Tag Archives: Chiapas

Oaxaca Art + Archeology with Chiapas Add-On: Study Tour with Penland School of Crafts

Travel and learn with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC in collaboration with Penland School of Crafts, one of the foremost centers for art and craft education in the United States. This is an unparalleled opportunity to study folk art, craft and contemporary art of Oaxaca, with an option to extend your time to explore San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas and surrounding Maya villages.  An in-depth indigenous Mexico educational experience.

Oaxaca, UNESCO World Heritage Site

February 12-19, 2015: 7 nights and 8 days of cultural immersion and discovery! Archeology, food, contemporary and folk art, wood carving, pottery, weaving and Carnival celebrations. The best of the best! Starting at $3,285 double occupancy, includes lodging, most meals and transportation, and a tax-deductible $500 gift to Penland School of Crafts.  Single occupancy option: $3,695.

Every minute of the trip has been a teaching in every aspect. Most valuable to me has been sharing with you and learning so much!! – Elizabeth Steinvorth

Add-on San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

Depart Oaxaca on February 19, travel overnight from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas on a luxury bus with reclining seats.  Arrive in Chiapas in time for breakfast,  textile talk and orientation walk!

Add-on Chiapas–February 20-25, 2015: 5 nights and 5 full days to explore the land of the Maya — archeology, textiles, traditional medicine, precious stones and jewelry making traditions.  We are based in San Cristobal de Las Casas at the crossroads of the Maya world, an international mountain town of outstanding beauty. Our host is luxurious boutique LaJoya Hotel. We offer single or double occupancy in king bed Gold-level luxe, $2,395. For single or double occupancy in one or two beds, we offer Bronze-level semi-luxe, $1,845 at a nearby hotel.

Contact Norma Hawthorne by email to receive your registration form or get your questions answered.

Penland School of Crafts is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and was founded on the principles and values of preserving and promulgating the rich folk art traditions of the local culture. In keeping with these roots, we offer you a week-long study tour to explore the indigenous world of Oaxaca, Mexico, with a six-day add-on option to Chiapas, Mexico. Here art and craft have flourished for centuries.

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Oaxaca and Chiapas mountains are scattered with remote indigenous villages where amazing art is created in the tradition of the ancestors. Every piece has a back-story and is a testimony to the creativity and beauty that is Mexico today. We invite you to become a part of this exciting, personalized program.

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I have greater respect for the people and their talent and family values. Incredibly beautiful art work. – Lee Ellis

I know now that I can be comfortable and enjoy traveling where I do not speak the language. Some of my preconceived ideas about Mexico were incorrect. – Edna McKee

During our week together in Oaxaca, you will

  • discover or better know the 16th century Spanish colonial city of Oaxaca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • meet ceramic, textile, and wood-carving artists and artisans
  • meet contemporary artists in their studios and discover a vibrant international art scene
  • visit a Zapotec village where pre-Lenten Carnivale is celebrated with extravagant costumes and energetic revelry
  • spend the day in Ocotlan to better know the art of Rodolfo Morales
  • explore famed Zapotec archeological sites with an expert English-speaking guide
  • sample local cuisine during a cooking class with one of Oaxaca’s best known teachers
  • dine at some of Oaxaca’s greatest restaurants and meet the chefs
  • see Oaxaca like an insider through the eyes of Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

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Oaxaca, Mexico Itinerary — February 12-19

