Friday, May 29, 2009

They've Been Made Official

This past week the MNINI group of women reached an important milestone; they are now officially recognized as the first indigenous cooperative in the state of Jalisco. In celebration and to honor their supporters they held a ceremony and cooked a great meal. They also found out that they have been bestowed a grant to buy sewing machines in order to speed up tedious tasks such as sewing zippers and seams.
I headed up to this celebration on Cerro del Cuatro with Danielle, the founder of CODENI and large mover and shaker behind this group, as well as Meghan who wrote the grant proposal for the sewing machines, and Kevin, a photographer who was here this past week focusing on documenting these Otomí women. We arrived to find Felipa grinding fresh cumin...

Bernadita and Alberta making corn tortillas...

and Maura and Nicasia stirring mole in an enormous ceramic bowl.

Above Danielle is speaking with Juana, one of the leaders of MNINI and owner of the house where we meet every other Thursday.

Edith, perhaps a future CODENI kid

Rosa and Francisca joking with each other after dressing in their traditional clothes

Sofía, Rosa and Maura waiting to begin their ceremony

Meghan, Sofía and her son Jorge

Preparation of food

Ruth (who has been a supporter of MNINI and offers literacy classes for the women three times a week), Rosa, Francisca and Bernadita

The lawyer who helped the group become recognized by the state, handing over the official papers to Rosa. This lawyer is indigenous as well and left Chiapas as a 13-year-old to seek out a better life for himself.

With official recognition, the promise of sewing machines and their first big order for Twisted Goods in Canada nearing completion, I am full of hope that success will continue for these women.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mezquitan Man

I pass him often on my walk to the subway, a fruit vendor who is always stationed at the same corner outside of the cemetery in Mezquitan Country, my neighborhood. I notice him because he is a sweet-looking elderly man who is always hunched over focusing intently on peeling and cutting.

Yesterday as I was waiting for the traffic light to change I turned to watch him slowly maneuver his cart down the busy street. He was through vending for the day and was inching home with cars whizzing closely past him. I frowned and my throat tightened as I watched him, realizing that this is the man's retirement. Days spent peeling fruit and vegetables for passersby who take interest in a refreshing snack. It could be that he enjoys his time on the street corner, I am not entirely sure. But after approaching him for the first time today to purchase a watermelon cucumber medley I decided I would make a habit of saying more to him when I see him, just to make sure he knows that I notice him.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Truth With a Camera

I wanted to use this blog entry to divert your attention from my own blog to Truth With A Camera - the workshop that Josh and three other photographers from the states are running this week in Guadalajara. 10 American and 10 Mexican students are paired with various non-profits throughout the city including a school for the blind, a home for sexually abused girls, a group that aids migrants navigating by train, a home for the handicapped, and of course CODENI, to name a few. Each day a different non-profit will be featured on the Truth With a Camera blog, as well as an ever-changing and expanding gallery of student images. Before I go, an image from my walk to the workshop this morning.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Though it still is far from completion, I thought I would provide a look at the progress of my most recent painting. The woman in the foreground is Rocio, who spends each day at a busy intersection washing windshields while her 1-year-old sits in a stroller, and her 3-year-old plays in the median.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seasons Change

We are staying grounded in Guadalajara for a few weeks and it feels good. The rainy season has started, so the evenings cool considerably and the sound of rain is delightful after a 6 month hiatus. Mangoes are back in season and are cheap, delicious and plentiful. I was sighing as I whipped up a batch of guacamole with our excess of avocados, knowing that this will be a markedly more expensive venture upon return to the states.

After the influenza scare businesses are back in business and schools have re-opened after a two-week closure. People have flooded back onto the streets and many have forgone the masks. Entrepreneurs are making a killing off of selling hand sanitizer in fancy plastic bottles on street corners.

Painting classes are back in session and I am nearing completion of a third painting. I have now begun to work on a website for Kamami, as well as a site for my friend David, who is an architect.

Josh has been working hard to prepare for the Truth With A Camera workshop, which begins this Sunday. We had dinner with photographer and friend Jose Hernández Claire and his wife Nora. They were overly accommodating with tequila and lonches (sandwiches) and botanos (appetizers) as we discussed the upcoming workshop.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kentucky Bound

Though we have a few months left to carry out more work in Guadalajara, we spent this past week focusing on our next move- to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Josh accepted a job as a professional-in-residence at Western Kentucky University teaching photojournalism and multimedia. WKU offers one of the best visual journalism programs in the country, and Josh will be in the thick of it come 2009-2010 school year. I spent the past week searching for an "in" to the university as well and could likely begin with an adjunct position at the school.

