Strange Tales of Magic and Miracles:
Contemporary Ex Votos in San Cristobal
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexcio
Oct 26 – Nov 3, 2015
Registration starts NOW!
Contact Colleen Darling to Register:
Join Michael deMeng for a workshop in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. We are celebrating our 8th year of dia de los Muertos workshops in Mexico and this will be a new city for us to visit so lots of exciting adventures await us.
The dia de los Muertos traditions are unique to this part of Mexico. Mayan beliefs combined with parts of Catholicism are different in each village. We will explore several village cemeteries and the city cemetery too.
We will spend 8 nights and 9 days exploring the lush highlands of Chiapas, a state rich in Mayan culture and history. Workshop time will be combined with day trips to nearby villages and artist’s studios. The city is completely walking friendly with several pedestrian walking streets and lots of shops and galleries to visit. The local indigenous continue to wear the native dress of their village and they are all different so you are able to tell where people are from.
The food is delicious and we will do lots of sampling. The specialties are tamales and cheese. The local beverage is Pox, a white lightening sort of beverage used in ceremonies and just to drink. It is becoming a popular boutique beverage too as Mezcal has made its way to the US. There are many European ex-pats in San Cristobal and they have brought with them their culinary expertise. Many choices of cuisines are available in the restaurants and an abundance of organic coffee is grown in Chiapas too.
Have you ever had one of those experiences where something bad happened, or was about to happen and then…the unexpected occurs….what seemed to be an inevitable tragedy is suddenly thwarted by unexplained miracle. I remember a number of years ago being on an the freeway in the Bay Area driving along at excessive speeds in the fast lane when a car in front of me slammed on the brakes. This in turn led me to slam on my brakes. Next thing I know I’m spinning out of control through the various freeway lanes, and then, out of the corner of my eye I see what I expect to be my doom: a large semi truck cruising toward me at high speed. Time slowed down and I was oddly calm given that at any moment I expected the large truck to come plowing into little ol’ me. But the strangest thing happened…instead of being smooshed, I found my vehicle stopped, facing the traffic. Looming in front of my Ford Mustang, the big semi was a car’s length away…stopped. As to how the truck driver managed to brake in time, that remains a mystery, but it is one of those strange moments where you feel as if some mystical force intervened on your behalf.
In Mexico there is an art form that addresses such strange inexplicable events called ex votos. Ex votos are small paintings, typically on tin and often not much larger than 12 inches in any dimension. They are depictions of the moment of tragedy or potential tragedy that was thwarted by divine intervention. Somewhere towards the top of these tiny painting would be the image of the patron saint responsible for the miracle; on the bottom is a written description of the miracle with the date and location of the events. This was an art form that really thrived in the 1800s, though it does continue to this day. Typically the process would be that a miracle would occur, the recipient would convey the information to a local artisan who would in turn paint out the scene with the description. The ex voto would then be hung in a church with a simple nail in the top. Many Mexican churches have an entire wall devoted to these little paintings; a mosaic of miracles.
Samples of Traditional ex Votos:
This year’s deMeng de los Muertos workshop takes us to the mysterious mountain village of San Cristobal. On the Mexican government’s list of most magical places (Pueblo Magiko), this seemed like more than an ideal setting to explore the magic of ex votos…but in a slightly more contemporary way. In this class we are going to create mixed media interpretations of this artform. Collage, painting and assemblage will be used to create a representation of a personal miracle. One thing I should mention, not all of ex votos are entirely serious, in fact many are rather humorous. So if you don’t have a near death experience, that’s ok. You could just as easily create an ex voto depicting the time your little sister tried to pelt you with a water balloon but…thank the heavens…a hummingbird popped it in mid air. Did I mention that a bit of artistic license and embellishment of events is not out of the realm of possibilities?
Sample Mixed Media Ex Votos:
Monday October 26th - Arrival day. Flights come into Tuxtla Gutierrez (TGZ) and then a shuttle brings you into San Cristobal. It is a 40 min. ride on a good highway as you climb from the steamy lowlands up into the mountains. San Cristobal is at about 6900ft. We will settle into the hotel and regroup from the various flights.
Tuesday October 27th – Breakfast. Workshop begins at 10am. Lunch at 1pm and a walk around the city to get oriented. Return to the workshop. Welcome dinner at 7:30pm
Wednesday October 28th – Breakfast. Workshop begins at 10am. Lunch at 1 pm return to the workshop . Late afternoon and evening free. Dinner on your own.
Thursday October 29th - Breakfast. Workshop begins at 10am. A visit to the Taller Lenateros graphics art studio and then lunch. Return to the workshop. Late afternoon and evening free. Dinner on you own.
Friday October 30th - Breakfast Workshop begins at 10am. Lunch at 1pm followed by a visit to the Mayan museum of medicine. Late afternoon and evening free. Dinner on your own
Saturday October 31st – Breakfast. Free day with optional excursions to Palenque, Lagos de Montebello, Canon Sumidero. More information to follow.
Sunday November 1st – Breakfast. Excursion to the villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. It is market day in San Juan Chamula so there will be lots to see. Lunch included. Evening free
Monday November 2nd – Breakfast. Final workshop and critique. Lunch. Afternoon free. Dia de los Muertos events in the evening and Farewell dinner.
Tuesday November 3rd - Breakfast. Departures. Adios y Gracias.
(This itinerary is subject to change. I will be in San Cristobal in February to make the final arrangements. I will be adding some more excursions and finding some new art happenings too.)
There are optional trips to the archeological site of Palenque and Tonina about 5 hours away. If you are interested you can arrive a few days early so that you have enough time to really see them. There is a day trip available also. It is a long one, about 14 hours.
Airfare is not included. When searching for airfares the San Cristobal: Angel Albino Corzo International Airport (TGZ) .
Included: Workshop, hotel, 9 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 2 dinners, and tours with an English speaking guide.
Shared Double $1950
Deposit: $250 to secure your spot. Please pay by check
To reserve your spot contact: