Tag Archives: Michoacan

Summer Blouses: Mexico Style, For Sale

Here in North Carolina summer has arrived. It was 89 degrees Fahrenheit today. How to stay cool and refreshed as the heat arrives? With a beautiful, embroidered or woven blouse made by indigenous Mexican artisans. If you can’t travel with us, this is the next best way to own a piece of wearable art and know that through your purchase you have supported a weaver or embroiderer or sewist.

To buy, please send me an email: norma.schafer@icloud.com Include your name, mailing address with city, state and ZIP code, along with the ITEM NUMBER. I will send you an invoice and add on an $8 charge to mail USPS Priority Mail. As soon as I receive payment, I will ship.

NOTE: ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 9, 2019. The last day I can mail is May 10. I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Thanks very much.

SOLD. #1, black gauze blouse, Amantenango, Chiapas, $65 USD

#1 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of color around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 29″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is French knots and traditional embroidery; the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this never-worn piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

SOLD. #2 is dark brown gauze with a bodice of French knots, $65

#2 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of color around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#2 bodice detail — packed with color and embroidery!
#3 is black gauze with gold French knots on bodice, $58

#3 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a undertone of gold French knots on the bodice and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#3 bodice, gold on black, subtle enough to almost be beige

SOLD. #4 knock-out lime green with floral bodice, fine details, $75

#4 is special. It is densely embroidered with French knots, with fine embroidery details on the back facing and cuffs. The lightweight gauze blouse is perfect for summer. With 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 23″ wide x 28″ long, and will fit S-M. The garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

Detail of back, #4
SOLD. #5 is green on black gauze blouse from Amantenango, Chiapas, $58

#5 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of variegated green around the V-neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. Check out the detail on the cuffs and back panel. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#5 back panel detail is exquisitely simple
#6 is buttercup yellow gauze, with a bejeweled garden bodice, $58

#6 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of jewel colors around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 21″ wide x 26″ long, and will fit S-M. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.

#7 is a simple, yet elegant huipil from San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas, $125

#7 is a beautiful, hand-embroidered, elegant long blouse perfect over a skirt, jeans or leggings. It is 26″ wide and 31″ long. Side seams are machine sewn. Dress it up or down. Hand-wash and line dry.

#7 bodice detail, San Andres Larrainzar huipil
#8 Michoacan beauty, 23″ wide x 25-1/2″ long, $95, hand-embroidered cross-stitch

#9, Chiapas quechquemitl pull-over shawl, poncho, $68, 27″ wide x 31″ long

#9 shimmers with sparkly threads in the style that Chiapas ladies like. This is a perfect beach cover-up or throw it on for a cool and breezy evening. Easy to wash-and-wear, pure polyester, just like the ladies who made it in the village of Pantelho like. New. Purchased directly from the maker.

SOLD. #10 turquoise cotton blouse, hand-loomed, Chiapas, $68

Both #10 and #11 were bought at Rosa and Cristobal’s cooperative in Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, a village located an hour-and-a-half from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Both measure 22″ wide x 23″ long and will fit size S-M. These were created on the back-strap loom, lovingly woven. I bought them directly from the family. The same bodice pattern is on both sides.

#11, blue/magenta cotton blouse, hand-loomed, Chiapas, $68

Feathered Plumage: Rebozos in Ahuiran, Michoacan

Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art Cecelia Bautista Caballero is recognized for her outstanding creativity and innovation. About 30 years ago she developed a weaving technique to re-introduce the feathered plumage of Purepecha royalty into the rebozos (shawls) she makes on the back-strap loom.

Our Michoacan study tour leads us to a humble home on a side street off the central plaza in the tiny village of San Mateo Ahuiran on the Purepecha Plateau. We want to meet, embrace and support this amazing, talented woman. We want to know her daughters who carry on the tradition.

Three thousand threads of fine cotton make up the warp of this back-strap loom. It can take two or three months to weave the cloth, then another two months to hand-knot the elaborate fringes called the punta.

Angeles Rodriguez Bautista, Cecelia’s daughter, demonstrates back-strap loom weaving

We want to explore a region whose DNA is thought to originate from Siberia, when the Bering Straits were a land bridge that brought people to the shores of North America.

Cecelia Bautista Caballero with Norma Schafer in Ahuiran

Cecelia Bautista Caballero is a living treasure. She enters the dimly lit room with a broad smile to welcome us. She is radiant. The light follows her. A rebozo is slung over her shoulder like a backpack. It bulges like a sack of avocados. She drops it’s weight onto a small, wood table and unwraps the folds to reveal a treasure trove of rebozos she has personally woven.

