Silver City, NM – This year, Western New Mexico University's ¡Fiesta Latina! presents Transcending Borders, a free, five-part documentary film discussion series, featuring the stories behind the art of four world-renowned Mexican folk artists and a photographer-storyteller from Oaxaca. Designed to deepen ¡Fiesta Latina! participants' appreciation and understanding of the historical, economic, social and cultural significance of various forms of traditional Hispanic folk art, the film discussions will take place throughout ¡Fiesta Latina! weekend, June 22-24, 2018, in WNMU's Brancheau P.E. Complex.
In each session, these master folk artists will show films to illustrate the many aspects of their traditional art forms, then engage their audience in a facilitated discussion period, with an experienced translator to ensure effective communication. This event, in conjunction with the three-day juried folk-art market, gives ¡Fiesta Latina! attendees a rare opportunity to engage with four of Mexico's finest folk artists, as well as nationally recognized photographer and storyteller, Eric Mindling. Scholars will share their personal stories, discuss their family heritage as expressed through their handcrafts and explore the historic roots of their indigenous art.
Other themes to be examined include how and why folk art has survived through the millennia, how it defines communities and culture, the changing role of women in folk art, and how and why this art continues to awe and inspire us today. Folk art becomes the vehicle for transcending geopolitical borders and even linear time, as scholars and audience members join together in an exploration of its pre-Columbian roots to its present-day influences on contemporary New Mexican cultural traditions and artistic expression.
Film one — "Taller Artesanal de Don Alfonso Castillo Orta — An Introduction to the Unique Creative Process of the Castillo Family" — will be screened on Friday, June 22, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. San Antonio-based ceramicist Patricia Castillo, who will be returning to ¡Fiesta Latina! for the second time, shares tales and images of her life's passion, working with her family in Puebla, Mexico, to preserve their acclaimed clay art tradition. Castillo will share how she melds traditional Mexican folk-art forms such as the Arbol de la Vida (Tree of Life) and Day of the Dead themes, with her unique expression of contemporary life, rooted in the traditions of her homeland, yet inspired by her adult life in Texas. The art of the Castillo family combines utilitarian, ceremonial and decorative objects, juxtaposed with modern techniques and inspired by nature.
On Saturday, June 23, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, "Ritual de los Suenos: Traditional Zapotec Weaving in Teotitlan del Valle" will be screened. World-renowned Zapotec weaver Porfirio Gutiérrez will take participants on a virtual tour of the mountains near Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, where he, as a child, walked with his family, learning about and collecting the plants they would use to make natural dyes — pericón, jarilla leaves and "old man's beard." In Teotitlan, which is internationally recognized for its fine, hand-woven rugs, Gutiérrez and his family are among a small group of textile artisans working to preserve the use of natural dyes whose use has waned, as weavers struggle with the tension between global commerce and tradition. Gutiérrez will inspire participants with his efforts to preserve this tradition, ancient designs depicting Zapotec history, and innovations combining wool with agave fiber and palm, traditionally used to make sleeping mats.
Film three will be shown Saturday, June 23, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. "Dyes of the Coast: The Quest to Save the Mixtec Weaving Tradition" follows Don Habacuc Avendano, Mixtec master weaver and founding member of Cooperativa de Tintoreros de Pinotepa in coastal Oaxaca, Mexico. Audience members will engage with the Mixtec people through the eyes of Avendano as he works to save the endangered purpura pansa snail, the world's only source of tixinda, the sacred purple dye of the Mixtec people.
Avendano will be accompanied by Patrice Perillie of the Mexican Dreamweavers, a 60-member Mixtec cooperative of women weavers who use the purple dye to weave their traditional clothing. Avendano and Perillie will discuss ancient uses of purple dye, and how this natural resource is vital to the survival of the Mixtec people. Other themes to be explored include the historic religious significance of the color purple, and how the cooperative is engaging youth to preserve Mixtec art and culture.
On Saturday, June 23, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., film four, "Living Threads — A Portrait of Cultural Diversity, Roots and Belonging Told Through Cloth" features the work of photographer and storyteller, Eric Mindling, who uses evocative environmental portraits of modern Oaxacan folk artists in their homes, tallers (workshops) and natural landscapes to draw viewers into these ancient, deeply rooted cultures. Through the telling of his personal experiences living and working among the indigenous weaving communities of southern Oaxaca, Mindling provokes engaging discourse on questions of common human themes such as belonging, connection to family, tradition and place. The film is part of the Living Threads Project, a photo documentary showcasing how clothing and adornment are culture made visible.
The Transcending Borders series wraps up on Sunday, June 24, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., with "El Maestro del Arte Don Roberto Ruiz: Su Vida Sigue junto con Su Arte." Brothers Roberto Abraham and Jose Manuel Ruiz, world-renowned carvers and sculptors in miniature on bone, will share the life's work of their father, Don Roberto Ruiz, who rescued this forgotten art form and is a featured master artisan in "Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art," published by Fomento Cultural Banamex. Don Roberto's skills, artistic techniques and passion for the art live on today through his sons, who have become master folk artists in their own right, earning national and international recognition. The Ruiz brothers will trace the footsteps of their childhood, watching their father at this bench, lovingly revealing the unique images hidden within each bone. They will compare and contrast their designs with those of their celebrated father, explain the cultural significance of the symbols and imagery used in their art, and share why they chose to continue this important family tradition.
Funding support for Transcending Borders is provided by the New Mexico Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Town of Silver City and Western New Mexico University. More information is available at fiestalatina.org or 575-538-6469.