Category Archives: Safety

Asbestos Health Risk for La Flor de Xochistlahuaca Weaving Cooperative. How You Can Help!

An Open Letter from Maddalena Forcella, textile-fashion designer

I am writing to ask you to consider making a gift of whatever size to remove the toxic, cancer-causing asbestos from La Flor de Xochistlahuaca women’s weaving cooperative work space in Guerrero, Mexico.

Flor de Xochistlahuaca cooperative asks for your help

Flor de Xochistlahuaca cooperative needs your help for cancer-free health

On the webpage it explains everything: the roof of asbestos that needs to be destroyed and rebuilt because it is very toxic and a carcinogen and operates like an oven creating uncomfortable working conditions in the extreme heat. In addition, there is a great video about the cooperative and the weavers and the gifts that will be given with each donation. Please take a look.

Goal: $45,000 USD

To Date Raised: $7, 541 USD or 17% of Goal

The goal is ambitious and we need the help from all of our friends – especially those textile lovers and those interested in artisan craftsmanship. I know most of us don’t like to receive petitions for money, but in this case, I know that it is worth it. And, I know that I owe it to the weavers, to their hope for a better future and for their wish to have a work space that is healthy and dignified for the excellence of their textile art. I ask you to please consider participating.

I thank you from my heart and I thank you on behalf of the artisans for your willingness to support this project either through a donation or by sharing it with friends or on Facebook or in any other way you are able: https://igg.me/at/laflordexochistlahuaca

Thank you again for your support and time, I really appreciate it.

Hugs,  Maddalena

Norma’s Note: Maddalena has worked with this group for three years to build their economic development and marketing capacity; this is her last project with them. They live on the border between the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Their handmade weaving work is exquisite, and their health matters! Please support them with whatever size gift you can afford.

 En Español de Maddalena Forcella

Les escribo pidiéndoles unos minutos de su tiempo para que chequen la campaña de fondeo colectivo para renovar el espacio de trabajo de las tejedoras de La Flor de Xochistlahuaca, en Guerrero . Después de tres años de trabajo con el grupo, este es el último esfuerzo que hacemos juntas, el objetivo es ambicioso, así que necesitamos de la ayuda de todos nuestros amigos, especialmente de los amantes del textil y la excelencia artesanal; se que no es lo máximo recibir peticiones a contribuir a una buena causa, pero en este caso se que vale la pena, y se lo debo a las tejedoras, a su esperanza de un presente/futuro mejor y a su deseo de tener un espacio de trabajo digno de la maestria de su quehacer. Entonces doble agradecimiento por si quieres hacer una donación, o ayudarnos a difundir la campaña a través de este enlace entre amigos y conocidos, en Facebook y cualquier otro medio a tu alcance: https://igg.me/at/laflordexochistlahuaca

En la página se explica todo, el techo de lámina de asbesto, que debe ser cambiado ya que es super tóxico y cancerígeno, ademas de ser un horno cuando se esta debajo, también hay un bonito video y fotos de la cooperativa y de las tejedoras, y los regalos que las artesanas enviarán a los donadores.

Les mando un gran abrazo y mis agradecimientos sinceros

Maddalena

Is Mexico Safe? My Experience

Is Mexico safe? I just got back to Oaxaca after traveling for three weeks in Mexico City, Estado de Mexico and Michoacan. In Michoacan there is a U.S. State Department Travel Advisory, (I include this link to safety vs. sensationalism.)

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I went to Morelia, Patzcuaro and rural villages. I traveled far out into the countryside in a car with two other women and walked gorgeous colonial towns. How safe was it? Was I scared?

Map of Mexico

The day I returned, a must read tongue-in-cheek post came in about safety in the Distrito Federal (D.F.), the nation’s capitol, from Jim Johnston who writes Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler.  It triggered my wanting to tell you about my journey. Is Mexico safe?

Morelia Best-27 Morelia Best-15

Me and Mary Anne (from the San Francisco Bay Area) teamed up to take this trip together. Yes, two women of some maturity and a modicum of wisdom traveling independently via bus, taxi, collectivo and sometimes, on foot!