Day 1: Thursday, February 12. Participants will travel independently from their home city and arrive at the Oaxaca, Mexico, international airport. If you come directly from Houston, you will clear customs and immigration in Oaxaca. If you connect through Mexico City, you will clear customs and immigration there before boarding your connecting flight to Oaxaca. We will send you a complete travel guide one month before the program date. When you give us your flight arrival information, we will arrange private transportation to meet you at the airport and bring you a short distance to our Oaxaca city B&B. If you arrive in time, meet us in the lobby at 8:00 p.m. for a light supper, if you wish. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 2: Friday, February 13. After breakfast, we will be transported along the Ocotlan Folk Art and Crafts Route to visit the home and museum of famed Oaxaca artist Rofolfo Morales, the lively weekly market where locals shop, and see the exquisite work of embroiderers, potters and sculptors.  A gala welcome dinner ends our day. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Saturday, February 14. The contemporary art scene in Oaxaca is considered by experts to be among the best in Mexico. We have arranged a day of meeting painters and lithographers in their studios to discuss and see their work, and learn more about Oaxaca’s rich art culture. In late afternoon, we depart for the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. Overnight at a family-owned guest house for a taste of the more humble village life. (B, D)

Day 4: Sunday, February 15. After a hearty, homemade breakfast, we go to the outstanding archeological sites of Mitla and Yagul, then visit the home studio of a master weaver who will demonstrate tapestry weaving on the two-harness pedal loom. You will see a natural dye demonstration and make your own cochineal-dyed silk scarf.  Then, we will visit a family who cultivates their own silkworms, hand-spins and dyes the silk, and then weaves it into stunning clothing. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle. (B, L, D)

Day 5: Monday, February 16. Following breakfast, we take a cooking class with one of Oaxaca’s outstanding cooking teachers. She will take us on a walking tour of the  market where we will shop for fresh ingredients, then work together with her guidance to prepare a delicious traditional repast that includes, of course, one of Oaxaca’s famous mole dishes and a mezcal tasting. After lunch, we return to Oaxaca by private van. (B, L)

Day 6: Tuesday, February 17.  It’s Fat Tuesday and Carnival Time in Oaxaca. The Mardi Gras costumed parade in the village of San Martin Tilcajete rivals pre-Lenten festivities around the world.  Join the locals who know what revelry is all about as we follow the king and queen of Carnival through village streets, dancing all the way. We will enjoy a delicious lunch together at a locally-owned restaurant before we return to Oaxaca. (B, L)

Day 7: Wednesday, February 18.  Archeology and artisanry is our focus as we visit famed master craftsmen in Atzompa, the pottery-making village, and Arrazola, the alebrije-making village where wood carvers and painters create fanciful mythical animals and replicate scenes of village life. You will see demonstrations and meet the grand masters of Oaxaca Folk Art.  Just outside of Oaxaca city lays the stunning and important Zapotec archeological site of Monte Alban. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago considers this to be the finest example of social and government organization in Meso-america. Sturdy walking shoes and walking sticks encouraged! (B, L)

Day 8:  Thursday, February 19.  Some of you will depart Oaxaca and return to your homes.  Others will stay on with us to take the overnight luxury bus to Chiapas for the next leg of our adventure. (B)

Norma is not only knowledgeable, she is part of the local community. Her deep connection to the people made for a rich experience. – Jane Crowe

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$3,285 per person double occupancy. $3,685 for a single supplement. Includes $500 per person tax-deductible gift to Penland School of Crafts.

Register Today. Contact us to receive a registration form. Have Questions? Ask Norma Hawthorne at normahawthorne@mac.com

Chiapas, Mexico Itinerary — February 19-25

Day 1: Thursday, February 19.  Luxury overnight bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas (B) or travel independently to Chiapas and arrive in San Cristobal de Las Casas on your own.

Day 2: Friday, February 20. Check in to our San Cristobal de Las Casas Hotel. At breakfast, we will meet a local expert who will talk about Maya textiles and Chiapas textile traditions. Then we’ll take a walking cultural orientation tour of the compact, pedestrian-friendly city.  After a group lunch, you will have time to recharge before we visit folk-healer Sergio Castro and his private museum. Overnight SCDLC. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Saturday, February 21: During breakfast, we will introduce you to the history of ancient Maya jewelry design and adornment, visit the Jade and Textile museums, and enjoy a Market Meander after lunch. There is nothing so tantalizing as the outdoor crafts market in San Cristobal de Las Casas, where vintage and new textiles, clothing, home goods, clay sculpture, beadwork and lots more capture your senses. Overnight SCDLC. (B, L)

