Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Ancient Tradition of Community-Building–Dance of the Old Men

On the Monday after Easter Sunday each year, a centuries old tradition begins anew and continues for five days, Monday through Friday. It is called the Dance of the Old Men or Baile de los Viejos. Few communities in Mexico still engage in this pre-Hispanic practice. It is alive and well in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, a self-governing usos y costumbres pueblo.

For some, it looks like Carnival.  Locals and tourists alike call it this. But the tradition goes much deeper and is a communication vehicle to give feedback to village leadership about their fairness, management style, and use of community funds.  It is intended to be anonymous and that is why those representing each of the five sections in the village dress are masked and in costume.

Here are posts I have written to show you photos and give you insight into the customs and traditions of the Dance of the Old Men.

  1. Dance of the Old Men
  2. Baile de los Viejitos
  3. Carnival in Teotitlan del Valle Part I
  4. Carnival in Teotitlan del Valle Part II

If you are in Oaxaca for Semana Santa, this is a not-to-be-missed cultural experience.  Here is the schedule.

Monday-Friday: 6 p.m. gather in the courtyard of the Municipal Palace, where each section of the village has an opportunity to be represented by their spokespeople to the elected leadership.

 

 

Oaxaca Weaving: The Flying Shuttle Loom

The flying shuttle loom is a European innovation brought to Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Industrial Revolution. It joins the back-strap loom and the fixed frame two-harness pedal loom as one of the major three weaving technologies still widely used in Oaxaca today.

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The advantage of the flying shuttle loom is that it can create wider, lighter weight fabrics from cotton, perfect for long and wide tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, curtains, and shawls. Made-by-hand, it is semi-automated, but requires the design skill and judgment of the weaver.

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There are two neighborhoods that use the flying shuttle loom : Santo Tomas Xochimilco and San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Today, we focus on Xochimilco. Most textiles made with a flying shuttle loom use commercial cotton thread colored with chemical dyes, although sometimes you can find pieces made with natural dyes.

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Once, the neighborhood of Xochimilco was humming with the sound of the flying shuttle. The loom has a distinct, rhythmic sound, a beat, beat, as the weaver moves the handle back and forth, which operates the opening of the warp threads and the direction of the shuttle.  It is fast, and the weaver sways with the beat.

Today, I could find only a few weavers in Xochimilco still using this loom.

Trailing along with Susan, Carol and Norma Dos on a mid-week excursion there in search of textiles, we come across two workshops on either end of Calle Dr. G. Bolaños Cacho between the Iglesia Santo Tomas Xochimilco. One is at the corner of Avenida Venus and the other is at the corner of Macedonio Alcala. To find them, just listen for the looms. On the day we visit, the jacaranda trees are in full purple regalia!

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In my opinion, the finest quality is produced by Casa Jimenez Taller Textil. They have several locations.  The easiest to find is at the El Pochote organic market every Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., located in the patio of the 16th Century Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church.

The looms are located way up the hill at Calle 1 de Mayo #105 in Colonia Aurora.

But they have a small gallery closer to Conzatti Park in the Jardin Carbajal, a square near the corner of Calle Xolotl and Calle Macedonio Alcala. It’s just a few doors down from El Quinque, which I’m told, has the best hamburgers in town!

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See the turquoise tablecloth that she is holding in the photo above. That’s the one I got my son for a gift. The fringes are hand-tied, just like a rebozo. The weave is tight and even. The cost: well-under $40 USD.

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Tour Puebla, Mexico: Cooking & Culture, From the Humble to the Divine

August 13-18, starting at $895 per person double occupancy–

  • Chiles en Nogada Cooking Class
  • Sumptuous Dinner Party in a Private Historic Home
  • Elegant Dining and Neighborhood Eating
  • Flea Market and Antique Shopping
  • Museums, Churches, Archeology, History

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Puebla, Mexico, is a short two hours from Mexico City by bus direct from the international airport. It is one of my favorite Mexican cities and I often stop here going to and from Oaxaca. It is the home of Talavera tile, Cinco de Mayo, Mole Poblano, chiles en nogada, and cemitas. It has a weekend antiques and flea market that draws crowds, gilded churches, Baroque architecture with pastel and tiled facades topped with white plaster meringue, great chefs, outstanding restaurants, and ancient archeological sites.  At 7,000 feet altitude, visitors enjoy moderate temperatures year ’round, even in summer!

