Levine Museum of the New South Features Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Photo

The Levine Museum of the New South opens NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South on Friday, September 25, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. It can be seen until October 30, 2016. After that, the interactive, bilingual exhibition will travel throughout the United States starting with the Birmingham (AL) Civil Rights Institute and the Atlanta (GA) History Center.  I hope you have a chance to see it.

Oliver Merino, who is coordinating the exhibition, contacted me last year to ask if the museum could include one of my photographs of Oaxaca Day of the Dead practices in the exhibition. Of course, I said, YES! There is nothing I could be more satisfied with than to contribute to the dialog about human rights, personal respect and dignity, and cultural appreciation for every human being in the world, and especially for Latinos in America.

(Note: the photo below is not the one used for the exhibition.) If you would like to volunteer or know more, please contact Oliver.


Latino communities throughout Mexico and the United States are getting ready for the end of October celebration that honors deceased loved ones. The practice is celebratory and filled with magical ritual.  So different from how we mourn and remember in the USA.

In Oaxaca, things are gearing up!

Photography Workshop in Chiapas, January 2016.



Viva Mexico! Happy Independence Day!

September 16 is Mexican Independence Day. All this past week every city, town and village I’ve traveled through — from Mexico City to Tenancingo de Degollado to Morelia, Patzcuaro and Tzintzuntzan — is preparing for the celebration.

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Right now, in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, the zocalo is filled with families waiting for the mayor to speechify.  On September 15, a tall castle built of bamboo appeared. At ten o’clock at night the wheels at the top of the castle will spin and propel firecrackers and a pyrotechnics display skyward announcing the independence once again.

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Flags, bunting, parades, musicians and red, green and white jello cups dominate the landscape. Across the land, mayors, governors and the President will shout out La Grita — the call for freedom from Spain that Hidalgo yelled in 1821. Children will wear the colors of their country. There is even a Liberty Bell. This is a photo tribute to Mexico and her Independence. untitled (197 of 378)RebozoMkt+Anniv-5Malinalco 41-26 Metepec 48-2Malinalco Best 59-38

The feast of the season is the red, white and green taste treat called Chiles en Nogada, created by the nuns in Puebla for General Iturbide who became Emperor of Mexico after independence from Spain.

Mexico Colors-14 Michoacan-3 Mexico Colors-11I’m not sure that Mexico can be topped by any other country for her widespread use of red, white and green. From confections to cake decorations to adornment on buildings, the color of the flag dominates everything this week.

Mexico Colors-10 Mexico Colors-8Mexico is a country of do-it-yourselfers. The Parisina fabric store (it seems like there is one in each medium to large size town) is filled with enough notions, textiles and glitter to outfit each man, woman and child in the country’s colors.

Mexico Colors And, if you need a flag, look no further than your neighborhood street corner, where you can get one in any size. Add a feathery hair adornment, a horn, a drum, and a whistle and you’ll be ready to join any band in town.

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At the Feria del Rebozo in Tenancingo de Degollado, State of Mexico, I saw many finely woven shawls that were in the colors red, white and green. They were hung like flags on display and I know that many women coveted them.

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Michoacan-7 Michoacan-6 Michoacan-4 Mexico Colors-12 Mexico Colors-5Michoacan Even at Casa Azul, home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, an exhibit of her clothing featured a skirt in patriotic colors.  Diego_Frida_July2014-102 I’m writing this on the night of September 15. The firecrackers just went off. I heard the mayor call La Grita. Time to go to sleep, if I can sleep. Who knows how for how long the firecrackers will crackle and sizzle and burst with sound. Sending wishes for peace and freedom for all.

Michoacan-6 Michoacan-9 On September 16, we’ll go to the zocalo for the parade. Every Independence Day needs a parade, yes?

Pueblo Magico Malinalco: Hand-loomed Rebozos and Pre-Aztec Pyramids

The magical town of Malinalco in the State of Mexico is a short thirty-minute ride from Tenancingo de Degollado. One of Mexico’s greatest rebozo weavers, Camila Ramos Zamora, and her family live and work here.