Day 4: Sunday, February 22: The magical indigenous church in San Juan Chamula blends Spanish Catholicism with local folk beliefs. After breakfast and a discussion about Maya mysticism, we will visit the church and local market, then stop at Zinacantan where colorful flowers grow in greenhouses and are the theme of intricately embroidered cloth that are sewn into skirts (faldas) and shawls (chals).  (B, L)

Day 5: Monday, February 23: Today, we study Chiapas archeology and documentary photography through the eyes of husband-wife explorers Frans Blom and Gertrude Duby-Blom, who worked with Maya Lacandon people starting in the 1920’s.  Their home museum, Na Bolom, the jaguar house, tells the story of early archeological work in Mexico. After an optional lunch at the museum cafe, you will have time to explore San Cristobal de Las Casas on your own. (B)

Day 6: Tuesday, February 24: The Maya archeological site of Tonina is not as well-traveled as nearby Palenque, but many say it is equally as stunning and outstanding treasures have been excavated there. This all-day adventure will take us from the mountain highlands to semi-tropical lowlands to explore this extraordinary site whose pyramids are the most vertical in the Maya world. And, yes, you can climb them! After a picnic lunch, we make our way back to SCDLC with a stop at the back-strap loom weaving village of Oxchuc where textiles are embellished in shimmering metallic threads.  Our study tour ends with a grand farewell dinner and many memories to share.  (B, L, D)

Day 7: Wednesday, February 25:  After breakfast, transfer from San Cristobal de Las Casas to Tuxtla Gutierrez to board your flights back to your home country.

Ready to Register? Contact Norma Hawthorne.

The entire time was so interesting and full of fun. So much we got to experience would never had happened if we had come on our own. Norma made all the difference with her knowledge and sensitivity of the culture, and all her local friends, who obviously adore her!!! – Lynn Nichols

About Norma Hawthorne. Norma started Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC in 2006 and began offering weaving and natural dyeing workshops in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, where she now lives part of the year. Soon after, she expanded program offerings to include women’s creating writing, yoga, photography, and other forms of textile and fiber arts workshops. In 2011, she retired from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she raised $23 million for the School of Nursing, and directed the School’s marketing and communications. Before that, she had a 25-year career in higher education continuing education and marketing at Indiana University, The University of Virginia, and The George Washington University. Norma holds the B.A. in history from California State University at Northridge and the M.S. from The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. A lover of indigenous textiles, Norma started weaving with naturally dyed wool in San Francisco, collected Amish Folk Art textiles which she recently donated to the Indiana State Museum, owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, and fell in love with Oaxaca arts and artisans when she first visited there in 2005. See Norma’s resume.

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This trip illustrates the value of having a local contact who has a passionate, personal interest and extensive knowledge abut a place, a subject and contacts with people. That’s what made the trip unique, dynamic, rich and transformative. It would not have been possible to have had this experience without Norma – and her energy, generosity and great spirit. Thank you so much! — Barbara Benisch

ReynaAmarilloMetate2 ReynaSaladIngredLodging/Accommodations. In Oaxaca, we have selected highly rated, elegant, upscale accommodations for you where we will spend five nights at Casa Las Bugambilias B&B.  We will also spend two nights at family-owned and operated guest house in Teotitlan del Valle to give you a flavor of humble village life.

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Oaxaca Study Tour Cost: The basic cost for the trip is $3,285. USD. This includes seven nights lodging shared occupancy with private bath, six breakfasts, four lunches, three dinners, transportation to/from airport and activities as noted in the itinerary, site entry fees, all instruction, and a $500 tax-deductible contribution to Penland School of Crafts.

  • OAX 1: Shared double room with private bath; $3,285.
  • OAX 2: Single Supplement, private room with private bath; $3,685.

