Tag Archives: tourism

Sunday Afternoon on the Last Aztec Lagoon: Xochimilco

We packed it in. After a Sunday morning at Casa Azul followed by seeing the largest private collection of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paintings at the Museo Dolores Olmedo, we took an UBER (safe, easy, the only way to get around in Mexico City, despite USA negatives) to the Embarcadero de Nativitas in Xochimilco for a boat ride on the last Aztec canals in Mexico City.

Colorful fun. Fake flower crown vendors, Xochimilco.

Sunday is definitely the day to go. You get the full experience of what it is like to party on the trajineras — the flat bottom boat that can hold huge families,

How about some lively mariachi music? A Mexican tradition.

plus an entourage of mariachis playing guitars, trumpets, accordions and violins.

Sunday is the best day to be on the Xochimilco lagoons for people-watching.

It’s almost like riding a gondola in Venice, Italy. Maybe better. Much more colorful.

Dancing the afternoon away, Xochimilco

Sometimes families bring their own cook and the smell and smoke of grilling meats pervades the waterways. Sometimes families bring their own beer and the bottles pile up for the longer rides through the canals.

You can buy a pig en route, just transfer from their boat to yours.

It is festive, relaxing and the quintessential Mexican experience.  Is it touristy? Yes. But, it’s also real because locals do this as part of birthdays, anniversaries, and any other excuse to have a celebration.

Expand the party and tie two boats together

Sometimes, you see two trajineras tethered together, so groups of forty or more can jump between boats, dance, sing and generally carouse. Children find their entertainment, too, relaxing in the sun, playing games, and dancing along with the adults. Just being together.

It’s a perfect way to enjoy the family, just 45 minutes from city center

The rate is fixed per boat: 350 pesos per hour. We went out for two hours and the next time, I think being out on a four-hour excursion would be better.

Doll island. Some say its haunted.

Then, we could get into the more remote areas where birds and flowers are more prevalent than people.

I had fresh roasted native corn on the cob. Valeria chose esquites.

Hungry? A small boat will pull up and entrepreneurial vendors will sell you grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, chili and lime juice. Thirsty? Beer and soft drinks are delivered the same way.

How about a pulque? Fermented agave sap for Aztec power.

Want a souvenir? Buy a fake flower crown in any color of the rainbow. Need a pit stop? Clean facilities offer service for five pesos.

Buy a synthetic shawl or a plastic doll. Cheap fun.

On the return trip to the docking area, we had a traffic jam.  Boats jammed up against each other, unable to move.

Moving the boat along. You can even buy plants from passing gondolas.

The gondoliers doing a ballet of pushing the long stick into the muck and against the next boat to jockey into a clear passageway.

Straining to move the boats on the last leg of our voyage.

Sometimes, they jumped boats to help each other out.  Muscles straining, taut. Bodies at forty-five degree angles to the water.

The push-pull of getting out of the traffic jam.

I never heard a curse, only the sound of laughter and music from the party-goers, only too happy to spend extra time on the water as the boatmen sorted it out.

A jumble of color at the docking station.

Xochimilco is the last remaining vestige of what the lake region looked like during the Aztec period, pre-Conquest 1521.

Local emptying, then anchoring his launch.

This is how people got around from one island to the next. The people who live here still do. They are gardeners, growers of fruits and vegetables. It used to be that not too long ago the boats were covered in fresh flowers. Today, they are adorned with painted wood.

A remote waterway off-the-beaten path, like a jungle.

The next time you are in Mexico City, allow yourself at least a half-day to enjoy this respite from city life. Perhaps I’ll spend my next birthday here, hire a mariachi band and dance the afternoon away.

A serenade from shore on an island by the lagoon

For now, I’m at my other home in North Carolina, enjoying August heat and humidity, and the comfort of friends.

Norma Lupita, followed by Mexico Lindo. Porsupuesto.

