Yucatán

Carambamos 2016

The New Whitney, Motley

The New Whitney, Motley

Isla Mujeres, México

Isla Mujeres, México

Mérida house

Mérida house

The New Whitney, NYC

The New Whitney, NYC

Billi via kaleidoscope 

Billi via kaleidoscope 

The New Whitney, NYC

The New Whitney, NYC

The market at Oxkutzcab, Yucatán

The market at Oxkutzcab, Yucatán

The breath of a new year rejuvenates people in the most obvious ways. Everyone gets taller and walks a little bit faster, smiling at people wearing hats, laughing at themselves when they trip. First in New York City, then Mérida, Isla Mujeres, Yaxhachen & now Mérida again, I can't stop listening to music about place (put the album Currents  by Tame Impala on your Spotify queue) and making new connections. Feeling global. Still stupidly smiling at cats and people, too.  

The North Point at Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Riviera Maya. Foto by Allie Jordan <3

The North Point at Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Riviera Maya. Foto by Allie Jordan <3

I set place-oriented goals for myself as I sink into the life of someone who lives abroad. This year I will read a novel en español, and I'll visit at least 3 new countries. I expect a year of a lot of firsts and new connections. I made resolutions to be happy and to put personal spiritual health first, which definitely hasn't been the case in 2014 and 2015. Beginning Ko'ox Boon felt equivalent to having a newborn (no sleep at night), then a toddler (always falling down and in danger of head bumping). Now Ko'ox Boon is a precocious kindergartener. She speaks for herself, and she has many more friends that she likes better than me half the time anyway. I used to have to articulate for her, now she chatters about with so much confidence. It's absolutely beautiful. 

Making dream catchers with my bae, Oscar&nbsp;

Making dream catchers with my bae, Oscar 

Science art with YAXHA Bordados &amp; Becca Haydu

Science art with YAXHA Bordados & Becca Haydu

This year is a parade of talent and activist enthusiasm coming from all corners. Starting out with a new Artist in Residence, Becca Haydu will use science to transpose the folkloric art of embroidery onto the realism of photography. The work that she cultivates through her connections with YAXHA Bordados and Ko'ox Boon will serve as her senior thesis project at the College of Atlantic, a liberal arts school where everyone studies Human Ecology. Allie and I look forward to hosting a gallery of her botanical-themed, socially-engaging work at our Mérida house on March 12. 

Meanwhile in Yaxhachen, we are expected to break ground on a bathroom in February, bringing running water to Casa Yaxha for the first time ever! Boasting locally-sourced materials and traditional Mayan architecture, the bathroom and running water symbolize cultural stability and community growth. With solid infrastructure, the center will provide a secure, hygienic, stimulating space for educational and community groups. This project was made possible thanks to generous support from The Pollination Project, an organization which empowers its grantees to be changemakers. I am so beyond honored to be on this journey with this incredible organization! <3

In late March, we will embark on the process phase of our Paris/Barcelona intercultural exchange with graduate students at the European Studies Institute at the University of Paris 8, Cleménce Thibault, Imane Hammar, Nikita Prin and Thomas Vassort. Clemence approached us in October with the idea to form a group within the "Politics and Management of Culture in Europe" Master's program to work with Ko'ox Boon, which she had just begun. She recruited Imane, Nikita, and Thomas, and they researched and conceptualized a stellar vision for stimulating exchange between 10-12 year olds from a culturually diverse neighborhood in Paris called La Plaine and our kids in Yaxhachen. The project involves correlative cultural excursions and the invention and filming of a collaborative shadow and sound film. We've recruited Mexican artists Orlando Dominguez, Astrid Cobb, Oscar Estrada and Fernando Baqueiro for facilitating the creative experience of our kids throughout April and May. In early June, Allie and I will travel to Paris for a screening and gallery exhibit of the project. Ko'ox Bonne!  

We will then walk directly into the counselor training week of the third annual Camp Ko'ox, which we project to serve 250 kids. We are dying to announce the lineup of artists and generally cool people volunteering this summer, but we can only give you this sneak peek right now! ⚡️ 

The Camp will run throughout the entire month of July, coming to a celebratory fin on July 30, when Yaxhachen will host a "Museo en Vivo." Everyone's invited! 

On August 1st, there will be a change. I will leave my job with Millsaps and seek a new funding opportunity. I am not sure what will happen--this is where the calendar ends--but I think I feel ok about it. I am exploring grant opportunities and potential intercultural exchanges with other cities, hoping that the voice of Ko'ox Boon articulates itself clearly enough to be noticed. For now, I'll enjoy the naive freshness of a new year in a pair of jean shorts and sandals, grateful for every second I live in the land of eternal summer. ✌🏽️

"Super Explorer," Mérida&nbsp;

"Super Explorer," Mérida 

Tez & Birjinia Technicolor Harvest

Olivia practices the art of hand painting flowers on white fabric, which she sews into huipiles. She is a bread maker. Beyond flowers, she &amp; her husband cultivate yuca, espelón, limes, squash, fresh eggs and, of course, maize. We can't wait to see what the Spring Collection has in store!

Olivia practices the art of hand painting flowers on white fabric, which she sews into huipiles. She is a bread maker. Beyond flowers, she & her husband cultivate yuca, espelón, limes, squash, fresh eggs and, of course, maize. We can't wait to see what the Spring Collection has in store!

