Tag Archives: San Juan Chamula

Chiapas Textiles + Folk Art Study Tour: Deep Into the Maya World

We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms. Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.

Tuesday, February 14 to Wednesday, February 23, 2017, 9 nights and 10 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Small group! Registration limited to 12 people.

Man from Zinacantan with hand-woven straw hat

Man from Zinacantan with hand-woven straw hat

I am committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory, but it’s not physical! That is why we are spending nine nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles and weaving traditions. Our day trips will take us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro with vintage textile collection

Humanitarian healer Sergio Castro with vintage textile collection

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • spinning wool and weaving with natural dyes
  • clothing design and construction
  • symbols and meaning of textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that reflect each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • mystical folk medicine practices that blend Maya ritual and Spanish Catholicism
The church at San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico

The church at San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico, February

I have invited textile collector Sheri Brautigam to join me to give you a special, in-depth experience. Sheri writes the blog Living Textiles of Mexico and is recognized for her particular knowledge of Chiapas Maya textiles. She is author of the Thrums soon-to-be-published Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping. (I’ve contributed two chapters with photos, one for Tenancingo de Degollado and the other for Teotitlan del Valle!)

San Cristobal de las Casas, international crossroads of great food

San Cristobal de las Casas, international crossroads for great food

I have also engaged one of San Cristobal’s most well-informed local guides who will travel with us to provide bi-lingual services for understanding the nuances in translation. We will travel in a luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van as we go deep into the Maya world.

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 14: Meet me at the Mexico City Airport. We will fly together from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez and transfer to San Cristobal de las Casas (SCDLC) by pre-arranged van service together. I will let you know which airline/flight to book and meet you at the Mexico City airport as soon as you register. If you prefer to not coordinate air travel, please make your own arrangements to get from Tuxtla to SCDLC. Arrive in time for group dinner at 7 pm. (D)

Textiles from the village of Cancuc

Textiles from the weaving villages of Cancuc and Oxchuc

Wednesday, February 15: Our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas orients you to the Textiles in the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil for the finest regional textiles made, and meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church. We will then guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Embroidered blouse from Amantenango

Embroidered blouse from Amantenango

Thursday, February 16:  Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and often textiles. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags here. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron who founded the Sna Jolobil cooperative. We’ll also stop in Romerillo to see the larger than life pine-bough covered Maya blue and green crosses. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Hand carved colonial wood detailing on doorway arch

Hand carved colonial wood detailing on doorway arch

Friday, February 17:  Today is a walking day, devoted to visiting textile cooperatives in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. In the early evening, we visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B, D)

Clay and wood carved artifacts

Clay and wood carved artifacts

Saturday: February 18: Amantenango del Valle and Aguacatenango to see the whimsical and functional wood and dung fired pottery – the way its been done for centuries. Wonderful roosters, spotted jaguar sculptures and ornamental dishes. This is a textile village, too, where women embroider garments with designs that look like graphic art. We’ll travel to neighboring Aguacatenango, to visit a well-known embroiderer who has won many awards. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Whimsical Amantenango chicken pots

Whimsical Amantenango chicken pots

Sunday, February 19: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Then we’ll meet weavers and embroiderers in their home workshops. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs, then visit the home workshop of a Chamula woman in her village outside of town who will give us a full demonstration that includes spinning, back strap loom weaving, dyeing, and the unique Chamula process for making the long-haired tunics. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

At the textile museum, an outstanding collection

At the textile museum, an outstanding collection of Maya weaving

Monday, February 20: We will set out by foot after breakfast for a full morning at Na Balom, Jaguar House, the home/of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic and jewelry collections. We walk the gardens and learn about Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After lunch at Na Balom, you will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B, L)

Jaguar pot, Amantenango, Chiapas

Jaguar pot, Amantenango, Chiapas

Tuesday, February 21: Today, we want to give you enough time to know and discover San Cristobal de Las Casas. We will suggest destinations to explore on your own: the Maya Medicine MuseumJade Museum, Chocolate Museum, and Coffee Museum. We can also recommend an optional cooking class with one of the city’s top chefs and make those arrangements for you in advance for an added cost. You may want to use your time to explore the town’s wonderful churches, learn about the Zapatista movement, revisit textile shops or just stroll the lively walking streets stopping for a great cup of Chiapas coffee and people watching. A surprise artisan demonstration, show and sale may pop-up sometime during the day, too. (B)

The best of the best vintage from San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas

The best vintage from Magdalenas, Chiapas — if you can find it, buy it.