 

Oaxaca Valley and Coast Textile Study Tour 2018

Oaxaca Valley and Coast Textile Study Tour is set to start Sunday, January 14, 2018, in Oaxaca city and end Wednesday, January 24, 2018, in Puerto Escondido, on Oaxaca’s Pacific coast. In between, you will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, enjoy great cuisine, dip your hands in an indigo dye-bath, travel to remote villages you may not go to on your own. This is an eclectic study tour with a focus on textiles and Oaxaca’s vast weaving culture. It also includes visits to graphic arts studios in the city.

Sold Out! Contact me to add your name to the waiting list.

Study Tour Itinerary*

1) Sunday, Jan 14. – Arrive in Oaxaca City and check into our comfortable bed and breakfast inn.

2) Monday, Jan. 15 – After breakfast, we will introduce you to Oaxaca folk art and textile culture with a noted local expert. Then, we’ll explore more with afternoon visits to meet textile collectors and artisans, and graphic artists. We will gather for a welcome dinner at one of Oaxaca’s outstanding restaurants. (B, L, D)

Hand-carved gourd art from Pinotepa Don Luis

3) Tuesday, January 16 — Natural Dye and Weaving Textile Study Tour in the Oaxaca Valley, a full-day exploration into the small weaving and dye studios of some of Oaxaca’s greatest artisans. We will travel by luxury van and have lunch at a great village comedor (family restaurant). (B, L)

Wild marigold over-dyed with indigo will become green

5) Wednesday, January 17 – Half-Day Natural Dye Workshop: Indigo Blue. You will understand the principles and chemistry of working with indigo, then make a cotton shibori scarf. Afternoon on your own. Oaxaca is famed for fine silver and gold filigree jewelry. We fit in a silver jewelry expoventa, too. (B)

6) Thursday, January 18 —  Fly from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido very early in the morning, settle in and relax at our hotel on the Pacific Coast beach. Includes airfare from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido. (B)

Tending the dye bath in Teotitlan del Valle

7) Friday, January 19 – – Follow the textile trail high into the mountains to visit the famed weavers of San Pedro Amuzgos and San Juan Colorado, where they use back strap looms and natural dyes.  We’ll stop at coops, visit markets, and have a few surprises along the way. Overnight on the Costa Chica.  (B, L)

Intricate figures woven into Pinotepa Don Luis textile

8) Saturday, January 20 — Continue our adventure into textile villages along the Costa Chica, and then make our way back to Puerto Escondido in time for dinner. (B, L)

Odilon’s aunt, from San Pedro Amusgo, embroiders cloth together for huipil

9) Sunday, January 21 – We’ll attend Dreamweavers Expoventa, a highlight of our textile study tour, to be held at our hotel. This is a textile extravaganza with the Tixinda Cooperative from Pinotepa Don Luis! They bring their finest garments dyed with murex (purple snail), woven with coyuchi (natural wild Oaxaca brown cotton), and posahuanco skirts You will meet the weavers, see demonstrations, and be amazed by what they make. Plus, the artful hand-painted Converse tennis shoes will be here, too. (B)

10) Monday, January 22 – We’ll take a three-hour early morning or late afternoon birding/ecology tour on the Manialtepec lagoon — beautiful and fascinating — where you will see a rare bio- luminescence…one of only two lagoons in the world to have this phenomena. And, perhaps a surprise visit from Chatino embroiderers (we are working on this).  (B)

Chatino blouse detail, cross-stitch. Photo from Barbara Cleaver.

11) Tuesday, January 23 — This is a day on your own to take a day trip to the sea turtle sanctuary in Mazunte/San Agustinillo, or to explore the town of Puerto Escondido, and begin packing for the trip home.  Grand finale dinner to say our goodbyes. (B, D)

Fine example of Chatino bag from Barbara Cleaver

12) Wednesday, January 24 – Transfer to Huatulco airport and your connecting flights home. Please schedule your departure after 12:00 p.m. (noon). (B)

Sunset on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca in winter

Our resource experts are Sheri Brautigam, author of Textile Fiestas of Mexico, and Barbara Cleaver, collector and owner, Hotel Santa Fe, Puerto Escondido. Sheri will travel with us on the coast to offer her textile expertise. You can read more about Dreamweavers Expoventa in Sheri’s book.