Chiapas Study Tour Cost:  Three options available. Choose your comfort level. In Chiapas our luxury boutique La Joya Hotel, will host there. Here there are five single suites with king-size bed accommodations for Platinum and Gold-level travelers.  Double, shared rooms are in a nearby upscale colonial-style hotel.

  • CO2: $2,395, Gold-level luxe King room, single or double with special amenities
  • CO3: $1,845, Bronze-level semi-luxe double occupancy share in with your choice of one queen or two double beds

The cost does NOT include airfare and related taxes, tips/gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, and some meals as specified in the itinerary.

Please make your check payable to Norma Hawthorne, OCN-LLC and mail to Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, 9316 Perry Road, Graham, NC 27253. Your $500 tax-deductible contribution (per person, applicable only for the Oaxaca portion of the trip) will be made and mailed directly to Penland School of Crafts, Attention: Joan Glynn, Director of Development.

Dolores with Shadows Doug_03.2 DSC_0081.JPGReservations and Cancellations. Please understand that we make lodging and transportation arrangements months in advance of the program. Our hosts often require deposits or payments in full to guarantee reservations. If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After November 15, 2014, no refunds are possible and payment in full is required. We will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

We require that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, and $50,000 mimimum emergency medical evacuation insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

Ready to Register? Tell Norma at normahawthorne@mac.com Have Questions? Ask Norma at normahawthorne@mac.com.

All the workshops were terrific, talented, committed, skilled and well-prepared, thoughtful and easy to work with, generous and passionate…I am inspired to go home and do more work. – Barbara Benisch

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC in cooperation with Penland School of Crafts. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and make substitutions as necessary.

A Word About How to Get There Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, based in North Carolina, U.S.A., has offered arts workshops and cultural immersion experiences in Oaxaca, Mexico, since 2006. Many participants often travel independently to reach Oaxaca on a direct flight from the gateway city of Houston, Texas, on United Airlines. Other major U.S. airlines connect to AeroMexico in Mexico City, which offers several flights a day to Oaxaca (OAX). Delta operates a Code Share with AeroMexico. The international airport at Oaxaca is new, safe and clean, as is the Mexico City airport. Our trusted Oaxaca airport pick-up service will personally greet you as you depart from baggage claim.

For travel directly to San Cristobal de Las Casas, the town is served by Aeromexico flying into/out of Tuxtla Gutierrez (TGZ), or you can take an overnight bus from Oaxaca.

Airport pick-ups and returns are included in your registration fee.

Note: Tips may be given to your local guides, instructors, and service providers throughout the trip. The recommended tip is 50 pesos per day for each provider per person. Be sure to collect your belongings from your room and check the Safety Deposit Box. Have your Passport, Mexico Exit Visa, and Plane Tickets ready!  You must have at least six months remaining on a valid U.S. passport to enter Mexico.

Please Note: This is a working itinerary, is subject to change and may be modified as we confirm final details for the trip. Be assured that any changes made will only enhance the program and add to your total experience. Thank you for your understanding!

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Chiapas Textiles in Oaxaca This Weekend Only — Exhibition and Sale

El Diablo y Sandia Bed and Breakfast Inn is hosting an exhibition and sale of fine quality Chiapas textiles this weekend only, July 19-20, 2013.  The textiles are hand-woven on back-strap looms by the women’s cooperative El Camino de los Altos in San Cristobal de Las Casas.

  •  10 a.m. – 7 p.m. @ El Diablo y La Sandia B&B, Libres #205, Oaxaca Centro Historico, between Morelos and Murguia, Telephone 951-514-4095

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All the funds go to supporting the work of over 130 women and their families. Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico and is predominantly populated by Maya peoples.

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I have known Camino de los Altos for many years.  Each year I add a few pieces to my collection — pillow covers, table linens and dish towels — that are durable and easy to wash.   The work is stunning and 100% cotton.


