Last Sunday, a group of ten WARP conference participants gathered in the lobby of our hotel at 9:30 a.m. We set out for a day-long walking tour of textiles and folk art, concentrating on a few superb venues to see the best of the best.
I had set meetings up in advance with two of Oaxaca’s most distinguished shops where the finest textiles are curated and sold, Arte Amuzgo and Los Baules de Juana Cata.
I asked the owners if they would select five to ten of their most outstanding textiles, explain the dye and back-strap weaving process, and talk about the maker and the region of origin.
Both are doing an outstanding effort to rescue lost weaving traditions by encouraging villages to bring back an art form on the edge of extinction.
Both have galleries in the historic center of Oaxaca where they offer a market for indigenous artisans to show and sell their work.
They give attribution to the weavers, too, by including their names and villages on the hang tags of the clothing.
But, first I thought it was important to offer a backdrop to Oaxaca, by explaining a bit about her history and culture. I invited Janet, who was born and raised here, to tell us about her city.
Our first stop was at the cathedral on the Zocalo, where the story of Colonial Oaxaca begins. We then walked up the Alcala, making a coffee stop, a shopping stop for hand-made paper earrings (on special request from Louise), and gathered in front of Santo Domingo Church.
Here, we talked about the conversion of indigenous people, the construction of the city, the power of the Dominicans, and the wealth provided by cochineal.
With a stop, too, at Andares del Arte Popular before lunch with a welcome from manager Eric Chavez Santiago, by the time we landed at Los Danzantes, hunger had overtaken us. Lots of walking, but we didn’t even complete 10,000 steps!
Here, I will not bore you with our seven course tasting menu that I ordered in advance. It included grilled watermelon salad. Coconut shrimp. Rib eye tacos. Wild mushroom lasagna. Let’s go straight to dessert.
And, if that wasn’t enough, another taste of my other favorite at Los Danzantes:
Oh, and fresh fruit. The figs were out of this world.
Back into the world of textiles, I want to show you some other beauties that we had the privilege to see this day.
Oaxaca is a vast treasure trove of textile wonderfulness. In the colder mountain regions, the cottons are triple-ply and thick for warmth. Along the coast, the weave is much lighter gauze to cover-up but to also deal with hot, humid weather. Some villages weave. Others work in embroidery.
There is a reintroduction of silk weaving, and wool is a perfect wrap around material for rebozos (shawls) to protect from winter chill in the valleys.