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Her father was a rebozo weaver from Tenancingo and he moved to Malinalco to marry Camila’s mother. They established a workshop that makes some very amazing ikat/jaspe rebozos on the back strap loom. Some use natural dyes. Most have intricate, lengthy fringes called puntas or rapacejos, that in my opinion represent fifty percent of the beauty of a rebozo.

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This week, Came’s son José Rodrigo Mancio Ramos, received the special award for a major piece using natural dyes in the National Rebozo Competition sponsored by FONART and held in Tlaxcala. He carries on the family tradition for creating and executing outstanding textile art.  The punta on his winning piece is made in the pointed style preferred by the Spanish aristocrats who came to Mexico in the 18th century.

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I visited Camila Ramos Zamora’s two shops in Malinalco as well as the amazing Augustinian church built in 1560. I’ve never seen such detailed, dramatic frescoes as these. The church is a sight to behold.

Here’s a note from Mexico expert Silva Nielands: The Paradise Garden murals in the monastery were not painted by the Augustinians who built it, but by the indigenous people who were taught the painting process.  The murals are a mix of European (saintly) themes full of local imagery.  The plants, animals, etc. are all important to the indigenous culture and are like a full encyclopedia of the herbal/medicinal, etc.  http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/books/peterson-paradise-garden

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Many towns in Mexico were settled by different Catholic orders: Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians and Jesuits, missionaries competing for converts. The Augustinian church dominates the central zocalo and is the only Catholic church in Malinalco.

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I admired the black rebozo this woman on the left was wearing as she and two friends exited the church. One friend jumped in to help her put it around her shoulders so I could see the weaving and the very long fringes. I think they were delighted that I noticed and paid them special attention!

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My friend Mary Anne hiked up to the archeological site which she reports is an easy, shaded climb up about 400 shallow steps through amazing landscape.

Malinalco Pyramid

Our group from Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico wandered Malinalco independently to explore and discover.  We all met up at Las Placeres for a great lunch on the shaded patio complete with tamarind mezcal Margaritas — mi favorita.

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This experience has been so wonderful, that I want to bring you here with me.

  • So, I’m scheduling a study tour from February 3-11, 2016  to learn about and meet the rebozo weavers of Tenancingo.
  • Meet in Mexico City on February 3 with overnight there.
  • Travel to and stay in Tenancingo  from February 4 to 10
  • Participate in hands-on workshops and demonstrations
  • Travel to Metepec and stay overnight in Metepec on February 10
  • Travel to Mexico City on February 11 to depart for home OR stay on your own through President’s Weekend in Mexico City to enjoy the museums and world-class restaurants

In addition, we will take a day trip to the silver capitol of Mexico, Taxco, a Pueblo Magico, explore the Pueblo Magico ceramics village of Metepec and the Pueblo Magico village of Malinalco.

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We will eat great food, climb ancient pyramids at important though remote archeological sites and immerse ourselves in Mexico’s folk art. We’ll even have the option of a respite with massage and facials.

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Send me an email if you are interested in this study tour!

More information coming soon.

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Teotitlan del Valle Weaver Recognized by Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian

Norma’s Note: Weaver Porfirio Gutierrez called to tell me about his recognition from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  He asked if I would share the news. Congratulations to Porfirio and to all the outstanding weavers of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico — many of whom deserve recognition and are unsung cultural heroes. I’m happy to share this with you.


My name is Porfirio Gutiérrez and I am a weaver from Teotitlán del Valle. We follow your blog and refer many friends who want to learn more about Oaxaca. I am writing because I thought you might find my recent award from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) to be newsworthy. Once a year candidates for their Artist Leadership Program are selected. I am proud to announce that I have been chosen for 2016. Below is more information about how I became a participant and what this means to our village.

