Tag Archives: education

Young Oaxaca Weavers Honored and Encouraged

Faye Sims, a textile friend from Salt Spring Island, Vancouver, BC shared a blog story today about the new exhibition at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and I wanted to pass the gist of it on to you!  The story refers to Eric Chavez Santiago, our close family friend and we are incredibly proud of his accomplishments to preserve the textile traditions of Oaxaca. When I was in Oaxaca recently Eric was spending most of his time traveling to the remote mountainous regions to film documentary footage about young weavers, many of them as young as eight years old. He traveled with noted textile curator Remigio Mestas. Then when Eric returned to Oaxaca he spent most evenings and weekends this autumn in the office editing to produce a final video in time for the November 10 opening. The show runs through March 2013.

Eric is also teaching a private 2-day natural dye workshop in Teotitlan, January 21-22, 2013. If you are interested please contact me. We will be working with cochineal, indigo, wild marigold, moss, and more!

New from Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

FELTED FASHION WORKSHOP with Jessica de Haas & Eric Chavez Santiago
February 2-9, 2013
3 spaces left! Dye merino wool with natural materials, then design and sew your own felted garment using indigenous Mexican textile patterns.
Jessica is a fashion designer from Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, Canada

I hope you’ll go to the textile museum’s websiteto read more about this extraordinary exhibit.

Black and White Photography Magazine Spotlights Oaxaca Workshop Instructor

Black and White Photography Magazine features the work of fine art photographer Sam Robbins in its current issue Number 91.  Sam co-leads our summer 2012 Oaxaca Photography Expedition: Market Towns and Artisan Villages with her husband Tom, also an art photographer and architecture professor.

As a testimony to their extraordinary teaching style and technical knowledge, three of last year’s participants are returning and the program is almost full as of this writing.  We have TWO spaces left.

The digital photography workshop is based in Teotitlan del Valle for a photographic cultural immersion experience.  The option is to also bring a second film camera to take your black and white shots. It is for beginners to advanced intermediate amateur photographers.

You can see Sam and Tom Robbins work at their website.

Please send me an email if you are interested in attending with us!

Why Learning Spanish Makes You Smarter

Learning a second language like Spanish or any other language for that matter, makes the brain nimble! according to psychologists and language researchers. I liked this article published in The New York Times, March 18, 2012 Studies show that learning a foreign language as an adult will stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s.  It’s like exercise for the mind.

My stretch this month is to continue to use past tenses as I expand my Spanish vocabulary. It’s very helpful to step outside the English-speaking expat community  comfort zone and our recent trip to the Sierra Norte offered Just that.

The challenge for any immigrant — like me living in Mexico or Mexicans living in the U.S. — is to learn a new language without giving up the mother tongue and cultural identity.  This is especially true for second generation immigrants who want to assimilate  I think about the U.S. school system and the anti-immigrant voices saying “learn English or go back where you came from.”

Hopefully, articles like these will increase our understanding of and appreciation for the richness that being bilingual offers for the individual and for society.  I would think we want to promote smarter and healthier people.

A Worthy End-of-Year Gift of Education: Oaxaca Learning Center

I received this message from Gary Titus, who has made a commitment over many years to educate Oaxaca children and prepare them to go on to university. This is a legitimate and worthy organization.  I want to share his message with you:

From Gary Titus–Greetings from the Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center

2011 has been another very good year at The Learning Center. Student demand for our tutoring and for our summer session has continued to grow as word spreads of the effectiveness of our programs. Our donors, volunteers and visitors to the Center experience the enormous difference that being a part of the Center makes in the lives of our students and are advocating for us with their friends to extend our support network. Now we write to all of you who, at one time or another, have connected with us, to ask for your financial support.

“Our summer program, which served 113 students, was evaluated for the first time after our Center Director, Sonia Bautista, attended a six-week workshop given by two retired program officers of the Ford Foundation living in Oaxaca. The course focused on monitoring and evaluation of social projects, with the goal of assisting local NGO’s in developing these capabilities. The results of our first evaluation indicated beneficiaries’ high level of satisfaction with the academic tutoring, English courses and workshops this summer. In addition to staff and tutors receiving feedback on their performance and effectiveness, we expect to use these new quantitative and qualitative tools to support formal proposals to foundations for expanded financial assistance, as well as to then provide them with reliable evaluation of the benefits of their support. This should allow us to enhance your individual contributions with foundation monies and allow the Center to serve an increasing number of students.

