Friday, June 16, 2017

The Blood of the Earth

Francesca Martinez Aragón and her sister Angela are potters. They live in the house their family has lived in for generations turning the red clay that is unique to San Marcos Tlapazola into ollas, comales, cazuelas, floreros and platos. They work in a manner that has not changed for hundreds of years. 
Nearly all of women of San Marcos work clay. Francesca is the president of the local
Francesca & Angela Aragón
woman's cooperative that has over 120 members. Because San Marcos is off the beaten track, very few people go there to purchase their products. Francesca takes the group's work to craft fairs in the city of Oaxaca three times a year. Some women go to the market in Tlacolula, the nearest big pueblo, to sell. They have no wheel for throwing their pots, only a special round stone that they place the clay upon. A corn cob is used for shaping the pot from the outside, a gourd for hollowing and shaping the inside, the sole of a shoe for forming the opening, and a stone that has been passed down over the generations for polishing.

All of the materials used are local. The woman go with wheelbarrows to get the red clay, the pigment, and fine sand used in their pots. They do not have kilns, instead the pots are low-fired in the courtyard of the property using local firewood. Pots are covered with wood and remain in the fire for two hours. They are then polished using the special family stones.
Don Antonio
Doña Maria Aragón Morales

Francesca and Angela began to work clay at a very young age. They were taught by their mother and grandmother. Their mother still makes plates and comales in her old age. Men do not work clay; they are campesinos and plant corn and other crops to feed their families. Their father, Antonio, worked the fields with his team of oxen and a wooden plow until two years ago. Besides the clay work, the women also help in the fields planting beans for the family table.
 Their life is one of sheer simplicity. When I  asked Francesca about how much money she made a month, she replied "Very little, just enough to pay the electricity and telephone and buy the materials we need for our work". Otherwise, they are nearly self-sufficient. For Francesca, the thought of stopping working is nonexistent. She cannot foresee a day when she could not work, it is her life. Neither Francesca nor Angela ever married, their work needed all of their attention. And being president of the cooperative requires lots of energy. 

So they go on working as they always have, shaping the rich, red clay of San Marcos, planting their corn and black beans, and selling enough to pay the bills. It is as if the red clay runs through their veins and nourishes their soul. Their life is so interconnected with the soil that they do not notice time pass. Their entire life is hecho a mano, not just their pots.

1 comment:

Dianne R. said...

Deek, I always say the same... You have an eye for the beautiful in both your photos and your words. Thanks for sharing. Dianne