Make a Gift in Patrick Murphy Ruiz’s Memory

I’m writing you from Tokyo, Japan, because this is an important concern. After I wrote about Patrick’s death, many of you asked if you could make a gift to honor Patrick’s memory and help his family.

Please share this post so we can raise $5,000+ USD

So, I wrote to Patrick’s brother Robert, to ask. He suggested that Patrick’s daughter Maya and son Aaron would appreciate any and all help from friends. They had unexpected travel expenses to cover to come to Chiapas from Mexico City, where they both go to university.

A Tribute to Patrick Murphy Ruiz: In Memorium

Heartfelt thanks to so many of you who wrote tributes to Patrick’s memory in the comments section of that blog post. The family read every word you wrote and this keeps Patrick alive. He touched so many of us, left an everlasting impression. His life was a gift.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz, photo by Jonathan Tico G

Since Patrick didn’t have insurance, his other brother Juan David covered all the funeral expenses.

Now, there is tuition expense for both Maya and Aaron, that was covered in full by Patrick. With his death, Robert and Juan David have pledged to help however they can. But it won’t be easy. Robert tells me that it would be of extraordinary help to them if friends could make a donation of whatever size to supplement what they are able to provide.

I’m going to give you BBVA Bancomerbank account information to wire funds to Mexico for this purpose.

Cuenta BBVA Bancomer, Juan David Murphy Ruiz, Sucursal: 4439, No. 12627988087, Clabe Interbancario: 012180012627988087, Clave A.B.A. 021000021

You can also send a check with the USA to US Bank , 425 Walnut St., Cincinnati Ohio 45202

Payable to John David Murphy, with a note to deposit into Account Number 182376787350, Routing Number 075000022, or you can do a wire transfer.

Whatever you can give will be deeply appreciated by the family. However, please note that this gift is not tax-deductible.

Thank you from the family!

In gratitude, Norma

Patrick Murphy Ruiz, February 2019, with potter Esperanza, Amantenango del Valle

In Memorium: Patrick Murphy Ruiz, Chiapas Humanist + Guide

Patrick Murphy Ruiz has died. He was a young man, born in 1967, just a tad over age 50. Close in age to my son. A friend told me he had a heart attack celebrating with family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz was an extraordinary individual who I met eight years ago in San Cristobal de Las Casas when I brought a group and needed a cultural guide. I have worked with him each year since.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz, with Esperanza in Amantenango del Valle

I want to pay tribute to the man we just said goodbye to, literally, as our 2019 Chiapas tour ended on March 7. Our last day with Patrick was on Sunday, March 3. On March 5, Patrick had a surgery in Tuxtla Gutierrez to remove varicose veins. I checked in with him via WhatsApp on March 7 to see how he was doing post-operation.

Thank you, Norma. I’m doing fine. I’m recovering and resting.

It took 40 minutes for an ambulance to get to his house after his family made the call.

Patrick Murphy Ruiz with Maria Meza Giron, Tenejapa

What I want to talk about is Patrick Murphy Ruiz, the compassionate nephew of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who continued the family commitment to defend and support the indigenous Maya people of Chiapas.

Patrick was a story-teller, a historian, a cultural and political interpreter, with deep knowledge about his country, Mexico and his state, Chiapas. He was so much more than a patient tour guide. He was sensitive to the nuances of life and the needs of others. He embraced people, was helpful and concerned. He was generous of self. Calm and empathetic, filled with energy and inquisitiveness. A source. A resource.

We learned so much from him. We learned the political nuances about the Zapatista movement. We understood the Maya Day of the Dead rituals and spiritual path. We gained a deeper respect for the mystical traditions in the San Juan Chamula church.

Ancient Maya cemetery, Romerillo

I can still feel him sitting next to me on a bench inside this church with no pews, the floor strewn with pine-needles, copal incense clouding the air with smoke and aroma. We are both deep in meditation at the moment. The quiet moments are to be cherished. I will always remember this.

I remember him standing tall under the tall Maya crosses at the Romerillo cemetery. He was like the ancient Cieba tree, strong, an anchor, in perfect symmetry. I hear him explaining the thousands of years of history here, the traditions of burial, the syncretism of the Maya and European cross, why the boards cover the graves and are moved aside to allow the spirits passage from the underworld to visit loved ones for a day. The layers of existence and co-existence and existential thought and respect. Patrick Murphy Ruiz could communicate it all.

Patrick explains Xibalba, the Maya concept of afterlife

I loved Patrick as much as I relied on him. Everyone in our groups felt the same way.

