. The cempasúchil – the typical orange marigolds associated with Día de Muertos – are everywhere and the scent is intoxicating.

However, things look exceptionally different this year. Mexican authorities have said cemeteries will remain closed for the Nov. 2 celebration, meaning that people aren’t buying up the flowers as in years past. In fact, according to many growers, less than half the typical amount have been grown this year.

Along with the cutback in flowers and typical holiday purchases, nearly all of the country’s major events have been cancelled by authorities. However, officials say that families can still celebrate but in more private ways or by tuning into online, virtual events.

Mexican authorities are urging people to practice sana distancia and avoid large family gatherings – including for Day of the Dead.

For many Mexicans, however, this year is especially important to celebrate the holiday in honor of the loved ones they’ve lost to the pandemic. Mexico has been one of the world’s hardest hit countries as there have been more than 855,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 86,338 deaths. Although those numbers are said to be highly skewed thanks to one of the world’s lowest testing rates.

“This year is very special because my family members died of COVID-19,” said Dulce Maria Torres in an interview with NBC News, who was buying flowers at a traditional market in the Mexican capital. “It’s important to me and we want to make them a beautiful offering.”

However, authorities are pleading with people to help contain the virus’ spread by avoiding the traditional family gatherings associated with the holiday.

As Mexico works to curb the spread of Covid-19, most events are going virtual this year.

Authorities across Mexico are working to maintain a balance between tradition and safety as they work to bring Día de Muertos celebrations to an online audience.

In an interview, Paola Félix Díaz, Director of the Tourism Promotion Fund, said that “Events such as the Day of the Dead are an opportunity to generate a tribute to all the people who have left because of this disease but also as a reminder of all the traditions that cannot be stopped.”

Officials are working an app called “Xóchitl, Mexico’s virtual ambassador for the world” that will work as an interactive digital platform featuring AR (Augmented Reality), which will include content related to Mexican traditions, culture, and entertainment.

The platform will give access to virtual events, live streaming for the promotion of beautiful Mexico City in a safe way without putting anyone at risk. The parade will be held inside a stadium or a recording studio, without public and following all COVID-19 protocols. The event will be broadcast in many different online platforms”

Even Mexico City’s famed Día de Muertos parade is going virtual this year.

Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade is one of the country’s biggest tourism draws. Just last year the city had more than 2 million people at the parade. In addition, it’s a widely sponsored event by large companies such as Apple and Mattel. It brings in millions of dollars of revenue to the city.

Félix Díaz said that the possibilities of a virtual parade or “looking for these new trends such as drive-ins or a car tour are in talks. We are planning it.”

Cancun’s Xcaret park will be hosting an online festival to celebrate the holiday.

Although the sustainable park based outside Cancun has suspended all of its events and activities for 2020, in accordance with WHO recommendations, the park will host a virtual celebration for Día de Muertos.

Although the official date hasn’t yet been confirmed, the group says that they are excited to bring the event (now in its 14th year) to people around the world via an online celebration.

Events in the U.S. will also be taking place online – from California to New York.

One of the country’s largest Día de Muertos events, held in LA’s Grand Park will take place with 12 days of virtual celebrations. You’ll find arts workshops, digital ofrendas and storytelling online, as well as in-real-life art installations at the neighboring Downtown locations. Self-Help Graphics & Art—which hosts its own Day of the Dead event—has curated 11 large-scale altars for socially distant viewing, with audio tours available online.

Downey moves its annual Day of the Dead celebration from the city’s civic center to the internet with this virtual celebration. In the lead-up to the event you’ll be able to find recipes and crafting tutorials, and on the day of you can expect a mix of movies, music, ballet folklorico performances, shopping opportunities and a pair of art exhibitions.

And for those of us who can’t wait and/or want 24/7/365 access to Día de Muertos events, there’s always Google. The platform brings tons of Day of the Dead exhibits and information to users around the world through its Google Arts & Culture site, which you can view here.

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