A group of French textile designers started the cooperative and has transitioned it over to local management.  This weekend show is organized by Ana Paula Fuentes, a former museum director and textile expert.

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The added joy of having the exhibition at El Diablo y La Sandia is meeting owner and host Maria Crespo.  She is selling a private label mezcal that is SO GOOD and so reasonably priced that I had to buy a bottle.  But, before that, I got a good buzz sampling the different varieties she has to offer.

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The green bottles are hand-blown glass from the State of Puebla.  They are the traditional mezcal containers and make a beautiful decorative display. Several antique shops in Oaxaca offer these for sale, too.

El Camino de los Altos welcomes visitors to its San Cristobal de Las Casas shop at Restaurante Madre Tierra, Insurgentes #19, Barrio Santa Lucia. Their workshop is at Cerrada Prolongacion Peje de Oro #3-A, Carrio de Cixtitali.  Telephone (967) 631-6944


Luxury Travel Photography Workshop: Chiapas and the Maya World

8 nights, 9 days.  Arrive November 9 and leave November 17, 2013, starting from $2,545 per person.  See with inspired clarity!

Chiapas and the Maya World photography workshop will tantalize your senses as you travel to one of the most magical places on earth – San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico – a cultural crossroads of international sophistication in the Maya highlands, replete with ancient rituals, mysterious ruins, glorious textiles, superb cuisine, and old world charm.

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We welcome all levels of photographers, from beginners with little or no experience to advanced amateurs.  Professionals who want to work with documentary photographer Frank Hunter are welcome, too.

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San Cristobal is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos due to its unique natural beauty, cultural riches and history.  It lies in a valley at 7,200 feet above sea level surrounded by pine-clad hills where communities of original indigenous Maya carry on many of their ancestors’ traditions.

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This is personalized cultural travel at its best!  Our workshop is limited to 10 photography participants to give you the highest level of attention and service.  You are invited to bring your partner or spouse if you wish.  If s/he is not interested in photography – no worries.  We can help customize a daily program based on his/her interests while the rest of us are out on shoots.

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Your Luxury Travel Photography Workshop Includes

  • Daily photography instruction and coaching with one of the world’s foremost documentary photographers, Frank Hunter
  • Luxury boutique hotel accommodations including daily breakfast
  • Private guided visit to Tonina archeological site, an astounding off-the-beaten-path wonder that rivals Palenque, including a tailgate gourmet picnic
  • Private guided visit to indigenous Maya villages that includes lunch and a pre-arranged photo shoot
  • Discussions with local experts that can include textile collectors, archeologists and anthropologists
  • Welcome lunch
  • Grand Finale Dinner and Best of Week Group Photography Presentation

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Frank Hunter leads this workshop.  Frank is a world-class documentary photographer whose work is in museum collections throughout the world.  He is on the faculty of the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, North Carolina and represented by Thomas Deans Fine Arts gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.

Frank grew up in the American southwest and spent his early years photographing people and landscapes of Mexico.  He has taught at the university level for more than 20 years.  Frank is a virtuoso photographer, as adept at digital photography as he is with creating 19th century style platinum/palladium prints.  Don’t be intimated!  Frank also teaches fundamentals of photography at Duke University.

You can read more about him here:

And, if you want more, just Google Frank Hunter.  You will get pages of citations!

Notes from the art gallery representing Frank Hunter:  In a career spanning more than three decades, Frank Hunter has published nearly 400 images, of which we show only a small selection here. All reflect Hunter’s unique combination of technical virtuosity and aesthetic profundity.

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You will learn to take your photography to the next level and see with inspired clarity.

During our week together, we will review each other’s work, give feedback, and offer supportive critique.  The workshop includes a mix of class instruction and being out on the streets to capture the action.   We offer structured group discussion and opportunities for optional private coaching sessions with Frank.

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Technical topics covered include using natural light, aperture and shutter speed, using a tripod, focusing on details, photographing people and taking the time to set up your shot.   Frank says he uses just enough technique to express a visual idea.  He comes from the point-of-view of using your creativity and intuition combined with technical know-how to make better photographs.