Donna, Linda, Winn modeling feather rebozos, with Angeles

Despite suffering a stroke that leaves its mark on the right side of her face, Cecelia is still productive. Weaving is her life’s work, her self-expression, her passion. With pride, she tells us how she created the feathered trim in the tradition of her ancestors, using turkey, rooster and bird feathers that are either natural or dyed with local plant tints.

Cecelia’s niece Bertha Estrada Huipe, with Carolyn who bought Bertha’s rebozo

One reason we gravitate to visiting small villages is for the satisfaction of meeting the maker and buying directly from them. We know their prices are fair and just. We know that what we buy will help them feed their families and reinvest in materials. There is something special in this exchange, more than a transaction of money for product. It is filled with appreciation and love.

Even more than this, the journey feels like a pilgrimage to pay personal homage to talented people. Sometimes this journey takes hours or days. We are like explorers, uncovering the past and investing in the future.

We traveled to Ahuiran from Uruapan, designated a Pueblo Magico for its outstanding national park Caputitzio, known for stunning waterfalls. This was our base for two nights as we explored the area after leaving the Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries.

This brought us closer to the indigenous town of Paracho, where we watched luthiers make guitars, violins, mandolins, and other string instruments. The main street is lined with craftsmen fulfilling special orders for musicians around the world.

Fragile, Glorious Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico

We are in sacred space. Coming to Mineral de Angangueo is like making a pilgrimage. Here in the winter home of the Monarch Butterfly — Mariposa Monarca — these glorious insects hang in colonies like giant grape clusters, suspended from the branches of majestic Douglas fir trees. We are at 10,000 feet altitude. The height is dizzying. The spectacle even more so. A million wings beating that together sound like raindrops.

At the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve

I hear the heartbeat of Mother Nature. I hear the natural cycle of life. I feel the will to live. I see small, fragile, glorious golden insects that travel up to 3,000 miles to this sanctuary. This is a cycle repeated over thousands of years. From Canada to the United States to Mexico and back again.

This is a survival mission that depends on habitat and escape from natural predators. We are witness to life. It reminds me to be vigilant about conserving our resources. We are at the edge. Perhaps past it.

The orange you see are hundreds of butterfly wings.

Fear of Monarch Butterfly extinction because of milkweed extermination from insecticides. Yet, the population this year increased 144%. Why? It is a mystery. The Michoacan colonies were not discovered until the 1970’s, relatively recently.

Monarch butterflies drinking from a creek, Michoacan, Mexico

This is the year of the butterfly in Mexico. A local trail guide says there are between 900,000 and 120 million here. It is warm. Sunny. Perfect. The future is unpredictable.

Clustered colonies of butterflies, dark shadows against a pure blue sky

On the first day into butterfly territory, our group of ten women participating with me on our Michoacan Folk Art and Butterfly Study Tour enter the sanctuary at El Rosario. It is the largest and most easily accessible of those in the region. Our amazing, knowledgeable Patzcuaro guide, Jaime Hernandez Balderas of Animecha Tours, leads the way.

We ride horseback into remote Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Reserve
The Gang of Five Butterfly Navigators to Sierra Chincua: Cindy, Donna, Susan, Susie, Norma

On the second day, five of us (plus Jaime) continue on to Sierra Chincua, a smaller, more remote site, accessible only by horseback and foot. I hadn’t been on a horse since I rode in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, as a young teen. The adventure of butterfly discovery was heightened by the experience of riding down dusty, rocky slopes to where only few go.

Fallen Monarchs at trailside, taken by birds and mice

We wear masks to protect us from the dusty trail that leads down into the reserve where the butterfly colonies roost. The colonies can move. Huge, living organisms of beating wings in the tree-tops from January through March each year.

Deep into the Douglas Fir forest, a sacred sanctuary

Basic facts about Monarch Butterflies

Sierra Chincua is deep in the forest. Trees become a cathedral with sunlight filtering through fir needles. Here it is quieter. People are more reverential. The viewing site is small, room enough for perhaps twenty people. We look down the hillside and are at eye level with the clusters of the colonies. They look like large black sacks against the blue sky backdrop. I see distant volcanic mountains. Breathe deeply. Take it in. Want it to stay with me. This meditation on the extraordinary.

I pull out my binoculars and focus skyward. In the shadows of the clusters I see the veins of thousands, wings pulsing, undulating. I look to the light and see the miraculous orange wings. A wind comes up and the wings pulse in rapid succession. The trees move to bring in more sun. Insects take flight. It looks like a shimmering sea of gold.

I’d say this is a bucket list experience.

