Back Porch Work
I want to tell you about a fun little project I’ve dreamt up that has me rambling through the villages of southern Mexico once again. But first, who am I that’s doing the telling? My name is Eric, AKA the founder of Traditions Mexico. Some of you who I have met while guiding trips through southern Mexico, some of you have become friends over the years, and some of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. But perhaps one day.
After 25 years of being deeply and fully immersed in Oaxaca, creating Traditions Mexico and two books about the culture and arts of Oaxaca, I moved back to the USA in 2016. I’ve been improving my English ever since.
But Oaxaca and earthly Mexico does not leave my heart. Nor does my great yearning to follow through on my personal job description: Chewing the fat with old time rooted artisans, village chefs and traditional farmers on the back porch of some rural household or another. It has been in the diligent doing of that very job that I created Traditions Mexico. Every one of our tours was made possible via thorough back porch gab sessions with old timers. And through that job I created Fire and Clay, my first book and deep dive into the culture and wisdom of Oaxaca’s village potters. Later I created Oaxaca Stories in Cloth, a book about indigenous dress ways, identity and roots throughout Oaxaca. All of this is backporch work. Hours of chatting, swapping stories, shooing away chickens pecking at my toes, finding commonalities and wonderful diferencias, exploring questions we have about each other, swatting at flies and gnats, giving thanks for the offering of a steaming bowl of beans and fresh made tortillas, watching the shadows move across the patio, breathing dust and dung-scented air, pausing as the thunder booms and rain drips off the edges of the roof tiles or tin… Back porch work.
I’ve left the shortening days of my northern home in Oregon to come back to this land of swept-earth back porches and chew the fat for a month. And I’m inviting ALL of you along with me no matter where you are in the world. I’ve brought a little magic trick that makes that possible called a video camera with a microphone. I’m recording my back porch chats and we will be posting them, once a week, on our blog. There will be conversations with skilled natural dyers from Teotitlan Del Valle, potters who work the black clay of Coyotepec, an activist working to save the endangered purpura mollusks on the coast of Oaxaca and with the Mixtec man who is the leader of the last group of ancestral (and sustainable) dyers who use those shellfish to dye cotton purple. I will travel to the lowlands and meet with the women who embroider flowers on velvet to make the gala clothing that Frida Kahlo so adored (and is the party clothing of the Zapotecs of the Isthmus). I will film rural chefs making tortillas and chocolate drinks and broths and other smokie kitchen goodness. I’ll talk to founders of organizations that are doing great things to support rural artisans and authors of books about fantastic traditional artisans. I’ll visit Mayan weavers, old time hat makers, Peruvian alpaca herders, Bolivian reed boat builders and…well, there are many great artisanal traditions on this planet and lots of back porches. So stay tuned.
If you don’t want to miss the journey, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, or watch our newsletters or social media for announcements of when we release these back porch interviews.
I hope you enjoy them at least half as much as I do!
-Eric Sebastian Mindling