Complex ikat dyed cotton butterfly rebozo or shawl by Jesus Zarate
This rebozo is made on a traditional back strap loom. Jesus ties one end around his waist and the other to a fixed pole or wall. He stands while weaving. The loom is wide and heavy, which is why men do this type of work. It is usually constructed of oak or another hardwood, built to last a lifetime.
Jesus holds the butterfly rebozo on front of a pedal loom
It takes Jesus two or three months to weave this textile, working about six hours a day. That’s before he prepares the weft threads, first tying the knots where the design will be, marking the pattern on the threads that are held together with a cornstarch glue, then dipping the tied area into dye, then untying and washing the threads before he puts them on the loom. It can take a week to warp the loom before the weaving begins.
A Jesus Zarate ikat rebozo is like a Monet painting — innovative, spectacular
Jesus works with his son Hugo by his side. They both weave more traditional patterns on the fixed-frame pedal loom, also called the counterbalance or flying shuttle loom brought to Mexico during the Industrial Revolution.
Cindy Edwards, a North Carolina weaver, tries the pedal loom with Jesus’ son, Hugo
Many of these looms are more than 100 years old. They are in need of continuous repair and their age is a testimony to their durability as a tool for textile creation.
September 8-16, 2016 includes Rebozo Fair — Feria del Rebozo
A traditional ikat design by Jesus Zarate includes gold threads
The first time I visited the home studio of Jesus Zarate was in September 2015. I went along with a group from Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico — people who love Mexican folk art. Three women bought the finest rebozos from Jesus. He cried. He hadn’t sold a fine rebozo in two years.
Jesus shows his rebozo filled with tulip designs — or are they yellow rose buds?
I decided to change the LADAP itinerary to go deeper and focus primarily on rebozo weaving with a side trip to Taxco. I’m now offering a September 2016 and February 2017 tour. It is a perfect experience for weavers and textile lovers alike. We also include an in-depth discussion about and demonstrations of the natural dye process.
Pattern marked chord stiffened with cornstarch glue called atole
Jesus recently lost two sons and is in mourning. He tells me he never smiles. It is difficult for him. His son, Hugo, is his remaining heir to the tradition of ikat weaving in Tenancingo de Degollado.
Son Hugo weaves at counterbalance pedal loom
Jesus has only two pedal looms, not a sign of prosperity in a weaving culture. He is one of a handful who still know how to work the back strap loom. These pedal looms cram into a small workshop at the front of the humble house where he lives with his son. He is no longer married. Often, as we know, the tragedies of life take its toll on relationships.
Ikat pattern taking form on the flying shuttle pedal loom with Jesus looking on
Very few international visitors come to Tenancingo. It is about two-and-a-half hours from the center of Mexico City. To go independently requires a combination of bus and taxi travel with transfers at the Mexico City west bus station and again in Toluca.
Linda wears white roses, an innovative Zarate ikat design–note the texture!
I recently took a group of 10 women to meet many famous rebozo weavers of Tenancingo, including Jesus Zarate. We traveled together from Mexico City and spent a week going deep into the textile culture of the region to see and understand the process. You can read the rave reviews on TripAdvisor.
This study tour is designed as an intensive personal learning experience. Here in Tenancingo de Degollado and beyond, you will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, understand family traditions and culture, and help honor and preserve craft.
Rebozo seller, Tenancingo Town Market
Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico (Edomex), is the source for handwoven ikat rebozos or shawls made on back-strap and flying shuttle looms by master artisans. Some count only 27 remaining reboceros — the men who weave the cloth. Not long ago there were hundreds. We will also meet the puntadoras — the women who hand-knot the intricate fringes. The experience of being there is so inspiring that I want to keep sharing it with you. I invite you to return with me for a memorable, curated Mexican textile and folk art study tour.
Jesus Zarate ikat rebozos are like a Monet painting — innovative, full of movement
February 2-10, 2017. 8 nights, 9 days. $1,995 per person shared room with private bath. Single supplement is $300 more per person. A 50% deposit will reserve your space.