If you read this and knew Patrick, please take a moment to share your own memory in the comments section. Take a moment to say a prayer, light a candle, send Patrick’s spirit out into the world to populate his goodness. His life enriched ours.

North Carolina Interlude: Between Oaxaca and Japan

In just a few short days, on Wednesday, March 20, with a fast turnaround, I leave NC for Tokyo, where I will meet my sister and we will travel together for almost three weeks. I’m taking time-out. This is Forewarning: I will be on vacation during this time and may or may not post regularly about my search for Japanese indigo and pottery (in tribute to our dad, who was a potter and ceramics teacher).

In fact, I’m not taking my computer and plan to travel lighter than usual.

Indigo and pigment samples on wool

In this moment, I’m experimenting by using an iPad with keyboard to publish this post. My hope is that I can find a moment or two to write about what I find with photos. No promises, though.

I want to be unemcumbered, or at least, less encumbered.

I´m promising myself that I will allow more breathing space between events next year. I recently read Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, who culls and comments about the philosophy of living with more intention. She talks about Marion Milner, a British psychoanalyst and writer who undertook a seven-year self-study to evaluate her own core of happiness, fulfillment and contentment.

Indigo dye pot, Japanese style

This is a fascinating exercise. I believe to find meaning in life, we must continually reexamine our own values and our relationship in the world. Then, the challenge is to shift and make adjustments as necessary as we are more aware of self, needs and change.

Who we imagine ourselves to be and who we are through behavior is often at incongruous.

As I embark for Japan, a place of deep spiritual belief where one can find meaning in small, beautiful experiences and creative output, I hope to use this time to take a respite from the fast pace at which I’ve been living for the past several months. I hope to use this time to approach 2020 differently.

Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

I made a promise to Oaxaca friends that I would have more time next year to enjoy their company, take art classes, be in the hammock on my rooftop terrace, and limit my travel that takes me away from Oaxaca city.

I made a promise to North Carolina friends to spend more than a few weeks at a time here, with longer intervals to actually connect and enjoy the life I have created here, too.

This is a written testimony to publicly share my intention to slow down the pace. It is a way to make a recommitment to core values as I gain in years (ie. Age!) and life choices become even more important. There is limited time to make up for lost time.

At the indigo dye pot

Thank you for supporting me in my time away from regular blogging and being tethered to the computer. Cherry blossoms await me.

Indigo fields on a Japanese farm

Chiapas Boundaries, Borders and Cloth: Cultural Tourism

Long before the Spanish conquest of the Americas beginning with Mexico in 1521, Maya land was contiguous. Maya peoples spanned what we now know as Chiapas, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.

Can you identify the Eye of God, the Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl, lightening and rain?

While spoken dialects differ, the language of cloth tells a similar and familiar story of the universe and creation: corn, stars, moon and sun, animals, fertility, and rain, the underworld and the heavens. The plumed serpent god Quetzalcoatl is a predominant figure.

Ribbons are a contemporary adaptation of Aztec headdresses with feathers

The Aztecs, seeing the blond and bearded Hernan Cortes, confused him for the reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl and welcomed him. Before that, their empire reached as far south as Nicaragua, where they hunted for the feathers to adorn royal headdresses. Their historical outposts are evident throughout Chiapas, mostly through Nahuatl place names.

Spanish territories in Mesoamerica were divided and governed from Mexico City (the Viceroyalty of New Spain). For more than 200 years, Antigua, Guatemala, served as the seat of the military governor of the Spanish colony of Guatemala, a large region that included almost all of present-day Central America and the southernmost State of Mexico: Chiapas.

Intricately woven daily huipil from Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas Highlands

Maya communities were contiguous until the Mexican Revolution, when geo-political boundaries were drawn separating Guatemala from Mexico. The Usamincinta River was the demarcation line.

All cotton huipil in new colors, an innovation, San Andres Larrainzar

Along this river are two very important archeological sites: Yaxchilan and Bonampak. Symbols from fresco paintings here are depicted in the cloth woven by Maya women across the borders. It is also the region of the Lancandon jungle, home to the Lancandon tribal group that speak an ancient form of Maya. They were able to escape Spanish conquest by staying hidden deep in the jungle.

Corn hangs to dry, Tenejapa

I write about this to better understand the context of the cloth, which has limited boundaries.

Traditional Tenejapa wool huipil with natural dyes

On our recent Chiapas Textile Study Tour, one of our travelers, Rosemary, told me she makes frequent visits to Guatemala to collect Maya huipiles. She said she always wondered why she had a hard time finding the huipiles from Colotenango and Huehuetenango in Antigua, until she came to San Cristobal.