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Preliminary Itinerary

Day One:  Arrive and check in to our boutique La Joya Hotel in San Cristobal de Las Casas.  The fireplace will be lit and a bowl of soup with a glass of wine will be waiting for you.  (D)

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Day Two, Three, Four:  Meet with Frank after breakfast to learn, develop and hone your photography skills and aesthetics.  On Day Two we will gather for a welcome lunch.  In the afternoon, go out on the streets of San Cristobal de Las Casas to independently explore and capture the richness of people and place with your camera.  Come back in early evening for a Best of Day Photo Session to review and critique your shots. (B)

Day Five:  After breakfast, travel by private van to Tonina archeological site with a stop on our return in Oxchuc for textile exploration.  Spouses/partners are invited on the expedition and this is included in the program fees.   (B, L)

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Day Six:  After breakfast, meet for Best of Day Five photo review and learning session with the rest of the day on your own for a field assignment. (B)

Day Seven:  Travel by private van to an indigenous village (either San Juan Chamula and/or Zinacantan or Tenejapa and/or Cancuc.  Partners/spouses are invited and this day is included in the program fee.  (B, L)

Day Eight:  After breakfast, prepare and edit your final selections for a Best of Week Grand Finale Group Photography Presentation and Dinner.  Partners/spouses are invited to participate in the dinner and photography presentation and this is part of the program fee. (B, D)

Day Nine:  Depart after breakfast or make arrangements directly with La Joya Hotel to extend your stay. (B)

Each day is designed to give you personal learning time with Frank, plus plenty of time on your own to explore and discover the rich variety of art, architecture and indigenous Maya culture of San Cristobal de Las Casas and environs.  We are flexible and like to improvise (based on group preferences), so the preliminary itinerary is an outline that can vary depending upon other spontaneous opportunities that may present themselves.  Some options could include the Maya Medicine Museum, a healing ceremony with a local shaman, an impromptu invitation to a private home.

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Workshop Cost Includes Luxury Accommodations with an Option to Bring Your Partner/Spouse

4 luxury rooms with King bed, fireplace and private bath

  • Option 1–$3,685 for single person occupying one King room (includes photography workshop and lodging as specified in the itinerary.
  • Option 2–$5,585 for two people occupying one King room when both  participate fully in the workshop (includes workshop and lodging as specified in the itinerary).
  • Option 3–$4,850 for two people occupying one King room when one is a workshop participant, and the other is a non-photographer who is not participating in the workshop. 

Non-workshop partners/spouses join us for breakfast, a welcome lunch, scheduled field trips on Days Five and Seven, discussions with noted experts, and the final group photography presentation and gala dinner.  These activities are included in the cost of Option 3. 

  • 1 luxury twin room with two beds and private bath.  Option 4–$2,545 per person for shared accommodation with both people participating in the workshop.

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We are providing this extraordinary photography expedition in collaboration with San Cristobal’s newest gem, La Joya Hotel, offering the elegance of a boutique hotel and the hospitality of a bed and breakfast.  Our hosts are world travelers and art collectors Ann Conway and John Do who are happy to arrange customized daily excursions for partners/spouses at an added cost.  This might include guided travel for bird watching, hiking, visiting a coffee or cacao plantation, orchid greenhouse, handcrafted sterling silver and amber jewelry boutiques, museums, and indigenous regional markets for textile or pottery shopping.

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Partners/spouses can also enjoy a relaxing spa day, take a cooking class or Spanish lessons, adventure out on their own or relax and read in the secluded rooftop patios or graciously appointed private living room.  The choices are myriad.