Cost includes luxury van transportation from Mexico City to Tenancingo and back, daily excursions, all hotels, 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, private guide services, gratuities for artisans, guides, drivers and service staff. Does not include alcoholic beverages and optional expenses not included in the itinerary.
Group size limited to 10 people.
Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art Evaristo Borboa Casas at his loom
You will arrive and leave from Mexico City.
Meet together in Mexico City on February 2 with an overnight there at a historic center hotel
Travel to and stay in Tenancingo from February 3-9 at a bed and breakfast oasis
Enjoy the company of our bi-lingual guide who migrated from the U.S. to Tenancingo to marry a local thirteen years ago
Meet the master weavers of Tenancingo de Degollado in their home workshops
Learn about ikat warp thread preparation, the complexity of this at-risk textile art and how to differentiate quality
Participate in hands-on natural dye and weaving demonstrations
Understand the intricacy of a fine hand-knottedfringe called punta or rapacejo, and how it adds to the beauty of the lienza (cloth)
Visit three of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos – magic villages where traditional life flourishes
Spend a day in Malinalco, a Pueblo Magico, to discover archeology, ancient frescoes, weaving traditions, natural dyes and more
Travel to Metepec, a Pueblo Magico. Climb the archeological site of Teotenango, meet outstanding ceramic artists who make Tree of Life sculptures and cazuelas cooking vessels
Spend the last night in Mexico City to depart on February 10 for home OR stay on longer to enjoy museums and world-class restaurants
Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots
Along the way, you will eat great food, climb ancient pyramids at important though remote archeological sites, visit three Pueblo Magicos – Malinalco, Taxco and Metepec — and immerse yourself in some of Mexico’s outstanding folk art.
Primarily, we are here to learn about the art and craft of making a fine rebozo, meet the men who weave the cloth and the women who tie the elaborate fringe.
Ikat rebozo handwoven on the back strap loom from Rapacejos gallery
Some of the weavers are innovators, like Jesus Zarate, who incorporates intricate floral, bird and animal motifs on the ikat cloth.
Some, like Fito Garcia, use splashes of color that looks like confetti. Camila Ramos ikat designs employ ancient indigenous symbols and figures.
The revered master, 82-year old Evaristo Borboa Casas, is a traditionalist. All have received top honors for their work worldwide.
Each technique requires mathematical and technical precision, extraordinary creativity and months of work to produce one rebozo.
It can take weeks to prepare the ikat warp threads, dye them and dress the loom, with another month or two for the weaving. It can take two or three months to tie a punta, depending on length and elaboration.
After this study trip, I can guarantee that you will better appreciate this textile art form that is at risk of disappearing. Only three or four weavers in Tenancingo continue the back-strap weaving tradition. Sixty years ago there were over 200 weavers working on the back-strap loom.
8 nights lodging
Round trip transportation to/from Mexico City center and Tenancingo
Transportation to all towns, villages and artisans noted in itinerary
Gratuities to artisans for demonstrations
Tips for most services, including hotel rooms, van driver, guides
Day 1, Thursday, February 2: Arrive in Mexico City, overnight. Dinner on your own. We will stay at a historic hotel on or near the Zocalo. As soon as you register, we will tell you where. You might also like to arrive a few days early to explore the city. It’s wonderful!
Study tour group tries gives fringe-making a try in hands-on workshop
Day 2, Friday, February 3: Travel by luxury van to Tenancingo, overnight (B, D) Group dinner.
