Monthly Archives: February 2018

Chiapas Textile Study Tour Snapshot: If It’s Sunday, It Must Be Chamula and Zinacantan

San Juan Chamula was our first stop on Sunday, the big market day in the Tzotzil speaking Maya village located about thirty minutes outside of San Cristobal de Las Casas. This also happened to be a day for baptisms.

The Maya church at San Juan Chamula, no longer Catholic

As we arrived at the Chamula church, extended families were emerging. Children of all ages were dressed in white. A Catholic priest comes once a month to perform the rites, but other than this observance there is little resemblance to traditional Catholicism.

Family outside the church poses for post-baptism photo

Chamulans practice a pre-Hispanic mysticism inside the church. No photos are allowed. The space  magical. It is dark inside. Votive candles that sit atop at least twenty wooden tables illuminate the space. On the tile floor fresh pine needles replicate the sacred forest.  There are no pews.

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In the Chamula market, how women transport babies

Areas of needles are swept away. Worshipers light red, green, white and yellow candles and affix them with dripping wax to the floor. The colors represent the four cardinal points. They kneel and pray, singing in ancient Tzotzil.

Women wait for weekly government food stipend

Cynthia and Gail shopping for agave fiber woven bags, called ixtle

Sometimes a Shaman will go with the families, holding a live chicken. The Shaman will hold the fowl by its legs, wings outspread, then wring the chicken’s neck. In this way, the ill that is disturbing a family member will pass to the chicken. Then, the chicken is buried and the ailment will go away.

The cemetery is another spiritual center for Maya families

This stuffed fox may be someone’s spirit animal, used in ritual cleansings

Ancient beliefs run deep here. We tiptoe across the pine needles. The officials watch carefully to make sure we take no photographs. We are respectful and don’t try. Stories of confiscated cameras are rampant.

Post-Baptism celebration in the church courtyard

Ducks and a turkey for sale along a hidden market side street

Out on the church patio, the families who celebrated baptism gather along the periphery for a meal, music and refreshment. Cases of beer sit atop tables. Visitors are here from all over the world. I hear German, French and Dutch.

Vendors sell fresh fruit and vegetables

Beyond the church is the vast market where vendors sell everything from fresh fruit, vegetables and handcrafts.

Chickens for sale along a side alley — food or sacrifice?

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Village mayordomos are distinguished by furry white tunics

After a walkabout, we set out for neighboring San Lorenzo Zinacantan. This is a flower growing village. Once allies of the Aztecs, whose empire extended as far south as Nicaragua, Zinacantan enjoyed special privileges as an embassy. Mayas married with Nahuatl speakers and adopted the Aztec practice of incorporating feathers into wedding dresses.

Zinacantan women doing business in a doorway

After the September 2017 earthquake that destroyed the church roof and bell tower, it seems like tourism has dropped here. We hoped for a more robust market, but only a few vendors line the street surrounding the church. We were able to find textiles in a local shop that deals in new and vintage blouses, dresses and skirts.

Zinacantan embroidered chals, a floral display on cloth, photo by Carol Estes

Visitors from Mexico City model the local costume that they bought

Earthquake destroyed church roof, bell tower, walls crumbled

Hundreds of historic churches in southern Mexico were damaged in the 2017 earthquake. Under the purview of INAH, it’s not likely church repairs will take place any time soon. Fear is that neglect will destroy them.

Saints inside corregated metal make-shift church — oops, no photos!

Now, for a brief fresh-off-the-comal tortillas stop to stave off hunger. We entered a smoke-filled room where a young woman prepared masa, patted it, pressed it and cooked it on the comal. We filled the hot, steaming tortilla with fresh beans, ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds), tangy Chiapas cheese, avocado and smoked sausage.

Another view of the traditional kitchen.

Sausages hang over the smokey area to cure and take on flavor.

Preparing fresh, organic tortillas on the comal

Cynthia and Lanita sit back after our hearty snack

We returned to San Cristobal de Las Casas late in the afternoon where we enjoyed lunch at Tierra Adentro, the Zapatista cafe on Real Guadalupe. Another culturally stimulating day!

Pattern on black fabric for embroidering

On the way out of town, San Lorenzo Zinacantan — waddle and daub, tile

 

Chiapas Textile Study Tour Snapshot: Saturday Serendipity in Aguacatenango

The idea was to drive to Aguacatenango which is about thirty minutes beyond the pottery village of Amantenango del Valle. We were a good hour or so beyond San Cristobal de Las Casas. Few tourists come in this direction.

The church at Aguacatenango, Venustiano Carranza

The idea was to pull up at the church, park the van, gather under the big tree and wait. Perhaps some of the village women would show up with their beautiful embroidered blouses to sell.

Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour.

I did this with our group last year. I hoped the serendipity would repeat. It was fun meeting local women whose skillful sewing resulted in blouses covered in intricate needlework. Within five minutes, perhaps thirty or forty women clustered around us. Word spreads fast in a small pueblo.

A gathering of women embroiderers. Photo by Carol Lynne Estes

This year was a special treat. Not only was it a glorious day, the workmanship was especially fine.

A particularly fine blouse with finished seams, all hand-stitched

Our only problem was that most of the blouses were too small. One woman insisted that her blouse was a large and when I said it was too small for me.  We went back and forth about this a couple of times.

Lanita snags this amazing blouse covered in French knots.

Finally, I thanked her, complimented her work, and told her it might be size large for women in the village, but it was a size small for us gringas. I’m tall here and I’m a chaparrita!

We also met and bought from Catalina Juarez Hernandez who has participated in the Feria Maestros del Arte at Lake Chapala.

We did our best to try on and buy. Most things did not fit. Photo by C.L. Estes

Then, Francisca Hernandez, one of the better embroiderers, invited us to visit her mother’s house. We have larger sizes there, she said. Lanita immediately said, YES. Cynthia endorsed the high quality of her work.How far is it, I asked. Only three blocks, she said.

An embroiderer blouse making with a bundle to show us.

We were hooked.

Down the street three blocks to larger sizes

Eight women from the USA and Canada followed Francisca down empty streets in midday. We passed a house with corn drying on the roof. We passed women and children peeking out of doorways. Behind us trailed women and girls from the village interest in what we were up to.

Close up of corn drying on the rooftop

These were long blocks.

We entered a humble home after climbing through a stick and wood fence where  Francisca’s mother and father welcomed us.  We walked across an uneven stone path.

Francisca Hernandez demonstrates embroidery techniques

Out came the larger embroidered blouses. We tried them on, standing next to bags stacked four high, fill with corn cobs. The space was dark and narrow, illuminated by one raw bulb. The French seams were perfect, all hand-stitched, finished perfectly.

Out came the larger sizes, each one equally as beautiful

We formed a ring around Francisca and her mom. A ring of women, two deep, looked on.

Francisca’s mom. Note the exquisite bodice work.

Francisca gave us a demonstration of how she makes French knots. Nudos de francesa. Catherine, president of her embroidery guild, was mesmerized since the technique was different and equally as beautiful. I promised to return in two weeks with our next group.

Bagged corn cobs. Photo by Carol Lynne Estes

Being open to serendipity provided us with a memorable experience and a connection none of us will forget.

Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour: Deep into the Maya World

Catherine checks the sleeve length to see if this one fits.

Chiapas Textile Study Tour Snapshot: Thursday In and Around Tenejapa

On Thursday, we spent the day outside of San Cristobal de Las Casas, on the road to Tenejapa village, Romerillo Maya cemetery and then to the home of Maruch and her son Tesh in the Chamula district of Chiapas.

First stop, Tenejapa for the Thursday market and textile cooperative

Cynthia with Maria Meza, coop manager

Taking registrations now for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour.

Walking along the village market street, Gail spots a huipil hanging inside a shop

Look inside doorways to see textiles are hanging from the rafters

Small doorways open from the street into hardware stores, pharmacies, bakeries, tienditas (little stores), dry goods suppliers. The inside is often obscure. Sometimes, there are textile treasures — hand embroidery, traditional clothing made on back strap looms — hanging on clothes lines. You have to look for them.

Out on the street the market is a crush of people, fruit, veggies, meat and more

Tenejapa. Still remote enough that foreign visitors are an anomaly. Children and adults are curious, shy and distant. I saw about six Europeans in addition to our group during this market day.

Market day in Tenejapa means handmade textiles for sale, too.

The population of Tenejapa is 99.5% indigenous. About 99.8% speak an indigenous language, and almost 53% speak only their native language and do not speak Spanish. Health care services and educational opportunities are limited. Maya culture and traditional folk practices are strong.

She is minding the store and watching the passersby.

The village celebrates Carnavale with pre-Lenten festivities on February 15

Traditional dress of a Tenejapa man, once commonplace. Now for ceremonies only.

Adults and children participate. Mayordomos and their wives observe.

Next we stop at Romerillo cemetery to understand Maya burial practices

The Maya practice syncretism, a blend of mystical pre-Hispanic beliefs and Spanish Catholicism. Mostly, they are spiritual and keep their connection to ancient traditions.

The Maya cross represents the four cardinal points, a pre-Hispanic symbol

The Romerillo cemetery is on a grand hill overlooking a valley. Wood planks cover graves so that the living can communicate with and ask advice from the dead.

