The Lyric of Place
 |  RHYTHMS OF OAXACA  | 

On occasion, we come upon a place or experience that interrupts life’s steady tempo — joyfully.

STORY BY CINDY GOMBERT

Designer, friend and artisan Alfonso Verduzco’s vibrant spirit and heritage inspired the latest Candelaria Design Associates destination to the culturally rich Oaxaca de Juãrez in southern Mexico. Authentically grounded in rich heritage and tradition, this revitalizing community embodies a collaborative culture
of purpose and sensibility.

— CONTINUED BELOW —

“I FELT A DEEP AND JOYFUL RESILIENCE HERE, THAT SEEMED TO RADIATE FROM OAXACA’S RICH
CULTURAL TRADITIONS AND PEOPLE.”

— Isabel Dellinger Candelaria
 |  STORIED PLACES  | 

Founder and principal designer Isabel Dellinger Candelaria and a small travel group toured the vibrant Oaxaca de Juarez guided by Mark Candelaria, and his daughter Tiffany of Candelaria Design Associates, along with artisan Alfonso Verduzco. Their home base was the Hotel Sin Nombre (Hotel without name), a XVII century colonial mansion located within Oaxaca. They were greeted into the heart of the hotel — a sun-drenched courtyard filled with white floor cushions and breezy, harem-style draperies. A welcome dinner awaited, just a short walk through town at the lovely Los Danzantes, introducing their senses to the ancestral foods of the region. Dishes of Mayan Octopus, and Shrimp Tlayuda were prepared using local, organic ingredients in an enriching, theatrical presentation before the team settled in for the evening.

The next several days were spent exploring the area and extraordinary artisans of the region. Walking the narrow streets, Isabel was immediately struck by the flora silhouettes, casting artful vignettes and shadowplay against the colorful walls. The artisans she encountered welcomed her with a warm smile and hands, rich with narrative. Their offerings carried the honor of their culture, and the abundance of the region itself — utilizing the elements of sand, clay, and natural pigments in their artistry. One such artisan was the incredible ‘Manos Que No Ven’ or hands that do not see. Artisan Maestro José Garcia’s remarkable pottery and sculptural figures transcends physical limitations. Blind 18 years from glaucoma, Garcia’s artistry is crafted by heart and hand, including large Zapotic figures sculpted from memory, burnished with smooth stone, then dried and fired in his kiln. Although his eyes are clouded by cataracts, the unfeigned image of his beloved wife Teresita remains clear. Much of his work honors Teresita, each bearing her distinct beauty mark, and timeless beauty — a vivid portrait of their enduring love.

Designer and artisan Alfonso Verduzco, a friend and colleague of Mark and Isabel, led their next visit into the ceramic tradition of barro negro. Here, Alfonso introduces the group to the ancestral artisanal black clay, delving into the intricate process behind the creation of his artisanal tiles — ‘Raices Black Wall Covering’, rooted in the elements, story and culture of Mexico. The artisans craft his artisanal tile, along with distinctive black clay vessels, exclusive to Oaxaca. The pottery’s origins date back 2,500 years, combining ancestral heritage with chemical reaction — creating vessels of distinct color, sheen, and design. Isabel was particularly drawn to the irregular angles, imperfections, and the stories that enriched each piece. The vessels held an honest beauty, she thought, in their variation, and irregular form. Although seemingly spontaneous, each carried an expansive journey within them. She felt this sentiment throughout Oaxaca — in the culture, people, and traditions.

Her affection continued with the cuisine of Oaxaca’s diverse and complex chile sauces, known as mole. Oaxaco, or ‘Land of the Seven Moles’ is often recognized as Mexico’s culinary heartland, with mole, typically served with braised meats, wearing the crown jewel. Mark, the trip’s ‘archichef’, and an admirer of the iconic dish, may or may not have brought his favorite batch home in his suitcase for future “inspiración”.

The final days of their journey brought them to the Tlacolua Valley visiting the towns of Santa Ana del Valle and Teotitlán del Valle including the wax arts, traditional cuisine, and the magnificent artisan textiles of pedal looming, weaving intricate threads and significant patterns into art. Their remarkable, vivid designs are painstakingly crafted in local wool utilizing natural dyes from local flora and cochineal insects.

The trip’s farewell lead everyone to COMBARDE restaurant for the final meal. Mark and Isabel were struck by the restaurant‘s unexpected traditional and international blend of cuisine set amongst its sustainable, and architecturally-engaging space. Its design reinterpreted elements of the regional beauty in a splendor of earth, brick, polished cement, glass and recycled wood — bringing a memorable and raw elegance to the groups final Oaxaca experience.

 |  ABOUT THE TOUR  | 

Candelaria Design Tours bring a taste of ‘Inspired Living’ with immersive tours focused on living a beautiful and enriched life.
Destinations are curated to bring diverse culture, cuisine, art, and design, and include locations in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Oaxaca and the Willamette Valley.

“EVERY COLLECTION HAS A DEEPER MEANING RELATED TO THE MATERIAL, OBJECT OR TECHNIQUE APPLIED BY THE ARTISANS HANDS.”

— Alfonso Verduzco, RAICES BLACK COLLECTION

We celebrate the significant art and culture of Oaxaca for it’s rich narrative, heritage, and honor — The Lyric of PlaceTM

For more information about upcoming ‘Inspiring Living’ tours and our expert guides visit:
https://www.candelariadesign.com/inspiring-living-podcast
https://www.alfonsoverduzco.com/