Day 3, Saturday, February 4: In the morning, meet some of Tenancingo’s best master weavers. We will confirm who later! The group can include Evaristo Borboa Casas, Jesus Zarate, Adolfo “Fito” Garcia Diaz, Fermin Escobar Camacho and Luis Rodriguez Martinez. Take a ride on the flying shuttle peddle loom. (B, L, D)
Day 4, Sunday, February 5: Today we will visit the big, weekly rebozo market where weavers and puntadoras, the women who hand knot the rebozo fringe, sell their wares. Then, we have lunch at a beautiful outdoor family restaurant in the countryside, followed by a demonstration in late afternoon. (B, L, D)
Day 5, Monday, February 6: We leave early to spend a day in Taxco de Alarcon, Pueblo Magico, with the next generation owner of the William Spratling silver jewelry workshop. First, we will have breakfast at the famous Spratling Ranch followed by a tour and silversmith demonstration. We’ll return to town for a late lunch Spratling’s home and first workshop, Las Delicias, now S’Caffecito. Then, you can roam Taxco on your own. We start our 2-hour return to Tenancingo in early evening. (B, L)
Day 6, Tuesday, February 7:Malinalco Pueblo Magico. Climb the ancient archeological site (if you wish), the only one in Mesoamerica carved out of the rock face. Visit the workshop of Camila Ramos Zamora and award-winning son Juan Rodrigo Mancio Ramos. See how they work the back strap loom and make natural dyes. See how to dye and prepare ikat threads. Take time to visit the 16th century Augustinian church with the amazing Paradise Garden Murals. (B, L, D)
Day 7, Wednesday, February 8: After breakfast, we will have a demonstration of another type of weaving, the fiber made from the Joshua Tree leaf called izote. An indigenous family will join us from the countryside to show the process that is made into beautiful, finely crafted bags, some dyed with cochineal. Afternoon on your own to return to your favorite rebocero, do last-minute market shopping and begin packing. (B, D)
Day 8, Thursday, February 9: Travel to Metepec Pueblo Magico. First, we will stop to climb the Mesoamerican Teotenango pyramids (if you wish) or visit the adjacent museum. Then, we will visit the Museo del Barro ceramics museum to see the finest examples of Tree of Life sculptures and highly decorated, sturdy cooking pots called cazuelas. After lunch, we will have time to explore the artisans market before returning to Mexico City. Overnight in Mexico City. (B, L)
Day 9, Friday, February 10: Depart our Mexico City hotel by taxi (at your own expense) to catch your flights home. Or make your own arrangements to stay in Mexico City a little longer and enjoy the Independence Day festivities around town.
The study tour includesround trip transportation between Mexico City and Tenancingo de Degollado, lodging in Mexico City and Tenancingo, meals as noted in the itinerary, travel to all artisans and destinations noted on the itinerary, cultural bi-lingual guide services and most gratutities/tips. Plus you receive a comprehensive packet of information about our location, shopping, restaurants, and itinerary sent by email before the study tour begins.
The study tour does not include airfare, taxi from Mexico City airport to Mexico City hotel, return taxi from Mexico City to the airport, some meals as noted in the itinerary, admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals.
Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before 45 days before the study tour begins. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.
If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After the 45-day cut-off date, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before the 45-day deadline, we will refund 50% of your deposit.
About Travel to Mexico City: The Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) is our gateway city and a Mexico City historic center hotel is our meeting point. You can fly to Mexico City from many United States locations on most major USA airlines. Mexico’s excellent new discount airlines Interjet and Volaris service some U.S. cities, as does Aeromexico.
International Travel Insurance Required.We require that you purchase trip cancellation, baggage loss and at least $50,000 of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We will ask for insurance documentation as well as a witnessed waiver of liability form that holds Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC harmless. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.
Now I’m back in Oaxaca after a whirlwind nine-day folk art study tour featuring the ikat rebozos of the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico). Rather than cover a range of territory, I like to stay put and go deep. So, we spent the week meeting the people who weave rebozos and tie the elaborate fringes, learning the differences in design and quality. Plus, a side trip to silver mecca Taxco to visit the Spratling Ranch (more about this in another post).
Camelia Ramos, and poster about her father, Issac Ramos Padillo
This included a day trip to Pueblo Magico Malinalco, a short 30-minute drive over a mountain range from Tenancingo de Degollado along the pilgrimage route to Chalma. We spent a day there, first going to the studio workshop of Camelia Ramos Zamora, following a dirt road that led us to a bougainvillea covered adobe cottage under the shadow of an extinct volcanic outcropping.