French knots hand-embroidered, Aguacatenango, Chiapas

These Guatemala villages are much closer to Chiapas than they are to Antigua. She surmised that it was easier to export them here. We found many superb examples of Guatemala textiles mingled among those from Chiapas for this reason.

Pillow cover, San Andres Larrainzar

We asked the weavers we met on this journey what they dreamed of for themselves and their families. What do they want/need? What are their hopes for their children?

Sewing basket, Tenejapa, Chiapas

I ask our travelers to think of themselves as amateur cultural anthropologists: to ask questions and to understand what is most important for women, children, families, and their economic well-being.

On the loom, Tenejapa weaving, suspended from the ceiling at Na Bolom

Every artisan we talked with had a similar answer: they need markets to sell what they make. They want their children to have an education beyond sixth grade. They want them to keep the traditions alive, too. They want autonomy and independence from neo-colonialism and government control. They want to be respected for their creativity and traditions.

Seen on the street: Can I take a photo, please? I promise I won’t photo your face.

In other words, they want what we want for ourselves and our children — a life of safety, security and economic well-being, with health care and a just, living wage.

Exquisite machine-embroidered chal (shawl), San Lorenzo Zinacantan

Cultural Tourism: Why are we here?

Why are we here? Is the answer as simple as Cultural Tourism? Is our motivation to experience a world different from our own? We are lovers of the handmade and appreciators of the people who are the makers. We want to meet the makers directly and support them.

In the Academia.edu article What is Cultural Tourism? Greg Richards says, Another major cultural trend that has been important in the growth of the heritage industry has been the growth of nostalgia. The increasing pace of life and the feeling of disorientation and loss associated with modernity has ensured that the preservation of the past has become big business.

I am aware of this as we bring small groups into remote villages. I hope our footprint will be as small as possible. I hope we become observers with heart and empathy. I also want to talk about our tendency to romanticize what many visitors perceive as a simpler lifestyle.

We seem to yearn for a simpler lifestyle.

So, I ask the question of you: Is cooking over a smoky wood fire simpler if it means you or your children will develop emphysema? Is it simpler if you have to travel 20 miles to the nearest health care clinic? What if the school in your village doesn’t have a regular teacher and only goes to fourth grade? Is it a simpler lifestyle when your husband is an alcoholic and family violence is a reality, not a poster? Is it simpler when you find an hour or two a day to weave, after cooking, cleaning, tending children, husking corn, washing clothes?

Can we really know about people and their lives by interacting with them for a few hours and buying what they make? With this purchase, are we practicing cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation? By just being here, what is our impact on how people live and work? Will change happen? What is authentic, anyway?

These are our questions and our discoveries on the Chiapas Textile Study Tour. Would you like to come exploring with us?

Chiapas Textile Study Tour 2020

Dates are set. Let’s GO! February 25 to March 4, 2020. 8 nights, 9 days in and around the San Cristobal de Las Casas highlands.

Cost • $2,495 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $2,995 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

For fiestas, wool huipil takes 8 months to weave, San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms.

Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro explains collection, Museo del Trajes Regionales

We are committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory. That is why we are spending eight nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles and weaving traditions.

Our cultural journey takes us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

There will be only ONE study tour to Chiapas in 2020.

Detail, embroidered blouse, San Lorenzo Zinacantan, Chiapas

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • culture, history and identity of cloth
  • cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation
  • wool spinning and weaving
  • clothing design and construction
  • embroidery and supplementary (pick-up) weft
  • Maya textile designs — significance
  • village and individual identity through clothing
  • market days and mercantile economy
  • local cuisine, coffee, cacao and chocolate
  • quality and value
With Andrea in San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

We work with one of San Cristobal’s best cultural guides. Patricio’s father was born in Chicago and his mom was Mexican. They met in San Cristobal in the early 1960’s. You will hear his story, and theirs. He was born here, speaks fluent English, Spanish and some Tzotzil. He is one of the most informed and engaging people we have ever worked with.

We will travel in a comfortable van as we go deep into the Maya world.