Me and Winn on horseback, preparing to ride to to the colonies

There is no telling what the future will bring for these creatures as global warming encroaches, as pollution impacts our environment, as chemicals destroy habitat.

We meet a local Angangueo woman along the trail who safeguards the path

The indigenous people of the region say that the butterflies are the souls of our loved ones. One of our travelers says that if you don’t believe in God, you will now. Regardless of religion or belief system, being here is transcendent, resplendent, reverent. It is a sanctuary where the spiritual envelops us. Each moment here offers hope for survival and continuity.

Donna emerges from photographing a butterfly

I want to recommend that you read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, and that you read about the Monarch Butterfly migration from Mexico to the USA, then to Canada and back again.

Tamale Day, Candlemas and Masks in Patzcuaro, Michoacan

February 2, or Candlemas, is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as the end of the Christmas season. It marks the 40 days after the birth of Jesus, when Mary goes to the Temple in Jerusalem to purify herself.

In Hebrew tradition, this is the mikveh ritual bath. In Catholicism, it has become embedded in the cyclical annual calendar that marks the story of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Who could resist this one? Reminds me of papier-mache masks in Venice, Italy

In the mask-making village of Tocuaro, just outside Patzcuaro along the lake, master wood-carvers make masks depicting the devil. The masks become part of an elaborate costume for Candlemas re-enactment in the church courtyard on February 2, starting at 5 p.m.

Elaborate, wood carved mask with embellishment

The re-enactment is like a play that depicts the forces of good and evil. The hero Michael Arcangel fights and slays Lucifer, represented by three devils, forever banishing them from earth to the underworld. The masks and costumes are elaborate and scary, especially for children.

Getting his mask fitted

During the conquest, throughout Mexico, priests from the Dominican, Franciscan and Augustinian orders, integrated Catholic rites with indigenous practices. This is called syncretism.

Mask-maker Maestro Felipe Horta, Tucuaro
This guy is scary — elaborate costume with horned mask

Candlemas marks the end of winter and the beginning of the planting season when days begin to lengthen and the earth warms for plowing. In ancient times, this was signaled by the alignment of the stars of Orion.

A whirling Lucifer with eagle wings spread
Lucifer and the shepherds

With the conquest, the agricultural cycle aligns with the Christian calendar and the beginning of Lent. Spiritual forces of light prevail and overcome darkness, allowing the “light of Jesus” to enter the world.

At the 40-day mark, Mary brings baby Jesus to the Temple for the priestly blessing, bringing candles for the altar. Hence the name Candlemas. The term Pastorela refers to procession of shepherds who accompany her. This officially marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the next cycle, the Easter season.

We learn all this through our Patzcuaro guide Jaime Hernandez Balderas as our Michoacan Folk Art Study Tour participants enjoyed an afternoon with famed mask-maker Felipe Horta and his family before going to the Pastorela at the church.

Why is February 2 called Tamale Day in Mexico?

In Europe, bread is the offering. In Mexico, it is corn. Let’s go back to Christmas and January 6, Three Kings Day or Epiphany. Every family celebrates by eating a piece of Rosca de Reyes. Hidden inside is a baked-in plastic figure of baby Jesus. Whomever gets the little doll is blessed with providing tamales for the entire family on Candlemas. Sometimes, this requires feeding several hundred people. So, now, we can find eight or ten figures baked inside the large round loaf to spread the expense.

Rosca de Reyes, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
Elaborate eagle and serpent cape worn by a Lucifer

Millions of Monarch Butterflies: A Visit to the Biosphere Reserve in Michoacan, Mexico: Study Tour Details

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the State of Michoacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It encompasses most of the municipality of Angangueo, an old mining town high in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and the Sierra Angangueo.  Average altitude here is 8,500 feet.
An overnight visit to this tunneled colonial mountain town to explore the butterfly sanctuary is part of our Michoacan Folk Art + Textile Study Tour set to start January 31, 2019.

We may see millions of Monarch butterflies

There are several sanctuaries where the Monarchs gather in colonies that sometimes reach over 20 million individuals. They travel more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) from Canada to Mexico from November through March, completing several generations of the life cycle.
We will have a half-day plus a full day in Angangueo on February 8 and 9 of our January 31 to February 11 study tour to explore one or two butterfly sanctuaries and the historic mining town. We will arrive from Patzcuaro in time for 12:30-2:30 p.m. butterfly activity. You get into the sanctuary by horseback or hiking. Your tour includes transportation into the sanctuary by horse!

Butterfly life cycle

Six spaces are spoken for! Four spaces are available. Is one of them for you?
Send me an email after you review the complete study tour itinerary and let me know if you want to participate.