Our journey to San Marcos takes us a step back in time. This is a very traditional Zapotec village where the fields are tilled with oxen and the corn for tortillas is ground daily on stone metates. From the making of the day's pile of tortillas over the fire at day-break, followed by a few hours turning clay into pots, to the mid-day meal preparation and trip to the fields to deliver hot bowls of mole and tamales to husbands and sons, and the late afternoon spent gathering firewood or visiting neighbors, the rhythms of a potters day have changed little in 500 years...except for one detail.
Mid-afternoon, from 3 o'clock to 5 o'clock, the soap operas are on the tube, and the clay, the tortillas, and firewood can all wait just a bit.
San Marcos pots are made with a tan clay that is finished with a colored slip - a mixture of water and very fine, iron-rich clay. The surface is then burnished with a smooth stone, giving the pot its shiney red finish.
The pots often contain tiny flecks of what appears to be gold. This is mica, often known as fool's gold. In San Marcos, you will be told that this is gold, and the price of the pot will vary accordingly.
Catalina resting after
a pottery-making session
Copyright © 1995-2001 Tony and Eric Mindling