Tag Archives: books

Textile Travel Guide and Tips: How To Be a Cultural Ambassador

Cloth Roads just published a blog post called Textile Travel Guide: 10 Tips to Be a Star Textile Ambassador. 

This comes as a just-in-time-reminder for me about cultural sensitivity and travel to indigenous parts of the world where handmade textiles still flourish. My trip to India was bumped up a day, so I am on an airplane this Monday morning.

It also comes just-in-time for many of you who are attending the International Shibori Network Symposium in Oaxaca, Mexico.


If you go to the Cloth Roads website, you can join the mailing list and download the guide for free.  It’s common sense and worth the reminder. Some of the tips are to prevent what I’ve seen on guided tours, where participants launch into grabbing and shopping before the local women have a chance to present themselves and their histories.

If you are traveling in 2017 to countries where amazing textiles are found, please take this guide with you.

If you are traveling to Mexico, please bring Textile Fiestas of Mexico by Sheri Brautigam. I contributed two chapters, one about the rugs of Teotitlan del Valle and the other about the rebozos of Tenancingo de Degollado.

As I embark for Delhi, Gujarat and Mumbai, I think about what it means to appreciate cloth and the people of India and the people of Oaxaca who cultivate the raw material, weave and dye, sew and fashion.

We have two spaces open for February 2-10, 2017.

Mexico Textiles & Folk Art Study Tour: Tenancingo Rebozos and More



Santa Fe, New Mexico Gala Supports Oaxaca Ceramic Arts

It was two days after the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market closed but the celebration continued.  Los Amigos de Arte Popular de Mexico hosted a gala fundraising dinner at a private home filled with folk art treasures within walking distance of the city’s historic center.

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About forty people attended to support Innovando la Tradicion ceramics cooperative. We were from all over, including Oaxaca, New Mexico, Texas, California. Of course, it was a huipil fashion show, too!

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The food was prepared in the Oaxaca clay cooking vessels made by Macrina Mateo and her family in the indigenous Zapotec village of San Marcos Tlapazola, just a few miles from where I live. I’ve visited Macrina and took photographs of the firing process, which you can see here.

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Susana Trilling, famed Oaxaca chef, cooking teacher and cookbook author prepared the multi-course meal. She was assisted by local culinary school faculty, students and friends. Everyone donated their time and talent!

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When Susana left Oaxaca for Santa Fe, her suitcases were loaded up with Oaxaca cheese, mole coloradito, sea salt, poleo, spices and condiments. Her bags just reached the weight limit, she said.

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The meal was spectacular, of course, because it featured these ingredients which were also available for sale under Susana’s private label.  If you click this link, you’ll get recipes, too.

Here is the Menu:

  • Corn fungus taquitos, pumpkin seed dip
  • Fondue of string cheese, pork, and purslane in green sauce
  • Ensalada de la milpa
  • Oaxacan coloradito mole with chicken, or
  •  Yellow mole with oyster mushrooms and vegetables (vegetarian option)
  • Baked, spiced potatoes from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
  • Layered mango pudding or “charlotte”
  • Oaxacan chocolate chile truffles
  • Hibiscus flower and ginger cooler, sangria punch
  • Poleo tisane

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John Waddell, one of the organizers, said he made a liter of sangria for each attendee. We started off with huitlacoche tacos and finished with Susanna’s Oaxaca chocolate truffle paired with a mango raisin cream pudding.

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The first course was a pork stew floating in salsa verde, topped with Oaxaca string cheese, garnished with wild greens and served in one of Macrina’s handmade clay duck bowls.

chicken mole

The entree was chicken with mole coloradito served with Isthmus of Tehuantepec style tangy potatoes, mashed with peas, carrots and onions.

For dessert, we dove into the mango cream pudding and exhaled.

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After dinner, Susana and Macrina presented the culinary school with a gift of their largest cooking vessel. Then, Eric Mindling talked about his book, Fire and Clay, a bilingual journey into the traditional ceramics making culture of Oaxaca.

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The gathering was relaxed, informal and fun. We hung around to sip more sangria, visit with new and old friends, and just savor the experience of welcoming Oaxaca folk artists to Santa Fe.

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There was just enough remaining after the folk art market of the beautiful, lead-free black and red pottery to present tonight for sale at a free gallery opening at Santa Fe Clay gallery and workshop. If you are in town, don’t miss it. Call to check times.

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During my visit, I made a day trip to Taos to visit friends Jane and Adam. On the drive, you pass through the Rio Grande River canyon. It was so beautiful, I stopped several times just to get that special inspiration from the landscape. It is sacred space that offers renewal, healing and enlightenment.

See you soon in Oaxaca!

Where to find this pottery in Oaxaca:

  1. 1050 Degrees ceramics shop, Rufino Tamayo 800-c (Xolotl), 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Call us: +52 951 132 61 58
  2. Tlacolula Market every Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find Macrina and her family at the intersection of the main road and church. They lay out a straw mat to display their work and sit cross legged on another
  3. At the family studio any day in San Marcos Tlapazola






Cultural Dialogs: Dance of the Feather in Teotitlan del Valle

On Wednesday night this week, the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center hosted the first in a series of community dialogs about indigenous life in Oaxaca.   The restored chapel was filled to standing room only with Teotitecos and friends who came to hear a panel discussion introducing the new book, La Danza de la Pluma en Teotitlån del Valle written by Jorge Hernandez-Diaz, a cultural anthropologist at the state Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca.

