I am swarmed by the tribes of Native American Indians that are dressed in vibrant colors as I pull out my very expensive camera in the open air of the Mercado. Some of the Indians smile sheepishly while others turn away unsure of this American that does not fit in.
Thankfully I had a Oaxacan guide that could help hone my bartering skills. There were probably thirteen tribes of Indians represented. No one had money. They were all there to barter, to trade, to exchange.
In the courtyard, each stall showcased their wares… hand woven rugs, handcrafted jewelry, fresh produce, the scent of glorious herbs and strings of bold red dried jalapenos, colorful artwork, clothing stitched by the worn hands of elderly women, and oh my, hog’s heads and livestock, all ready for the chatter of back and forth exchanges.
Intrigued, I was drawn to one stall of rugs and the weavers at the loom explained how they get the red color in the threads of yarn. They come from the blood of mites that appear on cacti after a good rain. From start to finish, each rug is handcrafted using colors from nature to weave their magic.
I loved watching the artisans as they eagerly held their paint brush or showed their pottery skills to someone with actual money in their pocket. The jewelry glowed in the sunlight as I was wondered how I would get all these cultural mementos home?
I watched as families arrived in decorated carts pulled by oxen. Music greeted us all. The air was full of a dialect I did not recognize but the simple joy on their faces is what I remember.
Dark skinned children were everywhere, barefoot and smiling and following this strange woman with a camera. Some of the la madras’ worked the stalls with babies on their backs. Young and old were part of this happening event.
The many tribes that assembled in the village Mercado on this fateful day seem foreign but at the same time I did not think of them as poor but as rich in their cultural ways and simple productive lives. Each fourth Saturday of the month, the families come from far and wide to congregate together in search of the necessities for their lives, forming a deep bond of resilience and pride.
Later as I sat with my family of friends on the square in this village, entranced by the buildings and the lone church nestled in all its man-made architectural glory, I am reminded of a different tribe from where I came from. Every day, I have the luxury of turning a light on in the dark; they are guided by the stars. I walk on plush carpet; they have dirt floors. For water, I just turn on a faucet; they haul water into their thatched homes each day. I have money in my pocket; they have none. I buy food at the store; they grow their own. They travel by foot or horseback or in amazingly colorful carts while I have the luxury of a gas guzzling car. And while I am challenged by the crowded masses of shoppers and traffic; the clothes on their backs are all handmade.
As I return home to my tribe, my village, I strongly believe I was meant to see what I saw, to feel in some way the renewing of my mind believing “love starts in the home.” I long to be an echo for others rich in seeking the love and humanity in all of us.
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