Brilliant colors combine to create wearable art in Camelia Ramos studio
Camelia told us the story about her father, Isaac Ramos Padillo. He moved from Tenancingo to Malinalco to marry her mother and worked as a stone mason. When he was age 66, Camelia had the idea to sell rebozos in town. He disclosed he knew how to weave rebozos, something she never knew. So, they started the workshop and now the entire family weaves.
Above left, Camelia’s husband Jose working on the back strap loom. Above right, a pre-Hispanic figure woven into the cloth using the ikat technique, with natural dyes.
Rusty nails become perfect dye bath to create a beautiful mushroom color
They make two levels of fine cloth. The more affordable rebozos are woven on pedal looms using commercially-dyed cotton. The top-of-the-line rebozos are woven on the back strap loom and can be made with natural dyes, which the family makes by hand. They use indigo, cochineal, huizache and even rusty nails!
Came chooses the color palette from cotton yarns made in Puebla
Came, as she is called, explains that cotton is a wearable, comfortable fabric, offering protection from the sun, warmth in the shade. She explained that different colors identified the social class of the women who wore the rebozo in years past. Her father, who died in 2011, created new patterns and said the tradition wouldn’t survive unless there is innovation. He introduced color and creativity in cloth.
Above left, a selection of rebozos in the Malinalco gallery Repacejo, owned by the Ramos family. Right, Came models a traditional bird design rebozo originated by her father, dyed with cochineal and indigo.
Over 4,500 threads make up the warp of this back strap loom
Let me dream, let me create, said Isaac Ramos Padillo. Came, with her husband Jose Mancio and son Hugo Mancio Ramos, and their extended family of nephews, are working to keep the tradition alive. They are the only rebozeros of Malinalco.
Our group photo with Camelia Ramos at her country workshop
I will be organizing this rebozo study tour for either mid-September 2016 to coincide with the Tenancingo rebozo fair or in winter, mid-February 2017. There will be a few modifications in the itinerary we just completed. Please tell me if you are interested and which time of year you prefer. Get on the notification list!
Above, left. Malinalco, the magic town, and on the right, Britt and Susie taking a break off the Zocalo.
Above left, Came’s son Hugo, giving us an indigo dye demonstration, and on the right a nephew preparing the back strap loom for weaving.
It was our last day of nine days in Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico, studying the ikat rebozo of Mexico. It was a free day when our ten textile study tour participants could return to visit a weaver they met earlier in the week if they wished or roam the town market.
On the backstrap loom, a stunning red, black + white ikat rebozo by Evaristo Borboa, sold to one of our participants when it is finished in six months.
Britt and I went back to visit grand master of Mexican folk art Evaristo Borboa Casas. Britt had a particular ikat (also called jaspe) rebozo on her mind all week and wanted to see if it was still available for sale. It is a difficult task to write any words in cloth using ikat technique, but Evaristo did it with a border on each side that says, Tenancingo Mi Tierra (translated to Tenancingo My Land).
After several searches through his humble home, the 90 year-old rebozero (rebozo maker) took a hike to his sister’s house fifteen minutes away, where he keeps his stash safe. But, when he got back, the ikat rebozo woven with the words Tenancingo Mi Tierra wasn’t in that pile either. We started to panic. Then, one more hunt into a dark, secret room off the bedroom and Evaristo returned with his masterpiece!
Evaristo stands upright to weave. A leather strap connects around his hips to the loom. The other end is secured to a hook on a vertical (sort of) piece of wood secured to wall and ceiling beams. He tilts back to tighten the warp threads. The warp, or the threads running through the cloth vertically, have been pre-dyed to form a pattern before the loom is dressed.
A tedious process, Evaristo only weaves 2-hours a day now instead of eleven.
A master weaver like Evaristo has perfect registration and can work many colors into the cloth if he wishes. Each weaver marks the threads with an inked pattern and everyone has their own variation on the ikat design. People around town can tell who made the cloth by its particular pattern.