Wednesday, February 22: Men from Magdalena Aldama who weave bags made from ixtle, agave cactus leaf fiber, join us at our hotel after breakfast. Accompanying them are the women who make flashy beaded necklace strings and beautiful hand-woven huipils. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)

San Juan Chamula Sunday market

San Juan Chamula Sunday market in February

Thursday, February 23: Depart. We will coordinate departures with included van service from San Cristobal de las Casas to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. You will connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country. Please wait to make you airplane reservations until you hear from us about van departure time.

What Is Included

  • 9 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within easy walking distance of the historic center
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 6 lunches
  • 3 dinners
  • museum and church entry fees
  • luxury van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services
  • transfers to/from Tuxtla Gutierrez airport

The workshop does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation as specified in the itinerary.  We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost

  • $2,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $2,795 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

There will be a sign-up in advance for a cooking class on Tuesday, February 21. Please let me know if you are interested in this option. Cost to be announced.

Home goods from Chiapas textile cooperative

Home goods from Chiapas textile cooperative

Who Should Attend

  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
  • Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

In years past, I have purchased lengths of used hand-woven ikat Maya skirt fabric to repurpose into clothing and upholstery.

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The first 30% payment is due on or before October 15, 2016. The second 30% payment is due on or before December 31, 2016. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 31, 2016, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 31, 2016, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

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Detail of cross-stitched bodice, called punto de cruz

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 30 days before departure.  In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We ask that you return this to us by email 30 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!

Workshop Details and Travel Tips.  Before the workshop begins, we will email you study tour details and documents that includes extensive travel tips and information. To get your questions answered and to register, contact Norma Schafer.

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

Old woven ixtle bag used to hold pulque or lunch

Old woven ixtle bag used to hold pulque or lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Juan Chamula, Chiapas: No Photographs, Please

It’s impossible to take a photograph inside the once-Catholic church of San Juan Chamula.  It is a Sunday haven of pre-Hispanic mysticism, with folk practices that go way back in indigenous history.  Tourists are warned to tread lightly.

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My body aches to take a photograph of the family crouched on pine needles in front of a sainted altar surrounded by a pile of eggs, a live chicken, and dozens of burning candles affixed to the tiled floor where the pine needles have been swept aside.

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Taking photos in the church is verboten.  Forbidden.  In years past I have seen village officials who mind the church protocol confiscate the cameras and memory cards of those who sneak a pic.  Impossible to be sneaky here. Sometimes, if a tourist resists, s/he is put in the local jail.

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Our group from Penland School of Crafts is compliant.  We tuck camera’s away into shoulder bags and backpacks. We are not going to tempt the fates or the village fathers.

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A woman kneels in prayer singing in an ancient tongue, a melody pitched so that the gods will hear her.  Another keens.  Another weeps.  A shaman makes a blessing with an offering of coca-cola and mezcal.  Burping the fizzy drink is believed to cleanse the soul. Sunlight streams through the high side window and beneath the glow the people are bathed in shadow and light.  The space is illuminated.  Smells like piney forest, smokey candles, the burst of lilies and roses.

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Feet are bare and worn.  Feet are brown and calloused. Women’s furry black sheep wool skirts are tied at the waist with glittery cummerbunds.  Their blouses, silky polyester, are embroidered with intricate diamonds, birds, flowers, zig-zags and snap at the throat. It’s cold at 7,000 feet elevation.

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This is sacred space, like being in a cave.  Here the human and divine spirit are one and belief is powerful. I guess no photographs are necessary to remember.

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Beyond the church courtyard is a lively market place to buy hand spun and embroidered wool from the town, strange fruit, clothing from surrounding villages, meat, poultry, vegetables tortillas and bread. Amber and jade vendors hawk their wares. Little old ladies whose garments are beyond wearing, peddle purses, bracelets and keychains.

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Today, the plaza is lined with indigenous women and children from outlying hamlets, hundreds of them.  They sit on the edge waiting.  What are you waiting for? I ask one of them. She replies, we wait to receive an every-two-month stipend of 850 pesos. Soon, they form a line and hurry to the back of the government building. Their support is equivalent to $45USD per month.  Of course, she doesn’t want her picture taken.

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We organize arts workshop study tours with an educational focus. Contact us to bring a group!