Tutoring math at the Oaxaca Learning Center

In a state where completion of high school by low-income and indigenous students is very low, the fact that 30 of the 46 participants this year in our preparation courses for university entrance exams were admitted to universities in the fall attests to the life-changing difference our program makes in students’ lives.

In spite of our program’s effectiveness, the continuing negative press about Mexico has had a deleterious financial impact on us. Occupancy of our bed and breakfast, which has provided about 40% of our yearly budget, has been well below capacity. This, coupled with the worldwide economic crisis, has resulted in a slight decrease in donations, as well. In fact, as many of you know, Oaxaca is a very safe place with a wonderful climate and welcoming, friendly atmosphere. We hope that our expanded quarterly newsletter will bring you our good news from Mexico and allow you to experience the positive impact and achievements of the Center.

Oaxaca Learning Center students

We are now asking you to become a financial donor to our new “Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center,” which, with its 501(c)(3) status, can offer you a tax credit. Please remember that 100% of your donation goes to support the stipends for our students and student staff. For your convenience, we offer three ways to donate:

You can send a personal check to:

Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center (FOLC)

P. O. Box 926

Blue Hill, Maine 04614

Make a donation through PayPal by clicking here:


You can also make regular automatic monthly donations. Please contact Gary Titus at gary@tolc.org.mx for the electronic transfer information.

Gary Titus with center tutors

On behalf of everyone here at The Oaxaca Learning Center, we thank you for your support and send you our very best wishes for the holiday season and for the new year!

Gary Titus                                                             Fay Henderson de Diaz

Founder, The Oaxaca Learning Center        President, Friends of the Oaxaca Learning Center

Oaxaca Center Promotes Indigenous Language and Culture, Opens November 26, 2011

Tucked behind the tall green-tinged cantera stone wall at the corner of Av. Independencia and Fiallo is the newly renovated 16th century Dominican convent San Pablo de Indios.  It is reinvented as Centro Academico y Cultural San Pablo.


The renovation has been a painstaking six-year project funded by the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation to uncover centuries of neglect and degradation. Intended first to restore the first Spanish church constructed in Oaxaca in 1529, a mere 8 years after the city of Antequera was founded by Cortes, the project has grown in significance. This restoration reinvents the original intent of the convent: a place exclusively dedicated for Catholic worship by the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca by focusing on the importance and value of indigenous populations in the development of Oaxaca.  Oaxaca is who she is because of her native peoples.

On November 26, 2011, at 10 a.m., the convent San Pablo de Indios will be dedicated and open to the public as the Centro Academico y Cultural San Pablo. It is an educational and cultural center that honors its indigenous past and focuses on promoting the languages and culture of Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Mixes and other language groups that comprise the state of Oaxaca.  A tomb was excavated on the site that dates to the Monte Alban period — a very important discovery to preserve.


“To understand the project,” explains Michael Swanton, the general manager, “you must see it as two distinct phases.” The architectural renovation, the first phase, is the container. This is coming to a close and the building is soon to be dedicated. The second phase is the implementation. The building will be devoted to teaching and promoting indigenous language and culture through seminars, workshops, conferences and exhibitions. This brings San Pablo de Indios full circle.

My adopted niece, Janet Chavez Santiago, is the education coordinator for the center. She explains that the newly designed library by architect Mauricio Rocha will house historic books and papers where people can come to do research. The library integrates and reflects the 16th century architecture of the original structure with an eye to the future.   Janet will develop and teach classes in Zapotec, organize conferences, give guided tours in Spanish, English and French. Her colleague, Yasnaya Aguillar, who speaks Mixe, will also participate in this part of the project.

There are big questions that are unanswered that Janet hopes the Center will help unfold. For example, there are weaving techniques and patterns that cannot be translated into Spanish. There is intended collaboration between the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and the Centro San Pablo to better know the relationship between the indigenous language and early textile development.


Janet believes that this work is essential to preserve all the Oaxaca languages and she looks forward to working with linguists from around the world to do this. Her desire is to build links with universities in Mexico and elsewhere to bring students as volunteers and to develop an intercultural exchange program.

Janet Chávez Santiago, Coordinación Docente
Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo
Antiguo Callejón San Pablo, Av. Independencia #902
Centro Histórico
Oaxaca, Oax. CP. 68000
Tel. 51-625-08, email Janet at jazoula.10@gmail.com

There is so much more to explain about the early history of this place. I will attempt to do that in future posts.  Suffice it to say, the early cast of characters who were conquistadores and Dominican friars all had a hand in the development of this extraordinary building — one of the first in Oaxaca!