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Your five night, 6-day visit includes:

  • 5 nights lodging in a lovely, highly rated historic center hotel
  • guided visits to famed, certified Talavera ceramics studios
  • visits to extraordinary museums like Museo Amparo
  • chiles en nogada cooking class in a private home featured in Mexicocina with market tour, and lunch
  • sumptuous candlelit dinner that evening presented by our cooking teachers/hosts
  • gourmet dining and neighborhood/market fare experiences
  • time on your own to explore the incredible weekend antique/flea market
  • in-depth visits to archeological and religious sites of Cholula and Tonantzintla
  • Plus, lots more.

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Puebla is Mexico’s fourth largest city, cosmopolitan without being overwhelming.  It is relaxed, accessible, and easily experienced in several days. Known as the ‘City of the Angels’” or Angelopolis, Puebla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded in 1531 as a purely colonial Spanish city built from the ground up—not on top of an existing indigenous temple — at the trading crossroads between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City.  More than 5,000 Baroque-designed buildings date mostly from the 16th century and are covered in handcrafted Talavera.

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Puebla is also about shopping! The highlight is Talavera pottery. And, there are many other local crafts: Tree of Life clay figures, bark paper paintings, woven and embroidered textiles from the Sierra Norte, red clay cooking vessels and dinnerware, and unique onyx and marble sculptures. You can find these and much more at the traditional markets, the stalls that line Puebla’s beautiful plazas, and at the weekend flea and antique market.

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Puebla is known throughout Mexico for its excellent cuisine, a blend of pre-Hispanic, Arabic, French and Spanish influences.  There are many outstanding Tesoros de Mexico-rated (Mexico’s highest) restaurants, and we’ll be dining at a few!

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We’ll also go to Cholula, an indigenous village just outside Puebla with the world’s widest ancient pyramid, Quetzalcoatl. The Spanish built the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remidios with its amazing 24-carat gold basilica atop the pyramid.  On a clear day you can see snow-capped Popocatepetl, an active volcano, showing off his powerful plume.

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Preliminary Itinerary:

  • Day 1, August 13: Travel to Puebla, check-in to our historic center hotel
  • Day 2, August 14: Chiles en Nogada Cooking class with market tour & lunch, followed by sumptuous private dinner
  • Day 3, August 15: Cholula archeology site, Tonantzintla church, and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics
  • Day 4, August 16: Antiques and flea market, museums, market lunch
  • Day 5, August 17: Gallery hopping and shopping, fine dining
  • Day 6, August 18: Departure

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Our stops will include:

  • Antique market & Barrio del Artista
  • Museo Amparo
  • Talavera galleries and shops
  • Tonantzintla Templo de Santa Maria
  • La Purificadora Hotel, an architectural wonder, designed by Ricardo and Victor Legorreta
  • Uriarte and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics studios

We include private transportation on a day-trip to Cholula, Tonantzintla, and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics studios.

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Transportation to Puebla:  Puebla is easily accessed by Estrella Roja first class bus direct from the Benito Juarez International Airport (Terminal One and Terminal Two) and from Oaxaca on ADO.  If you are coming from the U.S. be sure to reserve your round trip air travel to/from Mexico City. When you register, we will give you complete “how to get there” information.

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What is Not Included:

  • meals, snacks, alcoholic beverages
  • entrance fees to local museums/attractions
  • transportation to/from Mexico City
  • transportation to/from Puebla
  • mandatory international health/accident insurance
  • tips for hotels, meals and other services 

Cost:

  • $895 per person double occupancy, shared room and bath
  • $1,195 per person single occupancy, private room and bath

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance is due on or before July 1, 2014.  Payment shall be made by PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

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Please understand that we make lodging and other arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please tell us in writing by email.   After July 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before July 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We ask that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since accidents happen.

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Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

To register, email us at  normahawthorne@mac.com.  If you have questions, send us an email. We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to modify the itinerary.

