Monthly Archives: March 2018

Millions of Monarch Butterflies: A Visit to the Biosphere Reserve in Michoacan, Mexico: Study Tour Details

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the State of Michoacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It encompasses most of the municipality of Angangueo, an old mining town high in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and the Sierra Angangueo.  Average altitude here is 8,500 feet.
An overnight visit to this tunneled colonial mountain town to explore the butterfly sanctuary is part of our Michoacan Folk Art + Textile Study Tour set to start January 31, 2019.

We may see millions of Monarch butterflies

There are several sanctuaries where the Monarchs gather in colonies that sometimes reach over 20 million individuals. They travel more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) from Canada to Mexico from November through March, completing several generations of the life cycle.
We will have a half-day plus a full day in Angangueo on February 8 and 9 of our January 31 to February 11 study tour to explore one or two butterfly sanctuaries and the historic mining town. We will arrive from Patzcuaro in time for 12:30-2:30 p.m. butterfly activity. You get into the sanctuary by horseback or hiking. Your tour includes transportation into the sanctuary by horse!

Butterfly life cycle

Six spaces are spoken for! Four spaces are available. Is one of them for you?
Send me an email after you review the complete study tour itinerary and let me know if you want to participate.

Michoacan Folk Art + Textile Study Tour with Butterflies

Arrive Thursday, January 31 and depart Monday, February 11, 2019. Eleven nights and twelve days in the heart of one of Mexico’s greatest folk art centers. Sold Out. Taking a waiting list.

ITINERARY

Ceramic Catrinas, Capula, Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan

 

Th-1/31, Day 1  

Arrive Morelia, overnight in Morelia

 

F-2/1, Day 2  

Visit Casa de Artesania in morning. Depart for Patzcuaro at 2 p.m. Stop in Capula on the way (B, D) overnight Patzcuaro, WELCOME DINNER

 

Sa-2/2, Day 3  

City and gallery walk, lunch and art history of region, discussion Purepecha indigenous community, visit famous graphic artist and silversmith, plus numerous galleries (B, L)

 

Su-2/3, Day 4  

Once Around the Lake – Pottery, markets and embroidery, Tzintzuntzan, village story embroidery, painted pottery. We will visit markets, archeological sites, potter Nicolas Fabian Fermin and needleworker Teofila Servin Barrida (B, L), overnight in Patzcuaro

 

M-2/4, Day 5  

Santa Maria del Cobre (B, L) day trip to explore the copper making in this Pueblo Magico and meet the best artisans, overnight in Patzcuaro

 

Tu-2/5 and W-2/6, Day 6 & 7  

 

After breakfast, travel to Pueblo Magico Uruapan, overnight in Uruapan for two nights. Visit Fabrica San Pedro for handmade blankets and La Huatapera in the Maseta Purepecha. (B, L)

Travel to Textile and Mask/Wood Carving villages including Anhuiran. Meet Cecelia Bautista and family rebozo weavers, makers of Paracho guitars and carved masks (B, L), Return to Patzcuaro with overnight on 2/6.

 

Th-2/7, Day 8  

Open day in Patzcuaro, evening special event, Patzcuaro overnight (B)

 

F-2/8, Day 9  

Depart from Patzcuaro in early morning, arrive to Monarch Butterfly Biosphere and Pueblo Magico Angangueo, overnight in Angangueo (B, L)

 

Sa-2/9, Day 10  

Day in Angangueo, depart to Morelia in late afternoon. (B, L)

 

Su-2/10,

Day 11

 

M-2/11, Day 12

Day on your own in Morelia. Grand Finale Dinner. (B, D)

 

 

Depart Morelia for flights home

Potters Nicolas Fabian Fermin and his wife Maria del Rosario Lucas

This is a preliminary itinerary, although the dates are firm. We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary based on availability of artisans.

Embroidered sampler, storytelling on cloth

The State of Michoacan is one of the most diverse for production of Mexican artisan crafts. Indigenous people here make more than thirty different types of handwork, making it one of the richest states in Mexico for appreciators and collectors of folk art.

