From the Field: Americas Research Interest Group
by Stephanie Wood, Senior Research Associate, CSWS
Oaxaca, Mexico—On March 22nd Gabriela Martínez and I went deep into the Mixteca Alta to visit an archive in search of early manuscripts (kind of a bust) and then to go to a pueblo where one of the young women comes from who is on scholarship at our sister-institution, the Casa de la Mujer. Reyna Bautista invited us for lunch and to meet her family. Her mother, Zoila Bautista Hernández, is a monolingual Mixtec speaker. Zoila sat for the video camera and told us a legend about the monolith that towers over the community. In ancient times, it had two parts, a male and a female part. The female part got angry at the male, broke off, and went to the coast, opening up a path between the mountains. For me, this legend echoes a recurring element in prehispanic Mesoamerican gender ideology, which finds expression in manuscripts, of a “founding couple,” male and female, both parts necessary for human origins and town foundings.
After lunch, we went to say hello to the grandmother, Ramona López Bautista, who raises silkworms. Silk was an industry introduced by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. Only small numbers of people still practice the cultivation today. Ramona has a small house that is filled with boxes of white worms, each one about 1.25 inches in length. When we arrived, she fed them mulberry leaves so we could watch the worms eat. We also got to see the boiled fiber from the cocoons and the spun thread that Ramona makes and sells.
One of the delightful moments of the day was when Gaby showed Ramona the footage she had shot, and Ramona, who is 74, laughed heartily at seeing herself moving around on the little screen. She got a kick out of the fact that she still had some black hair at the back of her head, because her hair is quite white around her face and she had never seen the back of her own head!
P.S. Reyna leaves for Mexico City on Wednesday for a meeting with Hillary Clinton! She’s very excited. This meeting with Hillary is for “CASS” scholarship recipients. Reyna not only had a scholarship from the Casa de la Mujer, but also from the Cooperative Association for States Scholarships (CASS), with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Reyna had two years of study at Mt. Hood Community College near Portland, Oregon, thanks to her CASS funding. That’s Reyna smiling on the right, in the Oregon women’s basketball t-shirt I gave her.