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To add-on nights in San Cristobal de Las Casas either before or after the workshop or extend your travel to such destinations as the famed Maya archeological sites of Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan, please contact Ann Conway at La Joya Hotel directly.  www.lajoyahotelsancristobal.com

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Booking Your Travel and Getting to San Cristobal de Las Casas

You can fly round-trip directly to Tuxtla Gutierrez (TGZ) from Houston, TX, on United Airlines.  From Tuxtla we can arrange for airport taxi pick-up to bring you to San Cristobal de Las Casas if you wish.  Cost of transportation is about $60 USD.  Once you register and send us your flight information, please let us know if you would like this added service.

Your other options are to fly to Tuxtla directly from Mexico City on Aeromexico or Interjet.  ADO Platino offers luxury overnight bus service from Oaxaca and other cities in Mexico directly to San Cristobal de Las Casas.

Please Note:  Workshop fees include entries into museums, and archeological sites that are part of the itinerary.  We also make gifts on your behalf to local families who welcome us into their homes, cooperatives and studios.  The workshop does not include tips/gratuities for service, alcoholic beverages,  travel insurance, air flights, transfers from Tuxtla Gutierrez to San Cristobal de Las Casas, and meals that are not part of the specified itinerary.

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Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit based on your preferred options is required to guarantee your workshop reservation.  The final payment for the balance due (including any additional costs) shall be paid two months before the program start date.  Payment is requested by PayPal.  We will send you an invoice when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.

We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.  We have this service available and are happy to provide you with a cost.

To get your questions answered and to register, contact normahawthorne@mac.com  Since we are in Oaxaca, Mexico, most of the year, we are happy to arrange a Skype conversation with you if you wish.

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

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On the Road to Tenejapa, Chiapas, Mexico

Tenejapa is a Tzeltal-speaking Mayan village in the Chiapas highlands about 45 minutes by collectivo from San Cristobal de las Casas.  Though it is off-the-beaten-path and receives very few foreign visitors, Tenejapa is alluring because of its vibrant Thursday market and its fine textiles — among the finest in southern Mexico.   I heard that Maria Meza, one of the founders (along with Chip Morris) of the famed Sna Jolobil cooperative, now operates an independent women’s cooperative in Tenejapa.

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That was enough incentive to get me out of bed early on Thursday morning despite a bit of la gripa, walk past the San Cristobal de las Casas daily street market on Av. General Utrilla, up past the Santo Domingo Church and around the back of the giant local food market to search for the location of the collectivo to take us to the village.  

Along the way we were sidetracked by opportunities to shop and buy and oggle: lengths of skirt material from Zinacantan, sheared sheep from Chamula, medicinal herbs, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Fay was more than tempted by the Zinacantan assortment and succumbed to a rare impulse.

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And, at every corner along the way:  Donde esta el colectivo a Tenejapa?  There, tucked away on a side street was the taxi station.  Que milagro!

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Fay, my Canadian traveling companion and I were off on an adventure!  We eschewed the idea of hiring a private taxi for 600+ pesos and opted for the shared taxi ride to the pueblo that costs 25 pesos (about $2 USD) each way.  Amazing.  We climbed into the highlands along a curving mountain road with two other very friendly people plus the careful young driver and got to practice our Spanish along the way!

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The taxi deposited us just past the zocalo around 10:30 a.m.  The market street was bustling with vendors selling everything from tools, cooking and sewing supplies, yarns, back-strap loomed waist cinches to hold up the tube skirts, other traditional Tenejapa clothing plus imported jeans and t-shirts.  What I noticed is that the young people here are still adhering to traditional traje (dress), which is an indication that the culture is very strong.

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Tenejapa is noted for its integration of Chamula and Tenejapa groups.  The two co-exist, respect each other’s differences, and have their different religious practices in the same town — unusual in this part of the world.  Commerce on the market street was conducted by both Chamulans and Tenejapans.

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It is difficult to take photographs here in public places.  More than once I was reprimanded with some vigor and had to put my camera down.  When I asked Maria Meza if I could take her photograph after making a purchase, she quietly agreed but would not meet my eye.  Privately arranged photo sessions in the future will be on my list of what to prepare for when I return!