  • We visit 6 Maya weaving villages
  • We enjoy home-cooked meals
  • We meet the makers and directly support them
  • We go far and away, off-the-beaten path
  • We decode the weaving designs unique to each woman and village
  • We explore three towns on their market days
  • We understand the sacred, mysterious rituals of Maya beliefs
Carnival in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 25: Travel day. Arrive and meet at our hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will receive directions to get from the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport to our hotel. The airport is a clean and modern facility with straightforward signage. You will book your flight to Tuxtla from Mexico City on either Interjet, AeroMar, Volaris or Aeromexico. There are plenty of taxis and shuttle services to take you there. Your cost of transportation to/from San Cristobal is on your own. Taxis are about $55 USD or 800 pesos. Shared shuttle is 180 pesos or about $10 USD. Those who have arrived by dinner time can go out for an optional meal, on your own.

From Cancuc (left) and Oxchuc (right), Maya mathematics on cloth

Wednesday, February 26: On our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas, we orient you to the Textiles of the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil Museum Shop for fine regional textiles, meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church, and two outstanding textile shops. We guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. We finish the morning together with a Group Welcome Lunch. (B, L)

Ancient Maya cemetery, Romerillo, Chiapas

Thursday, February 27: Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and often textiles. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags. Keep your eyes open. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron. After a box lunch at the centuries- old Romerillo Maya cemetery, we continue on up another mountain to visit Maruch (Maria), a Chamula woman at her rural home. Surrounded by sheep and goats, Maruch will demonstrate back strap loom weaving and wool carding, and how she makes long-haired wool skirts, tunics and shawls. Perhaps there will be some treasures to consider. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Shuko wears a soft wool chal (shawl) woven by Maruch

Friday, February 28: After breakfast, we take you to an outstanding women’s weaving cooperative outside of town that was founded over 40 years ago. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. In the early evening, we visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian healer Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B, L)

Ceramic bull candleholders adorn churches and homes

Saturday, February 29: We set out by foot after breakfast for a full morning at Na Balom, Jaguar House, the home of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic folk art and jewelry. We walk the gardens and learn about Franz and Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After hot chocolate at Na Balom, we make a stop at Los Leñateros, the hand-made paper workshop that is also a graphics arts hand-print studio. You will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B)

Youngsters learn cultural traditions early — Carnival in San Juan Chamula

Sunday, March 1: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we meander the open-air market, then visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Printmaking at Los Leñateros handmade paper studio

Monday, March 2: Today, we make a study tour to the textile villages of San Andres Larrainzer and Magdalena Aldama. This is another ultimate cultural experience to immerse yourself into families of weavers in their humble homes. We will see how they weave and embroider beautiful, fine textiles, ones you cannot find in the city markets or shops. They will host a show and sale for us, and we will join them around the open hearth for a warming meal of free range chicken soup, house made tortillas, and of course, a sip of posh! (B, L))

Seen on the street, extraordinary huipil from Chalchihuitan

Tuesday, March 3: After breakfast, the finest agave fiber bags in all of San Cristobal will be on display from the makers who live in Magdalena Aldama. They will also bring flashy beaded necklace strings and beautiful hand-woven huipils. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)

From agave leaf to finished bag, three months of work

Wednesday, March 4. Depart. You will arrange your own transportation from San Cristobal to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. The hotel guest services can help. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get to Tuxtla, plus 1-2 hours for check-in. Connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country.

What Is Included

• 8 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within easy walking distance to the historic center and walking streets

• 8 breakfasts • 5 lunches • 1 dinner

• museum and church entry fees

• luxury van transportation

• outstanding and complete guide services

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation as specified in the itinerary. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,495 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $2,995 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Payment Schedule:

  • 1/3 of total balance due immediately to register and confirm
  • Second 1/3 payment due on or before October 1, 2019
  • Third and final 1/3 balance due on or before December 15, 2019

How to Register: Send an email to Norma Schafer.

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you a PayPal invoice that is due on receipt.

Who Should Attend • Textile and fashion designers • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors • Photographers and artists who want inspiration • Resellers * Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Worn by officials, handmade straw hat, festooned with ribbons

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 15, 2019, there are no refunds. If there is a cancelation on or before December 15, 50% of your deposit will be refunded. Aft that, there are no refunds.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Our 2019 group with Esperanza in Amantenango del Valle, Chiapas

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: San Cristobal de las Casas is a hill-town in south central Chiapas, the Mexican state that borders Guatemala. The altitude is 7,000 feet. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, mostly narrow and have high curbs. Pavement stones are slippery, especially when walking across driveways that slant across the sidewalk to the street. We will do a lot of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight because there are three flat streets devoted exclusively to walking. We walk a lot — up to 10,000 steps per day. We recommend you bring a walking stick.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Backstrap loom weaving in Tenejapa, Chiapas with Maria Meza Giron