Porfirio on loom #1

Like many people in our village, my family has descended from generations of Zapotec weavers going back as far as anyone can remember. As you know, Teotitlán has been known for its fine weaving since pre-Columbian times. In spite of our long-standing reputation for fine work, the economic downturn and other factors have hurt our livelihood and threaten the existence of our traditional art.

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In our town, other components of our Zapotec legacy are about to vanish forever. My parents speak Zapoteco, my siblings and I speak Zapoteco and Spanish, but our children speak mostly Spanish. The same pattern is true with our art; my parents spin, dye and weave. My siblings and I have these skills to some degree, but most of us have had to find outside work in other fields to sustain our families.

The youth in our village may never know the all of arts of their ancestors unless they are shown by the remaining masters who are still practicing our ancient techniques. In an effort to sustain our Zapotec art of weaving, I proposed to the NMAI to bring together experts with a group of interested people in our village for a workshop on traditional plant and cochineal dyes.


We are very fortunate that the NMAI wants to support our efforts and is going to help us with a 4-day training program. During this workshop students will see where dye plants grow in the wild, learn how to make them into dyes, and explore color combinations. NMAI will come to Teotitlán to oversee the program and make professional video that will be posted on their website.

The Smithsonian’s NMAI Artist Leadership Program is truly an important step towards sustaining Zapotec culture and our traditional art form. Their video will give a glimpse into life in Oaxaca. Please visit our website for more information.

Butterflies and Flowers: Tenancingo Backstrap Loom Weaver Jesus Zarate

Jesus Zarate is a talented weaver who works on both the flying shuttle peddle loom and back strap loom in his workshop at Cuauhtemoc Oriente #312 in Tenancingo de Degollado, State of Mexico. His work is an outstanding example and among the best of the ikat weavers or rebozeros. He is more than an innovator. His work is like wearing a Monet painting of water lilies.

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There are 150 butterflies hand-woven onto a black ground in the rebozo I am wearing in the photo on the upper right. This is a one-of-a-kind textile that takes six weeks to weave and another two months to hand-knot the fringe. That’s not including the preparation of the ikat warp threads that I described in the post about Don Evaristo Borboa. If you click on the photo you can see the extraordinary detail.

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Above left, Linda Arroz wears this extraordinary rebozo with an eight inch intricately tied fringe (punta). You can see the full beauty of this rebozo filled with flowers and leaves. The ikat technique requires matching the pattern on the warp and weft threads, a laborious process. This textile, with 5,400 threads across the width, has the feel of silk although it is woven with the finest cotton.

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Linda G. fell in love with this green and white floral pattern on black. The texture created by the ikat in each flower is as if the pattern is an inch below water, shimmering with texture. I think you can tell that Jesus Zarate is a humble man who is not used to the limelight.

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Jesus’ son works with him, concentrating on basic ikat production using the flying shuttle loom. Together, they are building up an inventory but don’t have enough rebozos to show so won’t participate in the Feria del Rebozo this weekend.

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Tragically, Jesus lost two of his four sons and is helping to raise his grandchildren. We felt privileged to support the family by buying rebozos. When we did, tears came to his eyes.

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The rebozo I’m wearing above left is a painting of roses, butterflies and quetzal birds considered sacred in Mesoamerican cultures.

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I’m traveling this week with Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico, a support group for Mexican folk art and artisans. Our gracious hosts here in Tenancingo are Peter Stanziale and his wife Circe Beltran Lopez, owners of El Porton Inn Hotel, an incredibly beautiful oasis on the Tenancingo-Teneria road.

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This experience has been so enrapturing, that I want to bring you here with me. So, I’m going to organize a study tour to learn about and meet the rebozo weavers of Tenancingo. In addition, we will take a day trip to the silver capitol of Mexico, Taxco, explore the Pueblo Magico ceramics village of Metepec and the Pueblo Magico village of Malinalco. We will eat great food, climb ancient pyramids at important though remote archeological sites and immerse ourselves in Mexico’s folk art. We might even have a spa day with massage and facials.

Send me an email if you want to know more!