 

 

 

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Mexico City Art History Tour

Come to Mexico City for an art history tour! We will have a long weekend — 4 nights and 5 days, July 10-14, 2014 —  to learn about Diego Rivera‘s stunning Mexico City murals and visit Casa Azul where Diego and Frida Kahlo lived.  Through their eyes, you will better understand Mexico’s political and social history. Our guide is art historian Valeria Espitia who shares her passion for the Mexican Muralists and guides us through these spaces:

  • Palacio Nacional
  • Palacio Bellas Artes
  • Museo de Mural de Diego Rivera
  • Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP)
  • Casa Azul — the home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
  • Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño

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Casa Azul  – Museo Frida Kahlo is a tribute to the life of both artists. Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño has the largest private collection of Frida and Diego paintings in the world. She was a benefactor of Rivera.

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Note: Valeria is planning to go to Europe to continue her advanced studies in art history in September 2014, so this may be our last tour for the year!  Don’t miss it.

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Plus, we will shop for outstanding folk art, and eat at local markets, historic and fine contemporary restaurants!

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The trip includes:

  • 4 nights lodging at a highly rated, historic center hotel
  • 4 breakfasts
  • gala welcome dinner
  • guided discussions by art historian Valeria Espitia, MFA, educated at UNAM and Southern Methodist University
  • visits to folk art galleries
  • introduction to Norma’s favorite restaurants (meals not included)
  • transportation that is part of the itinerary

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Preliminary Itinerary

  • Thursday, July 10 — travel day, arrive and check into our hotel, gala welcome dinner
  • Friday, July 11 — guided visit to SEP, San Idlefonso, and the Palacio Nacional
  • Saturday, July 12 —  guided visit to Palacio Bellas Artes and Museo Mural de Diego Rivera, folk art shopping
  • Sunday, July 13 — guided visit to Casa Azul and Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño
  • Monday, July 14 — depart

Be ready to WALK and then, walk some more!  Don’t forget to bring an extra suitcase to pack the treasures you pick up along the way.

Cost:  $595 per person double occupancy.  $795 per person single occupancy.

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What the trip doesn’t include:

  • lunches, dinners, snacks, alcoholic beverages
  • transportation to/from Mexico City
  • museum admission fees
  • mandatory international health/accident insurance
  • tips for hotels, meals and other services

Cost:  $595 per person double occupancy.  $795 per person single occupancy. Maximum: 6 people.

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Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance is due by June 10, 2014.  Payment shall be made by PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

Please understand that we make lodging and other arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please tell us in writing by email.   After June 10, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before June 10, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

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To register, email us at  normahawthorne@mac.com.  If you have questions, we can arrange a Skype call. We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary and substitute leaders without notice.

 

People of Oaxaca: Portrait Photography Workshop Tour

Arrive Friday, January 30 and leave Friday, February 6, 2015. Options to arrive earlier and stay longer! You and any camera you have are welcome!

Creating a great photographic portrait means how to connect with your subject, source natural light, and apply aesthetic judgment. Whether you are taking amateur photographs of family, friends, or interesting people you meet on your travels, or you are more adept at using a professional-type camera, we can teach you how to capture stunning images of people. Making great visual art also depends more on the intersection of heart, mind and eye than it does on using the “best” camera. 

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You are welcome to use any camera you are comfortable with: basic point-and-shoot to iPhone to professional DSLR.  Our emphasis is on the photographer-subject relationship and good composition, finding the best subject and knowing how to interact with them. We offer you an amazing ethnographic travel photography experience.

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, photo by Matt Nager

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, photo by Matt Nager

We are based in the indigenous Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, where we introduce you to people whose faces show an 8,000 year old pre-Hispanic culture. This is an opportunity to get up close and personal with people you may otherwise not meet on your own!  We are on location here with photographer/instructor Matt Nager to create powerful portraits.  Our daily schedule takes you into people’s homes and workshops, and on day trips to local markets, and Oaxaca City.

Here are four photos by Matt Nager that give you an example of who you will meet, like Porfirio Santiago and his wife Gloria, 87-year-old weaver Secundino, and a man dyeing wool who we met along the way.

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Portrait photography doesn’t need to be complicated and can create lasting memories for both the photographer and the person being photographed. This workshop will teach you the approaches needed to simplify the portrait process and make it fun!

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Who should attend?  The workshop is for amateurs, as well as intermediate and advanced photographers who are new to portrait photography. We strip down often overly complicated conditions to bring the photographer face-to-face with the subject. We will practice both impromptu, street photography and classic pre-arranged portrait sessions.