The rebozo is an iconic emblem of Mexico. It is used as a protection from the sun, for evening warmth, to carry babies and transport food from the market. In the past, depending on color, one could tell whether a woman came from the country or a town or was working class or upper class or a woman of disrepute.
This Evaristo rebozo is so fine, it can be pulled through a wedding band!
It is the men who weave here because rebozos are wider than the typical Oaxaca back strap loom used by women and the wood parts are much heavier. Below is an old loom used by Evaristo. We notice in Mexico nothing is ever discarded. There might be a use for it someday.
During the 1910 Mexican Revolution the rebozo was worn like an X-shaped halter, criss-crossed over the front by women fighters who used it to carry bullets.
Photos above: Evaristo dyes and dries his warp threads next to the chicken coop where the rooster stands watch over his hens. The threads are tied to resist the dye, which creates the pattern.
Evaristo Borboa Casas, 90 year old rebozo weaver, Tenancingo, EdoMex
Today, Evaristo is only one of 27 rebozo weavers continue to create these amazing ikat cotton textiles in Tenancingo. In the 1960’s there were over 200 rebozeros. We are told there are about 1,500 women who hand-tie the repacejos or punta or fringes of the rebozo.
Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots during our study tour
They do this part-time for a few hours day, in-between cooking, laundry, tending children, gardens and animals. They sit on low chairs, lean over a narrow table, painstakingly knotting the threads at the end of the cloth. Sometimes, depending on the intricacy, like the one above, this will take seven months!
A puntadora always has a long left thumbnail to help her secure the knots.
A selection of Evaristo’s rebozos
Evaristo does not say who makes the puntas on his rebozos. They are straight and very tight, which means there is a lot of work and time that goes into making the fringes. Based on designs, tightness of knots, and length of the punta, a rebozo’s cost is based on the time to weave the cloth (about two to three-months) and the time to tie the punta (at least three or four months).
Evaristo bending over the back strap loom
I will be organizing this rebozo study tour for either the end of September 2016 to coincide with the Tenancingo rebozo fair or in winter, mid-February 2017. There will be a few modifications in the itinerary we just completed. Please tell me if you are interested and which time of year you prefer. Get on the notification list!
Sundays and Thursdays are tianguis open air market days in the ikat rebozo weaving town of Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico. The Sunday market is the biggest and covers over four square blocks in the town center.
Most of the rebozos in the market are sold by the puntadoras, the women who tie the fringes on the hand-woven ikat textile. The cloth, or lienza, is woven by men. The puntadoras usually buy the cloth with the dangling warp thread directly from the weavers. They then spend a month, or two or three to hand-knot the loose warp fringe.
The tighter and longer the fringe, the longer it takes. If it is an intricate design with a long, tight fringe, then the rebozo is even more valuable. Sometimes a puntadora will knot the fringe and then dip it in black dye (or another color) for a uniform color that they think will complement the textile.
A famous master weaver will usually select his own puntadora who will tie the fringes for him. He will then sell the finished rebozo for between 1,600 and 15,000 pesos each. Click to convert to dollars.
The rebozo market can offer more economical ways to buy. Usually the rebozos there that are knotted with a decent punta can start at 600 pesos and go up to 2,000 pesos. Once in a while, if you take your time and look, you can find a really great rebozo in this price range. That’s why visiting the masters first helps in the education and selection process.
There is a discussion about the unsung role of the women puntadoras who contribute to at least 30-50% of the beauty of the rebozo, in my opinion.
These women are unidentified, unnamed and it is the weaver who is recognized rather than sharing honors with the woman who makes the beautiful fringe. An issue about acknowledging women and something worth exploring more, don’t you think?
Edible blue mushrooms at the rebozo market. Go figure.
That’s why I’m organizing a textile and folk art study tour set for February 3-11, 2016 — to bring you back and share this with you. In February we will focus on the rebozos of Tenancingo, traditional Taxco silver at the William Spratling jewelry workshop, and the Tree of Life pottery of Metepec. I’ll post details of this trip on Friday on this blog. Stay tuned. Or, send me an email and I’ll send you the program description.
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
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