Embroidered story rebozo by Teofila Servin Barriga

You will fly into Morelia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During our week together we will stay in two Pueblo Magicos and explore the history and traditions of the native Purepecha people. You will meet noted artisans who are recognized as Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art and invited participants to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and Feria de Artesanias at Lake Chapala.

Historic 17th C. Morelia church

These are potters, weavers, silver jewelry makers, mask and furniture wood carvers, luthiers (makers of guitars and violins), lacquer-ware makers, coppersmiths, painters and graphic artists.

Hammering and forming copper, Santa Maria del Cobre

As many of you know from participating in other trips with me, our goal is to also get out of the van, walk, explore and discover. This way, we have a deeply intimate experience with the artisans where they live and work: in their homes and studios, off the beaten path. Our goal will be to know those who have already achieved fame and meet those whose talents are yet to be widely promoted.

Completed copper vessel, sculptural beauty

In the process, we become 21st century explorers ourselves.

The market at Tzintzuntzan, Lake Patzcuaro

I have friends who live in Patzcuaro who are knowledgeable about the region. I will invite them to lead group discussions about regional artisans, folk art, ceremonial practices, and customs. One is a noted photographer and I will invite her to give us a visual overview of the region in our first days.

Hand-crafted guitar, Michoacan, Mexico

Our guide comes highly recommended, is bilingual and lives in the area. We will have luxury van transportation to take us to the areas on our itinerary. The places we will visit are safe and secure.

Intricately embroidered blouse, Lake Patzcuaro

Resources:

Fishing is the theme for pottery, jewelry in Patzcuaro

Cost:   Double occupancy (shared room with private bath), $2,795 per person                    Single occupancy (private room/bath) is $3,295 per person

All prices in USD. One-third of the total is due now to reserve. The remaining balance shall be made in two equal payments, the first on August 1, and the second on December 1, 2018.

  • Double room deposit to reserve is $932, remainder in two equal payments on August 1 and December 1 = $931.50
  • Single room deposit to reserve is $1,099, remainder of balance in two equal payments on August 1 and December 1 = $1,098

If you reserve after August 1 and before December 1, two-thirds of the deposit is due. If you reserve after December 1, full-payment is due.

Feathered rebozos of Anhuiran, Michoacan, competition winners

Trip is limited in group size.

Ceramic artist Manuel Morales plays a vintage ocarina

What the Trip Includes:

  • 10 nights lodging in excellent accommodations
  • 10 breakfasts
  • 7 lunches
  • 2 dinners
  • Bi-lingual guide services
  • Michoacan van transportation specified in the itinerary

Famed Anhuiran rebozo weaver Cecelia Bautista Caballero (right)

What the Trip Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers to/from hotel
  • Tips, taxes, alcoholic beverages, meals not included in the itinerary
  • Travel insurance

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept payment with PayPal or a personal check payable to Norma Schafer OCN/LLC and mailed to our agent in Southern California. Let us know how you wish to pay and your preferred type of room — shared or single. 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.

Horsemanship and a parade, Patzcuaro

Who Should Attend • Textile and fashion designers • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors • Wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source • Photographers and artists who want inspiration • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do a bit of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight because there are pedestrian streets, although there are also hills. The altitude is 7,000 feet PLUS. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let us know before you register.

This may not be the study tour for you.

Purepecha, the people and the language

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.

Historic church, Patzcuaro, Michoacan, soft color of age

Mexico in Durham, North Carolina: Art & Textiles Trunk Show

INDIO owner Wendy Sease recently traveled with me to Chiapas. She bought up beautiful treasures for her shop. I’ve just returned to my apartment in Durham, North Carolina, for a couple of months with three suitcases filled with textiles and jewelry. We decided to collaborate.

YOU ARE INVITED. Bring a friend.

Plus, the BIG news is that my godson, twenty-three year old Omar Chavez Santiago, a recent industrial engineering university graduate, just received his FIRST 10-year visa to visit the USA. This is a really big deal, since the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City is pretty thrifty in giving visas.