Sami Euan Chel & Olivia Tep Selis have three little girls & a field full of flowers to tend to on the daily. Snugged along the Ruta Puuc in Cooperativa, Emiliano Zapata, Yucatán, the farm has been tended by the same family for generations, thriving off of the seeds from the seeds of mothers, grandmothers & great grandfathers. The tradition of tending flowers is long-held in Yucatán, whether in the garden, murals, or on the sleeves of the traditional dress, the huipil. 

Welcome to the Harvest :) 

While at the farm, Allie & I picked up several tez and birjinia flowers to decorate our altar for Hanal Pixan, a reverent season in the heart of harvest, where we honor the ones that we've lost. It's interesting that Día de los Muertos is nestled into the luscious October month, when there's so much life & fauna everywhere. Looming over roadsides, gushing out of truckbeds, & heating up over open fire stoves. Rain is always in the air, even when it's invisible. 

October has a feeling of potency. Rightness. The continuing of tradition. A field of technicolored flowers. It is with this theme that we introduce YAXHA Bordado's Homecoming collection. See you next weekend, Mother Millsaps!

Purchase products from the YAXHA Bordados Homecoming collection at Millsaps College on October 30 &amp; 31. Products include hand-stitched pillow cases, unique pocket t-shirts &amp; tote bags. Remember, every purchase you make helps to provide dignified work for a Maya speaking artisan from Yaxhachen, Yucatán.&nbsp;

Purchase products from the YAXHA Bordados Homecoming collection at Millsaps College on October 30 & 31. Products include hand-stitched pillow cases, unique pocket t-shirts & tote bags. Remember, every purchase you make helps to provide dignified work for a Maya speaking artisan from Yaxhachen, Yucatán. 

Photos by AlDog

Words & Art Direction by MandiCat

Makin' the Medias in Mérida

Nestor,&nbsp;Raquel,&nbsp;Mandi &amp; Allie after recording for Telesur on Saturday, August 22, 2015 en la casa con la puerta azul.&nbsp;

Nestor, Raquel, Mandi & Allie after recording for Telesur on Saturday, August 22, 2015 en la casa con la puerta azul. 

The last five days have been a complete whirlwind for Allie Jordan & myself, Mandi Strickland. Last Saturday, with the help of our friends, we threw a couple of coats of yellow & turquoise paint on our Mérida house located in the Santiago neighborhood of the Centro, opened up the doors, and invited the people of Mérida to view and buy 40 unique pocket t-shirts. We created a small "store" in our house, featuring YAXHA Bordados products & telling the story of Ko'ox Boon through photography & video.

The party was set to begin at 6 pm. Allie and I were still getting dressed, when the crew from a local news channel "Telesur" walked into the blue front doors. I greeted them profusely, my hair in knots, and excused myself. My voice shook as I knocked on the bathroom door, "Um, Allie, I think you should probably get out of the shower. We have a TV interview in five minutes." 

Raquel & Nestor--the reporters from Telesur--made us feel right at home. At first, we were afraid. The big, red microphone very close to our faces, Raquel still managed to transfuse her confidence into us. We traded back and forth talking, then looking at each other in silent encouragement. After the interview, Raquel and Nestor went back to the office to drop off their equipment & return to our party, this time to have a few beers. 

On Monday we received messages from reporter Abraham Bote at Diario de Yucatán, the peninsula's longest-running, most respected print news source. He hurriedly made plans to interview us the next day. That night we made chicken curry and streamed our TV interview from the local news, picking apart our strengths & weaknesses, and prepared the Spanish words in the right order for our first print interview: conservar, desarollar, promover. 

Mandi &amp; Allie with reporter, Abraham Bote from Diario de Yucatán, wearing his new YAXHA Bordados pocket t-shirt by Ko'ox Boon. (Yes, Allie and I are wearing the same shirts in both interviews.)

Mandi & Allie with reporter, Abraham Bote from Diario de Yucatán, wearing his new YAXHA Bordados pocket t-shirt by Ko'ox Boon. (Yes, Allie and I are wearing the same shirts in both interviews.)

At 2:03 pm on Tuesday we arrived at the Diario, bringing along our trusty intern, Orlando Dominguez for Spanish back-up. We were all palpably intimidated. The ceilings were a million feet tall. There was marble and really, really big, practical paintings of pyramids taking up two stories of walls. Glass cases displayed antique typewriters and printing presses. 

The lady at the front desk called the reporter on a land-line, while Allie, Orlando & I sat in soft, black chairs and waited.  Abraham walked us through a maze of impressive architecture into a conference room with squeaky leather chairs and warm books. He interviewed us with patience, interest, and kindness, and in true, southern girl style, Abraham (like Raquel and Nestor) became our friend by the end of our 30 minute conversation.  

The next morning I proudly hustled two blocks to the news stand, where the lady who sold me two copies of the newspaper told me that she was grateful for the work of the foundation, Ko'ox Boon. She had already read the article, titled, "Un Mundo Más Igual." 

It means, "A more equal world" in English, and it's nestled in page two of the Local section underneath a header titled, "Nuestra Gente." Our people creating a more equal world. This, in itself, feels like a step towards equality, across gender, class, and race. Allie and I are the people of Yucatán, too. 

At the end of the week, we send out a million thanks to the people of Mérida, Yaxhachen, Oxkutzcab & Jackson, Mississippi alike. Thank you for the constant support & for always wanting to share our story. We love you! <3

 

Links to Mérida Media!

MACAY ArteConexión Radio interview, July 31st, 2015: Part 1 & Part 2

Telesur TV interview: August 24th, 2015

Diario de Yucatán news article: August 26th, 2015 

Blog post about our YAXHA fiestita by Eclosión Cultural