Thus, we flew into Nashville (one hour south) and drove the quiet, clean stretch into Bowling Green, population 55,000 (with 20,000 students) on a Sunday evening. Having become accustomed to readily available food at just about any hour on most street corners in Guadalajara, we had to dig a little deeper in Bowling Green. We appropriately ended up at a college bar and pizza joint and enjoyed tasty pale ales after months of drinking light beer. We were fortunate to stay with Mac, a writing professor in the journalism department who kindly offered his spare bedroom during our house hunt and my job search in the city. He was over the top accommodating for us and even packed a lunch for us to take on our flight back to Guadalajara. We had great conversations with him about the city and school, and his enthusiasm about his students made Josh's decision to teach at WKU seem even better.

Both Josh and I have wanted to live in a college town, and our short experience in BG made this notion more concrete. This move will be bittersweet, as there are many we have grown close to in Roanoke, and we love the Appalachian mountains and our 100-year-old home. My job at North Cross School was a good one, and might be a little tough to match. But this initial trip reassured us that this decision was a good one, and we embrace having much to learn and discover in the coming months.

Evidently the students in the photojournalism program were large supporters of Josh during his interview process, and at an end-of-the-year picnic with photo students we found it was apparent they are excited about his arrival in the fall.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mi Cuñada

Despite the recent flu scare, my sister-in-law Emily "braved" the elements and is here visiting from New York for the week. Though we have not actually been wearing masks here, it was fun to pose with Madero above.

We spent part of our time on the coast back in San Blas, one of Josh and my favorite beach destinations thus far. The beach is lengthy and the sand is white and fine. It is also shallow for quite some distance, and this in turn makes for 'sweet' body surfing. We used kick boards to help propel us around 75 yards at times. We even made an attempt to get surfing lessons, but the instructor told us the waves just weren't right at that moment.
On our second evening we drove down the coast to revisit San Francisco, a town that Josh and I went to with my parents back in March. We were determined to eat at one of the best restaurants we have eaten at in Mexico, La Ola Rica. Before dinner we walked down by the beach and watched the surfers for a while.

Los Surfistas from Melissa Warp on Vimeo.

During our drive back to Guadalajara we were stopped at a roadside inspection where they inquired whether we were sick, and where we were coming from and going to. We dared not mention the "F" word (it's the "I" word for Influenza if you speak español). We also stopped over in a little town called Magdalena to look at opals, and hit the town of Tequila to buy some agave syrup. The drive into and away from Tequila is something to be seen, comparable to driving through rolling vineyards or orchards. The agave plants seems to dot every hillside in that region and have a blue glow when seen in vast numbers.

It is hot, hot here in Guadalajara now. Tonight it rained for the first time in months and it felt cool and wonderful. We spent a good portion of the day indoors taking care of computer work... then later in the day we ventured to Tlaquepaque, a town that has become merged with Guadalajara and is known for its pretty central plaza and stores selling locally made ceramics, weavings, tin ornaments, beaded jewelry and more. Josh and I were giddy about purchasing a quilt made in Guatamala, something we saw when we first arrived here and finally decided to buy. We also purchased a mirror decorated with tiles portraying luchadores (infamous lucha libre fighters) that I wish I could show, but is packaged for travel. I hate to disrupt it.
This evening we are wrapping up a relaxing week with a home-cooked dinner as Emily is cooking chicken with Indian spices. We have enjoyed our time with her and will probably go through some withdrawl after she leaves, as she is our last guest after a series of weeks with visitors.

Monday, May 4, 2009


In a few weeks, Josh will be involved with the running of a workshop here in Guadalajara titled "Truth With a Camera." 10 photojournalism students from universities around the U.S. will travel here and each will be paired with a different non-profit organization. They will spend the week shooting photos that will benefit both parties; the non-profit will have photos to use to use for marketing, and the photographer will have the opportunity to expand their portfolio with new work. Along with this it is hoped that the student will benefit from a meaningful and eye-opening experience in a foreign country.

This morning I had a meeting with the director of one of the non-profit organizations called Kamami, a home for girls who have been sexually abused. Josh mentioned to the director that I have been designing websites for non-profits while living in Guadalajara, and the director scheduled a meeting with me to see if I could produce a new site for them.

I was really struck by my experience this morning, beginning with the moment I entered the building. Two young girls answered the door and welcomed me into a small courtyard where there were other little girls huddled together giggling on a couch. The atmosphere was bright, and the girls I encountered all seemed happy, despite their circumstances for living in Casa Kamami. There are various bedrooms in the space and each has a couple sets of bunk beds. There is a kitchen where the older girls living in the home cook meals for everyone, and they all eat together in a small dining area. The space is not huge, but it is adequate for the 19 girls who are currently housed there. I could not get out of my mind how tragic their situations must have been, and how important Casa Kamami is for them. The director thanked me profusely for taking on this project, but after the visit today I just don't know how there could be an alternative.