“This is the work of Oaxaca natives,” she says. “It is a tradition we don’t want to lose in our state, in other states, in all of Mexico […] but consumerism is making us lose these traditions; we would rather buy brand clothing than (clothing) that displays our roots.”
The textile merchant turns the black-and-salmon blouse with circular patterns inside out to reveal bold, large birds, leaves and flowers on the other side. Her tent also displays white dresses with embroidered birds and flowers, some of which took up to a month to make by hand.
Zavala is one of the two dozen native artisans and vendors who are holding a fair with textiles, pottery, handicrafts, food and beverages from the southern state of Oaxaca. The fair goes on inside the park off Avenida Tecnologico (the Pan-American Highway) in East-Central Juarez from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Nov. 27.
The exhibit makes for a stark contrast with Applebee’s, Burger King, Mcdonald’s and other American franchises just down the road.
“Most of our products are made by hand or with home tools used for generations: small looms or traditional sewing machines with the pedal. Nothing here was made in an assembly line,” said merchant Sergio Alonzo. “We use natural dyes for our textiles and (the designs) are inspired by our traditions.”
Alonzo sells anything from 36-proof fruit-flavored mezcal to children’s backpacks with stylized images of Indigenous Mexican women.
Lizbeth, a native of Mitla, Oaxaca, runs a kitchen at the fair that dispenses giant mole negro tamales and tlayulas – a dish-sized tortilla with a black bean base, avocado, cheese and meat that some web search engines describe as a Mexican pizza.
The veteran cook says it’s far from fitting that description. “To begin with, we grind the corn for the tortilla in the metate,” say says, referring to the traditional grindstone that Indigenous people in Mexico have been using for centuries.
A few tents down, another vendor sold chapulines fritos (fried grasshoppers).
Many of the vendors said this was their first time on the border, where the heavy traffic and crowded streets contrasts with the peaceful, scenic communities of Oaxaca they hope border residents venture to visit sometime.