Evangelization was easier for the Spanish; the symbol existed before they arrived.

After lunch, we take a dirt road to rural Chamula territory to meet Maruch

Maruch and her family raise their own sheep, shear and wash the wool, card and spin. Sheep are sacred, raised for their fleece and not for food.

Carding, hand-spinning with the malacate and weaving on the back strap loom 

Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour. We are accepting registrations now.

Hand carding local sheep wool for spinning

Using the malacate drop spindle to spin wool and prepare it for weaving.

We are an hour away from San Cristobal de Las Casas, but it feels as if time stands still here and we are standing in a place that could have been 500 years ago. Isolation preserves culture, but it also marginalizes native peoples.

Lanita models a furry capelet woven by Maruch

Sheep wool skirts and capelets are made to look like a furry animal, repel moisture and keep people warm. There is no heat and it’s chilly at 7,000 feet altitude in February.

At cooperative Huellas Que Trascienden, Lanita and Cynthia

We finished off the day with a visit to a new cooperative in the city that names the weaver of each garment with a featured photo on the hang tag. Recognition is finally coming to the women who do the work! We did our best to support them.

 

2019 Oaxaca Textile Study Tour: San Mateo del Mar and the Purple Snail

Saturday, January 5 to Thursday, January 10, 2019 — Six days, five nights immersed in the weaving and natural dyeing culture of Oaxaca’s southern coast. You can take this short-course independently or add it on to the front end of our Costa Chica study tour. 

Itinerary

  • Saturday, January 5, arrive in Huatulco on Oaxaca’s mid-coast. Overnight in or near Huatulco (D)
  • Sunday, January 6, spend the day on the rocky shore line to see how the native snail — caracol purpura — that gives off the purple dye is protected and cultivated. Our expert is Habacuc, a member of the Pinotepa de Don Luis community authorized to harvest this rare crustacean. Overnight in or near Huatulco (B, L)

Caracol purpura dyed cotton thread before it goes to the loom

  • Monday, January 7 through Wednesday, January 9, travel and stay in to Salina Cruz where we will be based to explore the nearby Ikoots coastal village of San Mateo del Mar. Here, fine cotton gauze is woven on the back strap loom.  Turtles, fish, crabs, birds, palm trees are incorporated into the cloth that show the area’s relationship to the sea.  Our visit to several weaving cooperatives includes a contribution to the 2017 September 17 earthquake relief fund that is helping restore village services. (B, L)

Cloth embellished with figures from the natural world

  • Thursday, January 10, we return to Huatulco where we will drop you off at the airport for an afternoon departure time or you can continue up the coast with us to Puerto Escondido. Its a five-hour drive from Salina Cruz to Puerto Escondido along MEX 200. We’ll have lunch in or near Huatulco to break up the trip. Lodging on the night of January 10 is on your own. (B, L)

Finely woven blusa from San Mateo del Mar

What the Trip Includes:

  • 5 nights lodging
  • 5 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 1 dinner
  • Guided boat trip on Huatulco coast to harvest the caracol purpura
  • All van transportation from Huatulco to San Mateo del Mar and back to either Huatulco or Puerto Escondido
  • Donation to San Mateo del Mar earthquake relief fund

What the Short-Course DOES NOT Include: Airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation as specified in the itinerary. It does not include taxi or shuttle service from airport to hotel.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Resources, Glossary of Terms


Cost to Participate

  • $1,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $1,895 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers
  • Those interested in natural dyes, cultural preservation
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
  • Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil, Pinotepa de Don Luis

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The last 50% payment is due on or before November 15, 2018. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2018, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

2019 Oaxaca Costa Chica Study Tour: Textile Explorers

Oaxaca Costa Chica Textile Study Tour

Arrive on Friday, January 11 and depart on Monday, January 21, 2019 — 10 nights, 11 days in textile heaven!

Trip is limited to 11 participants.

Add on a pre-trip to San Mateo del Mar and study the purple snail.

This entire study tour is focused on exploring the textiles of Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. You arrive to and leave from Puerto Escondido, connecting through Mexico City or Oaxaca.

Ji Nuu Cooperative women, San Juan Colorado, hand-spinning native cotton

We go deep, and not wide. We give you an intimate, connecting experience. We spend time to know the culture. You will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, enjoy local cuisine, dip your hands in an indigo dye-bath, and travel to remote villages you may not go to on your own. This study tour focuses on revival of ancient textile techniques and Oaxaca’s vast weaving culture that encompasses the use of natural dyes, back-strap loom weaving, drop spindle hand spinning, and glorious, pre-Hispanic native cotton.

Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil from Pinotepa de Don Luis

Villages along the coast and neighboring mountains were able to preserve their traditional weaving culture because of their isolation. Stunning cotton is spun and woven into lengths of cloth connected with intricate needlework to form amazing garments.

Fine Amusgo back strap loom weaving with supplementary weft

Amuzgos visit includes a natural dye demonstration with indigo and nanche

A noted cultural anthropologist who has worked in the region for the past fifteen years will guide us. Our driver knows the region intimately.

with Special Facilitator:  Sheri Brautigam, Textile Fiestas of Mexico author

 

Add on a pre-trip to the southern Oaxaca Coast, San Mateo del Mar and study the caracol purpura.

The Itinerary

  • Friday, January 11: Fly to Puerto Escondido—overnight in Puerto Escondido
  • Saturday, January 12: Puerto market tour, afternoon on your own with a presentation about Costa Chica Textiles and Cultural Identity, followed by a welcome dinner — overnight in Puerto Escondido
  • Sunday, January 13: Depart after breakfast for Tututepec to visit a young weaver who is reviving his village’s textile traditions, visit local museum and murals — overnight in Pinotepa Nacional
  • Monday, January 14: After breakfast we will go to the mountain weaving village at the end of the road, San Juan Colorado. Here, we will visit two women’s cooperatives working in natural dyes, hand-spinning, with back strap loom weaving. We will also go to the home of a mask maker who also deals in antiquities. Our afternoon will be spent in the weaving center of Pinotepa de Don Luis, where we will visit a women’s cooperative and the homes of each weaver.  Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional.
  • Tuesday, January 15: In the morning after breakfast, we will visit the Pinotepa Nacional market. Then we travel to San Pedro Amuzgos where we will spend the day with Arte Amuzgo Cooperative and Odilon Merino Morales for demonstrations, lunch and an expoventa. — Overnight in San Pedro Amuzgos.
  • Wednesday, January 16: We’ll explore this ancient Amuzgo village and discover other weavers and cooperatives to visit, perhaps taking a side-trip to Santa Maria Zacatepec where women embroider small animal, floral and people figures on natural cotton cloth. — Overnight Amuzgos
  • Thursday, January 17: We’ll take the road to Xochistlahuaca, a famed Amuzgo weaving village across the border in Guerrero state (yes, it’s safe in this part of the state). We will visit a noted weaving cooperative that works in light weight gauze cotton using natural dyes. We’ll also meet other weavers who use rare coyuchi and native green cotton.  Overnight in Ometepec.
  • Friday, January 18: Return to Puerto Escondido with a stop in the weaving village of Jamiltepec where graphic designs embellish necklines with intricate embroidery. Overnight in Puerto Escondido.
  • Saturday, January 19: This is a day on your own to explore the area, return to the Puerto Escondido market, take a rest from the road trip, enjoy the beach and pools, and begin packing for your trip home. Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Puerto Escondido.
  • Sunday, January 20: Attend the annual Dreamweavers Expoventa featuring the Tixinda Weaving Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis. Other regional artisans are also invited, making this a grand finale folk art extravaganza — a fitting ending to our time together on Oaxaca’s coast.
  • Monday, January 21: Say our goodbyes and depart for home.

Note: Itinerary subject to schedule change and modification.

Our 2018 Costa Chica study tour

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • beating and spinning cotton, and weaving with natural dyes
  • native seed preservation and cultivation
  • clothing design and construction, fashion adaptations
  • symbols and meaning of regional textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that show each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • the work of women in pre-Hispanic Mexico and today

Fine indigo, native coyuchi cotton and caracol purpura blusa, Amuzgos

Some Vocabulary and Terms

What is Included

  • 10 nights lodging at top-rated accommodations
  • 10 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 2 dinners
  • van transportation as outlined in itinerary
  • complete guide services including cultural anthropologist expertise

Winter on Oaxaca’s coast, warm and temperate

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation as specified in the itinerary. It does not include taxi or shuttle service from airport to hotel. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Odilon’s aunt, from San Pedro Amuzgo, joins cloth lengths

Embroidered collar, native white cotton dyed with caracol purpura snail dye

Cost to Participate

  • $2,895 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $3,395 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
  • Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of  30% of the total is due on or before October 1, 2018. The third 30% payment is due on or before December 1, 2018. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 1, 2018, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 1, 2018, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Ancient design revived by Luis Adan on the back strap loom

Health and Well-Being: If you have mobility issues or health impediments, please let me know. Our travel to remote villages will be by van on secondary roads with curves, usually not for more than an hour or so. When you tell me you are ready to register, I will send you a health questionnaire to complete. If you have walking or car dizziness issues, this may not be the trip for you.

Breakfast at the cooperative–sopes, eggs with hierba santa