I’ve my got my head in the clouds…
…in the Oaxacan clouds to be specific. There is something magical about the Oaxacan skylines, and it has taken me a couple months to pinpoint what it is that I love. It’s the nubes, the brilliantly dramatic and dynamic cloud formations that hover in the horizon between the mountain peaks. I find myself on the roof of my office in a full stand-still, fascinated at each curve, shape and color of these amazing puffs of water just waiting to pour down on some lucky village.
My obsession has even tickled my subconscious toes, as I now even dream about clouds. The other night I dreamed I was in a large field looking at the horizon during a pink sunset. In the cleavage between two distant mountains, a woman’s face appeared in the grey clouds. Both her face and her features were short and wide, and she was so peaceful. She had thick, pursed lips that smiled at me, as if to say “don’t worry, yes I am a cloud woman – totally normal, carry on with your day.” I whispered something to her, or breathed perhaps, and her lips mimicked mine. I opened my mouth wide, and she parroted me. I remember laughing in my dream; it was a beautifully surreal, yet comforting encounter. As I walked to work the next day, I looked to horizon hoping she would smile at me again. Unfortunately, she did not make an appearance. I guess my dreaming mind is much more imaginative than my awake one.
As most things in my life, my new-found infatuation with clouds, and my consequent dream, are not coincidences. Today, while researching indigenous populations in Oaxaca for a grant proposal I’m working on, I came across an interesting piece of information – I’m living in the land of the Zapatecos. Although the name in the náhuatl language means “the people of Zapote,” they called themselves “be’neza” meaning “the people of the clouds.” Little is known about the origin of the Zapotecos. Unlike most indigenous populations of Mesoamerica, the Zapotecos had no tradition or legend of their migration; only that they believed they were born directly from the clouds. Hence, there are known as “cloud people”.
So apparently it’s not just me. There is something magical about these Oaxacan skylines, and it is not a recent phenomenon. Their nubes contain a magic that has survived over thousands of years despite conquests, migration and marginalization – a struggle which has not been so easy for the Zapotecos.
I’ve always been a bit in the clouds anyhow, but now my woolgathering moments personify into cloud people. If it is true that the Zapotecos were born directly from the clouds, well then I guess I met their mother in my dream! Perhaps her smile was one of content, that this guera in Oaxaca stops to ponder her wonderful creation.