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In addition to Professor Hernandez-Diaz, panelists included Uriel Santiago, one of the 2007-2009 group of dancers who made a promise and commitment to God, their church, community and culture by learning and performing this ancient tradition for a period of three years.   Uriel first welcomed guests in Zapotec then moved into Spanish.  Years ago Uriel explained to me that the Dance of the Feather is not a folkloric event designed to entertain people.  It is a serious expression of Zapotec identity and cultural continuity.  We made a documentary film about his experience in 2008 which you can see on YouTube.

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The book, published in Spanish by the Oaxaca Secretary of Culture and Arts, with support from the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation and the Office of the Governor of Oaxaca, offers three possible explanations about the origins of the dance, how it is interpreted in Teotitlan del Valle, other Oaxaca villages where the dance is an integral part of annual celebration, the rituals and traditions associated with the dance, and how the dance is organized and who can participate, plus lots more.  The professor explains in his book that the dance is expressed with variations in many Mexican states, too.

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Each year in Teotitlan del Valle beginning in early July and lasting for about a week, the Dance of the Feather is performed in the church courtyard.  Every three years the group changes and is organized/trained by a different leader.  The 2007-2009 maestro was Don Antonio Ruiz.  The book recognizes all the members of this particular group by name and the role they danced–Moctezuma, the indigenous kings who succumbed to the conquest, and Malinche/Doña Marina.

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Some of the group members are cousins.  Since the time of the dance, many of them have married and had children.  They have become doctors, educators and skilled weavers.  They remain close, committed to each other and their community, treasuring the time they devoted to transmitting their cultural heritage and ensuring continuity.


Want to Live in Mexico? Advice from a Wisecracker!

Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is a zany memoir by Mark Saunders (Fuze Publishing, LLC, McLean, VA, ISBN 978-0-9841412-8-9), who, with his wife Arlene Krasner, moved to San Miguel de Allende (SMA) shortly after falling in love with the place.  The book’s tag line is “Drop out.  Sell everything. Move to Mexico. Sounded like a good plan.”  Not!

Saunders’ writing is tongue-in-cheek witty, with a sprinkle of irreverent, brash, and self-deprecating thrown in for good measure.  Overall, it is an entertaining and fast read.  The book could be a primer for Baby Boomers on the eve of retirement who believe that relocating to Mexico is the answer to a less-than-adequate retirement income.   Saunders’ sardonic underlying message is a “don’t do what we did” warning to greenhorns who think they can move to Mexico on a wing and a prayer (or maybe in a 10-year old high-performance Audi Quattro) without adequate preparation (or an expert, specialized mechanic in tow).

Saunders’ memoir focuses on the couple’s experience moving from Portland, Oregon, to SMA, with their standard poodle and cat. (He’s originally from Sacramento, California, and she grew up in New York City.)  Wooed by blue skies and balmy days, bolstered by a vigorous ex-pat community, their story will resonate with anyone considering living anywhere in Mexico as an alternative to the northern part of North America.  Anecdotes and vignettes of mishaps, miscommunication, and missives fill the pages.

And, Saunders is unabashed while dissecting the realities of living in Mexico for uninitiated American and Canadian expats:  constant dust, barking dogs, lack of central heat and air, long queues to pay bills (which must be done in person) and at banks, past due utility bills and interrupted utility services, cars in need of repair, bodies in need of repair, the meaning of “manana,” and the ubiquitous language barrier.

Most importantly, Saunders raises important questions underlying the humorous pokes at himself, at “gringolandia” [a place where a lot of expats live in Mexico], and his situation.

Subtextual Questions — Self-examination BEFORE you move:

  • What are your primary reasons for the move?
  • What is your experience living in another culture?
  • How adaptable are you?
  • How dedicated will you be to learn or improve your Spanish?   How much patience do you have?
  • Do you need the same conveniences and lifestyle (food, entertainment, shopping, etc.) in Mexico as you had living in the U.S.?
  • Do you expect to live among English speakers?
  • How well can you negotiate through problems?
  • What special health care issues do you have that may require medical attention?

The book is sprinkled with Saunders’ own drawings and cartoons depicting daily gringo/a challenges and misadventures.  The ending is pure redemption  and I won’t give it away!  And remember, a sense of humor will take you a long way.

Here are my 9 Tips for Living in Mexico.

If you are an expat living in Mexico, will you share your advice with us for making the transition smoothly?  If you are a Mexican who wants to add your suggestions about ways to make the landing softer, please do so!

Liza Bakewell, MADRE: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun, Gets Oaxaca Welcome


My friend and Oaxaca colleague Shannon Sheppard writes about her experience reading the book, her impressions, and connecting Liza with both the local and ex-pat community in Oaxaca. I think you will find her comments entertaining and informative. Click on the link above to read

My mobile office is now two feet from Highland Lake in Bridgton, Maine. Thank goodness for 3G and my iPad. There is no Wi-Fi here nor is there a landline. It is definitely a retreat and I can bring the world in as I choose. Liza Bakewell is on a neighboring lake about an hour from here with her daughters. She and I plan a meet-up next week.

Last night, Stephen and I had dinner with Nancy Coleman and Dulcie Whitman at Vignola in Portland. Great restaurant with even better friends. Nancy attended the Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat last March. It inspired her to write and submit to national literary journals and she is getting great response! Dulcie just completed the MFA and is teaching. My hope is to connect them with Liza who is bring together Maine women writers.

What an extraordinary world we live in! Now, for the lake.