The Workshop:

  • Use natural light and respond to different lighting situations
  • Include portraits in your travel photography
  • Direct your subject through varying body positions
  • Identify your own photographic style
  • Find and execute portraits “on the fly”
  • Practice street photography
  • Use skills you learn through daily assignments
  • Learn more with one-on-one coaching sessions with Matt
  • Contribute to a gift for subject families and the community museum — included in your workshop fee

Each day we will discuss different techniques and review best of day images.  There will be plenty of time for discussion, feedback, and sharing.  We will address topics such as: How do you stay inspired?  What do you say and do to sustain authentic connection with your subject?  How do you prepare yourself to stay open, interested, and flexible? How do you get people to relax, be natural, and not be afraid of the camera?

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At the end of our week together, we will select our best portraits and hold a group show and reception, inviting local guests. This is an extraordinary gift and cultural exchange. We will send you a complete itinerary and daily schedule after you register.

A word about equipment and experience:  We will send a list of “what to bring” after you register! All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced.  The techniques learned in this workshop can be applied to any camera and format. You will want to bring a USB cord to download your photos to your computer for editing images and sharing them. Optional: If you use a DSLR, you may want to bring a tripod, extra memory cards, an extra battery, battery charger, a portrait lens,  Photo editing software such as Lightroom is very helpful. We use Dropbox to share and show photos, and we will send you an invitation to join for free after you register. It’s easy!

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Your Workshop Leader is Matt Nager

Matt Nager is a Denver, Colorado, based portrait and editorial photographer. His love for nature and the outdoors, as well as his interest in people and culture, is central to his photography. Matt has over 12 years of photography experience. Before starting his own photography business, Matt worked with the Dallas Morning News and the Rocky Mountain News. In addition to photography, Matt also regularly shoots video and recently completed his first documentary titled: Campania In-Felix (unhappy country) which looks into the rise of health issues in Southern Italy as a result of illegal waste disposal. His clients include: DISCOVER Magazine, Fast Company Magazine, Mother Jones Magazine, The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Matt speaks English and Spanish, and is learning Italian.  His work is at: www.mattnager.com

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Workshop Includes:

  • 7 nights lodging
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 2 group lunches
  • 6 group dinners
  • group transportation when part of itinerary
  • guided visits to local markets, artisan workshops
  • 18+ hours of instruction
  • one-hour private coaching and feedback session
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Alejandrina Rios and Tito Mendoza Ruiz by Norma Hawthorne

Preliminary Itinerary:

Day One, Friday, January 30: Travel to Oaxaca and check-in to our B&B (D)

Day Two, Saturday, January 31: Learning Session, village walkabout orientation, street photography assignment, portrait session with local family (B, D)

Day Three, Sunday, February 1: Learning Session, Tlacolula Market excursion, photography on the fly (B, L, D)

Day Four, Monday, February 2: Learning Session, photo review/feedback, portrait session with local family (B, D)

Day Five, Tuesday, February 3:  Learning Session, photo review/feedback, Oaxaca City photo excursion  (B)

Day Six, Wednesday, February 4: Learning Session, photo review/feedback, archeological backdrops, Yagul and Mitla field trip (B, L, D)

Day Seven, Thursday, February 5: Learning Session, photo review/feedback, prepare for final best of week portfolio (B, D)

Day Eight, Friday, February 6: Depart

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Lodging/Accommodations and Cost

We are based in the Zapotec rug weaving and textile village of Teotitlan del Valle. To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations at a local, women owned and operated bed and breakfast posada that is part of a family compound.  We offer you delicious homemade meals made with locally grown, organic ingredients.

Registration Options:

  1. Base Cost: $1,195 per person double occupancy with shared bath (sleeps two)
  2. Single Supplement: $1,495 single room with private bath (sleeps one)
  3. Take a Zapotec Oaxaca Cooking Class on February 6, $70, learn to make Oaxaca mole
  4. Come early or stay later in either Oaxaca ($125 night) or Teotitlan del Valle ($45 night) per person

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

The trip does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and transportation to and from Teotitlan del Valle.

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Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit based on your preferred options is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any add-ons costs) is November 15, 2014. We request payment with PayPal only.  Tell us you are ready to register and we will send you an invoice to secure your registration.  After November 15,  refunds are not possible.  You may send a substitute in your place.  If you cancel before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

To get your questions answered and to register, contact: normahawthorne@mac.com

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to modify the itinerary as necessary.