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The market place was patrolled by village officials doing their cargo (required public service) in full Tenejapa regalia — back-strap loomed sash embellished with red bordado, beribboned straw hat with dangling multi-colored blue, purple, red, orange wool ball tassles, white woven shirts and short white pants with cuffs ornately decorated with brocade weaving.  From their shoulders hung both ixtle and wool woven bags, practical and beautiful.

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I could not bring myself to even try to sereptitiously take photographs of the officials out of respect for local customs — and for fear of losing my camera! (I heard Internet tales about people being thrown in jail for taking photos!)  But, the vision is still imprinted in my mind.

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As we left town, a group of young women was entering one of the shops from the sidewalk.  They were dressed in extraordinary hand-woven huipiles.  We asked, Where are you from?  Cancuc, they replied.  I asked if I could take their photo.  They giggled and evaporated indoors.  Later that afternoon, a Cancuc huipil was on display at Na Bolom Gallery (see above).  The next best thing under the circumstances.  Fay saw a used one from Cancuc the following day in a textile shop on the walking street Real Guadalupe.  She bought it right up!  It was a beauty.

Now, I’m back in Oaxaca after the eleven-hour overnight bus trip, living in my little Teotitlan del Valle casita.  There’s no hot water yet, but one bathroom and the kitchen is functioning and the views are outstanding.  More about this next!




Chiapas Pottery Village Amatenango del Valle

Bela, of Bela’s B&B, our favorite San Cristobal de las Casas home away from home, invited us to go along with her to the pottery village of Amatenango del Valle on a quest to replace a ceramic chiminea.  The village is about an hour from the city by taxi in the pine forest highlands where sheep graze and Mayan farmers plant their milpas of corn, squash and beans.  

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Our first stop was at the home pottery of Esperanza Perez Gomez, one of the finer artisans in town.  She works with her sister and together they shape and paint fabulous jaguars, chickens, doves and serving dishes.

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Here the pots are made from local clay and fired in a kiln that is a platform of metal grating surrounded by stones, then covered with wood and cow or sheep dung.  It is all “cooked” above ground and probably doesn’t reach much higher than 800 or 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, considered low fire in the pottery world.  The pieces are decorative and not designed for cooking.

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The stalls that line the road entering into town are lined with clay kitsch and women vendors dressed in their hand-embroidered huipiles, which are every bit as interesting as the clay vessels their families produce.

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In addition to making pottery, Esperanza and her sister have a small notions shop where they also make and sell pleated polyester aprons and two styles of huipiles — one is a cotton-candy birthday cake extravanganza of ruffles and lace and the other is a more traditional geometry of squares and rectangles.  The younger women seem to gravitate to the frilly, but it also appears as if it is an individual preference.

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The older women absolutely resist having their photo taken.  Here, behind Fay, you can see Esperanza’s mother running for cover, her chal (shawl) pulled over her head in a quick exit.   Esperanza has more experience with foreign visitors so she agrees to pose.

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We were not successful finding the size chiminea that Bela needed to replace the one in her dining room.  However, while she was looking, Fay and I peeled off to inspect the corn stalls and the women wearing gloriously colored textiles.  In the process, I met a charming young woman selling fresh steamed corn.  I asked for it drizzled with lime juice, salt and a little chili.  A mayonnaise smear is also an option.

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This is traditional, REAL corn!  Huge meaty kernels, filling and delicious.  It’s no wonder that maize is mother earth of Mesoamerica!

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And, did I buy a huipil?  Of course, I did.  Who could resist either the design or this beautiful face?  As I tried them on, all the vendors gathered around me, a cacaphony of color.  As soon as Fay pulled out the camera, they evaporated.

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Since there were four of us traveling together, we were able to share the cost of a private driver, 600 pesos total for five hours!  There is also a collectivo — a shared taxi or combi — that you catch near the market above the Santo Domingo Church.