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We met up in Mexico City where we walked from our hotel to historic center destinations, often at night. Yes, it was dark. Did I feel threatened or at risk? No. I stayed on well-lit streets with good sidewalks and lots of pedestrians. Mexicans love to meander with their families at night, eating an ice cream cone or nibbling on a torta, pushing a stroller or walking arm-in-arm.

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We took a taxi, arranged by our hotel, to the regional bus station at Observatorio, and bought same day tickets on the Caminante bus line to Toluca. We were the only gringas on the bus. At the Toluca bus station, MA watched the bags and I bought a Taxi Seguro (secure taxi) ticket from the clearly marked stand inside the terminal to Tenancingo de Degollado. The worry was how we were going to get our five suitcases (three of them huge) into a small taxi rather than any safety issues.

Map of Estado de Mexico

Most of our trips in Tenancingo were via group van. But, when we/I (either together or separately) wanted to go to town, we went out to the front of our hotel and hailed a private taxi or jumped into a collectivo, sharing a ride with strangers.

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When we left Tenancingo, our next destination was Morelia, capital of Michoacan. So, we returned to the Toluca bus station and bought tickets on another bus line — Autovias — that serves that part of Mexico. Again, we were the only gringas on the bus (of either gender). It’s almost a four-hour bus ride to Morelia, whose tarnished reputation for being a drug cartel area has had a negative impact on tourism, even though it is safe by strict U.S. State Department standards.

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I don’t know if this is true or not. It didn’t seem like it. I did ask MA, when we were planning this trip, is it safe? Just once. She researched it and reported that the only possible dangerous areas were rural far from where we would be.

Morelia Best-33 Morelia Best-40

I’ve never been to a cleaner, more pristine city than Morelia. It has an incredible Zocalo, classical music, great restaurants, 16th century colonial architecture, outstanding gardens, churches, universities, libraries, a comprehensive Casa de las Artesanias folk art gallery and is gateway to some of Mexico’s most amazing folk art. No one hassled us. In fact, everyone was warm and welcoming. Did I feel unsafe or threatened? Not for a minute. Neither does Guns N’ Roses!

Morelia Best-6 Patzcuaro 188-28Patzcuaro 188-37

Nacho (Ignacio), our pre-arranged taxi driver, picked us up in Morelia and drove us to Patzcuaro, with a stop along the way to Capula, one of the craft villages.  I have friends from the USA who now live full-time in Patzcuaro. We hung out together during the time we weren’t going out to explore the Purepecha villages around the lake, and met the small, but mighty Patzcuaro ex-pat community, including photographer Flo Leyret (link to her photos below).

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Map of Michoacan

We spent the day poking around Santa Clara del Cobre — the copper mining village about thirty minutes beyond Patzcuaro where Purepecha people have been working the material with hand-forging and hammering since the 13th century.

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Then, I got invited to go along to a concurso (juried folk art competition) in the village of Ahuiran, an hour-and-a-half north of Patzcuaro, where talented women weave rebozos on back-strap looms. Six of us, all women, drove in two cars over Michoacan countryside, through small villages, across rich farmland planted with corn and potatoes. At the entrance and exit to some villages there were guard posts and community-designated sentries asking us where we were going. It seems the villagers are protecting their territory and this is typical for rural Mexico where there can be land disputes or disagreements. Nothing to be afraid of.

Michoacan Artisans, Photographs by Florence Leyret Jeune

Patzcuaro 188-79 PatzLakeArtisans-16  [Above left is Purepecha ceramic artist Nicolas Fabian Fermin, from Santa Fe de Laguna, who I met this summer at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, with his wife. Above right is Teofila Servin Barriga, another award-winning Purepecha artist whose embroidery has won many international awards. She will be at Lake Chapala, Guadalajara, for the annual folk art market. This rebozo she is wearing will sell for 15,000 pesos.]

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In Ahuiran, we were the only visitors and the best potential customers for these stunning hand-made shawls that started at 2,000 pesos. The elaborate feather fringed rebozos (photos are still in my camera) were commanding a 5,000 pesos price tag, more than most of the local women could afford. But, then, they could weave their own or buy from a relative!

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Why go to Michoacan? For the folk art, of course, and then, there’s the landscape, and the people, the history  ….

