In Oaxaca we are dignified, happy, hardworking and giants: Tonatiuh Estrada

OAXACA, Oax. (sucedióía COMMUNIQUÉ).- The Guelaguetza 2023 “is based on culture and knowledge, it is not an empty party. We are full of spirituality, music, dance and art. That I try to reflect with my calenda dolls, all the wealth of knowledge that we have”, said Tonatiuh Estrada.

The artist, author of the monumental sculptures that were installed on the corners of the capital’s main square, the Alameda de León, the corner of Guerrero and Armenta y López, the temple and old convent of San Agustín, the streets of Las Casas and Flores Magón of the Benito Juárez Maza market, and of Valdivieso and Independencia avenue, points out that these are works for the enjoyment of the Oaxacan people, more than for those who visit the city.

The dolls seek to represent the women of Oaxaca with dignity

The artist, who has been making calenda dolls, monumental sculptures, and wooden figures and various materials inspired by Oaxacan culture and art for 30 years, points out that in these works he tries to “represent Oaxacan women with dignity.”

“All the dolls are brown, I want to highlight the color, our color, our race. And I want to represent them with dignity and joy. It is what we are as Oaxacan men and women, dignified, happy workers and giants, ”she highlighted.

The Secretary of Tourism of the State of Oaxaca, in coordination with the Institute for the Promotion and Protection of Handicrafts (IFPA) and the Inter-institutional Organizing Committee summoned the artist to elaborate the giant sculptures with the purpose of disseminating the intrinsic art and culture in the clothing of seven women and the Devil of Juxtlahuaca chosen for this Guelaguetza 2023.

The giant sculptures represent the woman of San Melchor Betaza from the Sierra de Juárez; the Devil Dancer of Juxtlahuaca from the Mixteca region; the woman from San Felipe Usila from the Papaloapan Basin, the woman from Huautla de Jiménez from the Sierra de Flores Magón, the woman from San Pedro Pochutla, the Chatina from Juquila, the Oaxacan China from the Central Valleys and the woman from Santo Domingo Tehuantepec , of the Isthmus.

Tonatiuh Estrada, who lived her childhood in a house on Calle de Morelos, says, “I had the Plaza de la Danza as a playground,” and tells that she collected a lot of information about the clothing.

“They are not just calenda dolls to decorate, they are documents that try to make people learn what we are and how we are. For example, the hairstyle is done by professional people who are dedicated to combing the participants in the parties, ”she explained.

The women’s braids, he commented, have meaning for the towns: “some have a braid in front which means that the woman is engaged, others have the braids in the back which means that they are single and can get married, and some have both braids in front because they are already married.

Our great party is based on culture and knowledge

It is about giving information “about our cultures, they are not just decorative pieces. We try to give knowledge of our communities. Our great festival of the peoples of Oaxaca is based on culture and knowledge. It is not an empty party, we are full of spirituality, knowledge and culture. That is what I try to reflect, all the wealth of knowledge that we have”.

But at the same time, they are joyous, festive figures, like the dolls that dance in the calendas, far removed from the formalism of the giants and big-headed fiestas in Spain, from which they originate. He says that these figures were an element for evangelization and the towns of Oaxaca gave it their festive, jubilant, smiling, playful character.

Some characters from the towns of the eight regions were chosen and the clothing was a special work, made by Oaxacan artisans and artisans such as Macrina Reyes and Rodrigo Villanueva, among others. Each figure has a person craftsman for the clothes of him.

When we ask where we come from, we value who we are more

“I want the people of our town to see them, enjoy them, play and interact with them. And wonder why they wear those clothes, why we are like that. Because when we ask ourselves where we come from, we learn more and value who we are more. Each one is different, that’s what I’m looking for, and that people have a good time, especially those of us who are from Oaxaca”, explained the artist.

“I was very happy to see a woman from Tlacolula in her traditional dress taking pictures hugging the doll. This work is for them, for us, for them to enjoy, ”she stressed.

Tonatiuh Estrada considered that it is a success that in this Guelaguetza 2023 the indigenous and popular roots of the great party are retaken, “you will notice that there is a black woman because they introduced all the regions and all the ethnic groups and they are recovering the spaces of the city with beauty, we are recovering our parks, our streets and they are opening them for all people with something very positive, with beauty. No force, no police. That is the most important thing to me.

He commented on the importance of women’s dresses, their cultural and historical value, such as that of China Oaxaca, which is a costume of religious origin, “Catholic, that’s why it has a cross and a medal, that’s why they wear a shawl and it’s so adorned with gold medals and filigree earrings, with the image of the Virgen de la Soledad over the heart”.

He explained that for the faces and initial sculptures he was inspired by relatives, “I took a person’s nose, eyes, photos of nieces when they were young and I mixed them with photos of people from Oaxaca to have a stylized but Oaxacan face. The case of the Costa doll, which is black, is special. If you realize they are all brunettes, because we have to rescue the color and feel proud of our brown color ”.

She made the eight figures in two months, against the clock and had to hire artisans especially for the clothing, “it is a very enriching job, I soaked up a lot of information to be able to make the pieces, I got advice, I took photos of the original huipiles. For example, the hairstyles are appropriate to the region, the textiles were made in digital printing but the closest thing to fabrics”.

These pieces “are dedicated to our townspeople, they are not for tourism, they are for us, but everyone can enjoy them. My greatest satisfaction is that most of the people who stop to take photos are from Oaxaca. The photos are taken with their dolls, in their traditional clothing. It is to celebrate that we are sister nations”, said the artist Albert Tonatiuh Estrada Martínez.

The figures have been a great success. Thousands of girls, boys and older people stand surprised to enjoy them and take pictures with them. It is like recognizing oneself in a party doll, from a calenda, that with its smiles and brown colors and Oaxacan features brighten our hearts in this great spiritual festival of Guelaguetza 2023.

In Oaxaca we are dignified, happy, hardworking and giants: Tonatiuh Estrada – It happened in Oaxaca