Omar plans to talk about the 100% natural dyes used to color the pure churro sheep wool his family at Galeria Fe y Lola uses in the rugs they weave and give demonstrations. He will have beautiful tapestry rugs for sale, too. They come in all sizes.

Where is INDIO? Historic Brightleaf Square, Downtown Durham

Brick and mortar sales are hard for people who live far away. I know that. Look for a few pieces I’ll be offering online in the next few weeks, too.

 

To Bargain or Not in Mexico?

The on-going discussion endures about whether one bargains in Mexico with vendors for a lower price. Is it a cultural norm or expectation?  Many say, Yes.

Colorful Oaxaca armadillo now tops my bookcase. I paid the ask price.

Others resist for obvious reasons. Why? The exchange rate is in favor of Europeans, Estadounidenses (those from USA) and Canadienses (those from Canada). Mexicans have always been undervalued for their labor.

Chiapas potter/clay sculptor. Small jaguars are 150 pesos.

They say the average daily Mexican wage is 150-200 pesos. I’ve also heard 88 pesos a day and 100 pesos a day. At today’s exchange rate of 18.2 pesos to the USD, 200 pesos is about $11 USD per day. In Chiapas, where I just returned from, skilled women weavers on the back-strap loom, creating garments with intricate supplemental weft, earn about 30 pesos per hour.

Here’s what my friend and colleague Sheri Brautigam, in her book Textile Fiestas of Mexico, says about shopping and bargaining:

“I know everyone likes to get a deal, but I feel this attitude takes advantage of the position of the artisan who made the item; it’s an exploitation model of the past.

For the most part, artisans are quite humble when they present their work, and they possibly have in mind the price they would like to get for their item. Often, almost immediately, they will bring the price down if they see you hesitate more than a few seconds. They want you to buy it. This is because local Mexicans are ruthless when they bargain, and the artisan — if she really is in need of making a sale for her survival — can be reduced to selling the item for barely the cost of the materials.”

hand-woven huipil takes three months to make.

There is more, of course.  I suggest you get this valuable Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping.

The same applies to all artisan craft throughout Mexico, not just textiles. Pottery. Carved and painted wood figures. Masks. Guitars. Silver jewelry. Handcrafted food.

Organic pumpkin pie with corn meal crust, $3 USD, from Jorge Daniel Bautista, Union Zapata

Think about your position when you ask for a discount. You are the person NOT making 200 pesos per day. If an item costs 500 pesos and you want it for 400, in all likelihood it is priced fairly and the extra 100 pesos represents almost a full day of work to the maker. To you, it is a $5 difference. A cup of coffee at Starbucks.

We have this discussion among expats and visitors in Oaxaca all the time — to bargain or not? There is a private Facebook group, Clandestine Oaxaca Appreciation Society, where members address the question repeatedly.

Intricately embroidered blouse, San Bartolome Ayautla, 8 months to make

Many who are proponents of bargaining are like Accidental Tourists, armchair travelers who occasionally get out of their seats, embark on a vacation and think that bargaining is part of the entertainment. Anne Tyler’s protagonist in her novel hates traveling, and does so only “with his eyes shut and holding his breath and hanging on for dear life.” Yet, he enjoys “the virtuous delights of organizing a disorganized country” while pretending he never left home. Does this sound like anyone you know?

Why do artisans lower their prices?

  • The season is slow and sales haven’t been good
  • They need money for food, to pay rent, to buy gasoline, to buy raw materials, to pay for school books and bus fare — in other words, cash flow
  • There’s a family emergency, and since this is a cash economy, they need cash
  • They may have lower self-esteem because they are the underclass, treated to believe that what they make has little or no value

What do you think?

Why do tourists bargain?

I think about this question in terms of cultural, political and socio-economic disparities. It might include being unconscious about where we are and our relationship to the people around us. We might conjure up the stereotypical image of Mexico thirty or forty years ago and apply it today. Perhaps, we are totally unaware of the daily or artisan wage. We might say, Oh, it’s cheaper to live here, they don’t need as much. We assume that the government takes care of its poor. (There is no social security in Mexico.) We like the power that the exchange rate gives us and the ability to strike a deal.