On my return to Oaxaca, I took a taxi from Morelia center to the regional bus terminal and bought my ticket the same day. It was a five-hour bus ride to Mexico City Norte terminal. I was the only foreigner on the bus. MA flew direct from Morelia to Oakland, CA on a non-stop Volaris flight. Lucky her. I, on the other hand, got into a secure taxi for the 30-minute ride to the airport to board the Interjet flight to Oaxaca ($116 USD round-trip).

Morelia Best-30 Morelia Best-3

Okay, so that’s the story. Or at least skimming it. Mexico is a treasure trove of history, archeology, folk art, contemporary art, intellectual discourse and culture. Her cities are beautiful. Yes, some parts are not safe. Most parts are. Some have reputations for being unsafe that have never been true and/or might have been true two or three or four years ago, like Morelia. Morelia is safe now. It is gorgeous. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Map of Oaxaca

Oaxaca has always been safe.

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Join us February 3-11, 2016 for Mexico Textiles and Folk Art Study Tour: Tenancingo Rebozos and More. 4 Spaces Left!

Food Alert! Guzina Oaxaca Opens in Mexico City

Casa Oaxaca is one of our favorite go-to restaurants in Oaxaca.  Sit on the roof. Overlook the spectacular roofline of Santo Domingo Church. Indulge in a tamarind mezcalini. Follow this with a perfectly prepared seared sea bass or duck tacos. Each sauce that accompanies is an art form in its own right. Finish with something made with Oaxaca chocolate and then walk down the Macdeonio Alcala to walk it off.

Now, when you are in Mexico City you can enjoy Oaxaca food at is finest.  Chef Alejandro Ruiz has opened Guzina Oaxaca in the upscale Polanco neighborhood where Quintonil and Pujol share addresses.  Guzina, which means kitchen in Zapotec, the predominant indigenous language of Oaxaca, showcases some of Oaxaca’s finest ingredients, include mole and mezcal.

It is also pricey.  Entrees are about 350 pesos or $25-28 USD. But if you have an appetizer, a cocktail, wine, entree and dessert, you could spend about $70 USD per person. But, then, Mexico City is one of those places with European ambience and style, a bargain if your economy is the dollar.

Food writer Leslie Tellez tells her story about Guzina Oaxaca. And, you can read more on Trip Advisor and El Chilango, too.

Chef Ruiz is not the only Oaxaca entrepreneur to make a foray into Mexico City.

Remigio Mestas Ruiz, textile curator, promoter of indigenous weaving and textile traditions ,and a man with a social conscience, opened Remigio’s at Isabel la Catolica #30 several years ago  His Oaxaca gallery, Baules de Juana Cata in the Los Danzantes patio, is where Oaxaca textile lovers go to find the very best backstrap loomed garments created with Thai silk and Egyptian cotton by the finest weavers.  These are all available in Mexico City, too.

More good reasons to come to Mexico City, don’t you think?

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Art History Tour in Mexico City, November 13-17, 2015.  

Oh, and did I mention that Mexico City is safe?

This restaurant tip came from one of my readers. Got tips about Mexico and Oaxaca you want to share? Send me an email.

 

Morocco Journal 1: What To Wear and Other Notes

The debate about how a woman from the western world is to clothe herself while traveling in the Moslem Kingdom of Morocco continues.  I want to be respectful and also comfortable as the temperatures hover close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover your elbows, advises one friend.  Another says, elbows are okay, just don’t show forearms or cleavage.  Another tells me to wear a long skirt or dress and cover your ankles.  Don’t worry, ankles are okay, says one more, it’s not Saudi Arabia, you just don’t want to wear short shorts.  At my stage of maturity, that would not be my thing.  Today, I am in the serious pre-packing thinking stage of open suitcase and clothes on the bed.

Jude looks at argan soap

Jude looks at argan soap

Sunday, September 15 is departure day.  I am traveling with my friend Judith Reitman-Texier who has been to Morocco many times for her company La Bedouine argan oil skin care and lifestyle.  Her wise counsel is priceless and her planning even more so.  Jude, also a published journalist, invited me to come with her as she writes reviews of 5-star Marrakech riads for travel magazines and sources product for her business.  My role is to photograph and document all.  Of course, the textiles are what draws me there!

 

Morocco Packing Notes

  • wide-brimmed hat
  • sunscreen
  • no open-toe shoes
  • long linen dress
  • shawls that can drape and wrap to cover
  • 2 long linen skirts
  • 1 pair loose linen pants
  • loose linen tops (3-4)
  • long sleeve linen top
  • 3-4 changes of underwear
  • sleep shirt
  • comfortable walking shoes
  • closed toe dress shoes

The list sounds like what I recommend for Oaxaca, except the arm-leg cover-up part.  Always, no short shorts!

Plus these essentials:

  • Contact your bank to let them know travel plans so they don’t block ATM money withdrawal.
  • Contact your wireless mobile service if you want data, text and voice coverage while traveling.
  • Important Note:  Especially for a woman, it is essential to carry a cell phone wherever you are that connects you to home in an emergency.  Don’t skimp.  It is part of travel safety and security.

And comments from friends on my Facebook page keep coming in, like this one:

Covered up but cool because it sure was hot when I was there. And although they do not drink they serve local beer to the tourist – just do not try to take the lovely bottle as I did. The waiter went nuts and thought I was stealing (which could have cost me a hand) but the owner graciously insisted I keep the bottle after my husband came to my rescue. On the street my husband was offered two camels for me.

 

How safe is Mexico City for a single female traveler?

This question just came in: How safe is Mexico City for a single female traveler?

This is my experience.  I have been flying from the USA directly to Mexico City for the last several years. I do this to know Mexico better.  Usually I travel solo, alone, single, without a companion.  The Mexico City airport is very safe and secure.  I always buy a taxi ticket from the Taxi Seguro ticket stand in the airport after you exit from baggage claim.  This secure taxi service is licensed and registered by the Distrito Federal (D.F.) officials.  The cost from the airport to the historic center is about 200 pesos.

Mexico City is filled with culture, art treasures, stunning architecture, great restaurants and street food.  It is where Diego Rivera murals adorn public spaces to visually convey the history of Mexico from pre-Conquest to the socialist ideals of Communism.  It is filled with energy and beauty.  It is clean and overall safe. Definitely worth a stopover, in my opinion.

In the historic center I walk everywhere with my BIG Nikon camera and small purse (long straps crisscrossed over the my body) — to FONART, to Palacio Bellas Artes, to Mercado de San Juan, to Museo de Arte Popular, and to Palacio Nacional.  You need a taxi to the anthropology museum in Chapultepec Park.

If I’m there on the weekend, I will call a friend to go with me to Lagunilla flea market.  This is an all-day adventure.  There is a Saturday and Sunday Plaza del Angel antiques market in the Zona Rosa that is safe and accessible, and perfect for solo traveling.

I have taken the Metro with friends, but not yet solo.  Taxis are reasonable and plentiful.  Your hotel can call you a taxi they know to be secure and safe.  One Australian friend who has lived in D.F. for four years says to only take the white radio taxis that are available at marked corner stands.  I’ve used red and gold city taxis with no problem.

On past visits, I have asked my hotels or B&Bs to arrange a car and driver for a full day of sightseeing at about 100-120 pesos an hour.  We’ve gone to Casa Azul, the Dolores Olmeda Pineda Museum, and Xochimilco. The driver stays with us.

Two nights in Mexico City only gives you one full day, so I recommend at least three nights minimum to really get a flavor for the city.

As with all travel anywhere — in the USA or any foreign country — be mindful of your surroundings, only take cash out of an ATM during the day, keep your camera slung across your chest, don’t walk and use your SmartPhone at the same time (someone can easily grab it), check the taxi seat and floor before departing to make sure you don’t leave anything behind, stay alert, move away from people you think are suspicious.  I always carry my Passport with me for identification, but I’ve heard advice to the contrary.

I’m in Chicago this weekend and a platoon of policemen were heading toward Water Tower Place on the Magnificent Mile this morning for patrol duty.  Locals say there are a lot of iPhone thefts in that neighborhood, so there you go!

What else would you like to know?