What is the value of a natural dye wool rug, 8 weeks in the making?

What about the foreign community from the USA and Canada who live in Oaxaca full-time or for many months of the year? We might say:

  • Tourism drives up local prices, from artisanry to rents
  • We learn to identify higher prices and walk away from them
  • We understand that if we buy five or 10 items, we can ask if there is a discount
  • We know that if we use a credit card, the merchant/vendor is paying 16% tax at a minimum
  • We ask if there is a discount for cash
  • We want to buy local and direct from the artisan, so we don’t pay overhead
  • We want the price to be in pesos, not US dollars
  • We are careful because we are retired, on a fixed income, and while we love the art, we can’t usually afford it
  • Art is subjective, and the price is based on what the seller and buyer agree to

What do you think?

I’ve been thinking about bargaining in today’s Mexico consumer environment where class and race drives business and success. Is it institutional racism to bargain and drive a hard bargain with an indigenous person who has few resources, little or no education, and limited health care access?

Juana and her granddaughter, Luz Angelica. Her future?

Only each of us can answer this for ourselves. Are we willing to look at our own buying behavior and make adjustments? What is our personal view of cultural sensitivity?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Say Your Prayers. Mexico’s Retablos – Ex-Votos Folk Art For Sale

Mexico’s Ex-Votos are naive folk art that tell a story of thanksgiving for being saved from near-death or disaster. Yes, it was a miracle to survive.  Usually, the person who escaped tragedy would hire a local artist to paint a tin square depicting the scene. The message of thanks may have included many misspellings, as the painters were not educated. They often include depictions of the saint to whom the supplicant is sending prayers of thanks.

Original, vintage ex-votos were taken to a nearby shrine where the person, with hammer and nail, would affix the small painting to a tree or post or altar.  Hence vintage ex-votos usually always have a crude hole in the top center of the plaque.

Today, I am offering six ex-votos for sale. One is a vintage piece from the 1930’s.  The others are reproductions recently painted by Mexico City folk artisan Rafael Rodriguez. I acquired these from a Mexico City collector.

Below, by the miracle of faith, Lupema Lora Rosales is saved. We even see her photo in the ex-voto.

SOLD. #1. A prodigious miracle Lupema Lora Rosales, Zacatecas. Vintage, 1930’s.                                  6-3/4″high x 10″wide. $195 USD.

To Buy: Please send me an email tell me which one you want. Please identify it by the NUMBER and include your mailing address. I will send you a PayPal invoice for the piece plus shipping cost based on your location. I will ship to the USA and Canada. Thank you very much.

#2. Pascual Ortiz climbed on the locomotive, didn’t look and almost broke his head. October 1937. 9-3/4″ high x 19-3/4″ wide. New. $95 USD

Below, a Franciscan friar gives his blessing when the four-headed monster is vanquished.

SOLD. #3. Carlota Gonzalez thanks me for getting rid of a monster who attacked her because he has many heads. Oaxaca 18 de Mallo (May) 1939. New. $125 USD.

Below, the Virgin of Guadalupe is watching over Aristarco Lima!

SOLD. #4. Aristarco Lima gives thanks with this ex-voto because the cactus gave a little worm for sale. Otumvo de 2 Agosto 1937. New. 9-1/2″ h x 8-1/2″ w. $85 USD.

Below, a duel NOT to the death, thanks to the Virgin of Soledad.

SOLD. #5. Timateo Vargas and another man both have machetes and gives thanks that both did not lose their life. San Miguel de Allende 1940. New. 8-1/2″ h x 10″ w. $85 USD

Ex-votos are often exaggerations with larger-than-life figures illustrating the peril that was dodged.

SOLD. #6. A horrible socorpion attacked and grabbed Anastasio Valencia as he ascended from the pit well.  San Jose, May 11, 1939. New. 9″h x 9-1/2″ w. $85 USD.