*Note: Itinerary is subject to change. You may want to arrive early in Oaxaca city to acclimate to the 6,000 foot altitude. You may also want to stay later at the beach or travel elsewhere in Mexico when the study tour ends. After you register, we will provide you with hotel contact information if you want to make these arrangements directly.

Odilon Morales promotes his people through Arte de Amuzgo cooperative

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history and identity of cloth
  • carding and spinning wool, and weaving with natural dyes
  • clothing design and construction, fashion adaptations
  • 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
  • graphics arts to express Mexico’s social, political culture

I have invited textile collector Sheri Brautigam to join me at the Oaxaca coast to give you a special, in-depth experience. Sheri writes the blog Living Textiles of Mexico and is recognized for her particular knowledge of Oaxaca textiles. She is author of the Thrums 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!)

What Is Included

  • 10 nights lodging at top-rated accommodations
  • 10 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 2 dinners
  • luxury van transportation for day trips as outlined in itinerary
  • complete guide services
  • airfare from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido
  • transfer from Puerto Escondido to Huatulco airport

Example of very fine Amusgo back strap loom weaving

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 to Participate

  • $2,695 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • Add $400 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

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

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, 2017. The second 30% payment is due on or before December 15, 2017. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 15, 2017, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 15, 2016, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Templo Santo Domingo at sunset, Oaxaca, Mexico

The Terrain and Walking: Oaxaca is a colonial town on a 6,000 foot high desert plateau surrounded by 12,000 foot mountains. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, some narrow and some with high curbs.

The stones can be a bit slippery, especially when walking across driveways that slant across the sidewalk to the street. We will do a lot of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight but we do tread with caution.

If you have mobility issues or health impediments, please let me know. I would encourage you to consider that this may not be the study tour for you. When you tell me you are ready to register, I will send you a health questionnaire to complete first.

 

From Mexico City: Under the Cathedral, An Aztec Empire

Far below Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest in the Americas, lies the archeological treasure trove that was once Tenochtitlan, the City of the Aztecs. It is known as Templo Mayor.

Archeological discovery continues in Mexico City under the Cathedral

First discovered and excavated in 1978, archeologists believe there are seven pyramid levels beneath what is now visible at the site next to the great Catholic church.

Only a fraction has been excavated under the Cathedral

It was the Spanish practice throughout New Spain, in Mesoamerica and South America, to destroy indigenous religious/cultural edifices and use the building materials to construct churches and administrative centers on top of the toppled.

Braziers used for sacrifice in Templo Mayor Museum

Each layer, filled in with silt by a succession of Moctezuma‘s, who built taller and grander edifices to mark their ascendency to lead the Aztec empire, now sinks into the swamp that underlies the great North American city.

Stucco and painted friezes in the Eagle Temple, Templo de las Aguilas, Tenochtitlan

Most of the buildings in the historic center of Mexico City are sinking, leaning and are at risk of toppling. The entire Zocalo area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for this reason.

Entry to Carmelite Ex-convent Santa Teresa, circa 1616, Mexico City

Next to the Templo Mayor is a contemporary art exhibition space that was once home to Carmelite Ex-Convento de Santa Teresa, built in 1616. You will pass by as you exit the archeological site onto Moneda Street that borders the Palacio Nacional.  Click here for a printable Map.

My camera is square; the floor isn’t. Extreme slant!

The Ex-Convento is leaning dramatically. Its front gates have always been closed. Over the New Years holiday weekend, when Jacob and I visited the Templo Mayor, lo and behold, the gates were open and I wanted to explore. As I stepped over the threshold, we entered a dizzying space — stepping onto a steeply tilting floor. My instincts were to grab the walls.

Sistine Chapel-esque, Ex Convento Santa Teresa ceiling

When I stay in Mexico City, I usually choose the Hotel Catedral, just two blocks from the Zocalo at Donceles 95. Nothing fancy. Good customer service, basic rooms, clean, and a delicious breakfast.

Torment of Cuauhtemoc, by David Alfaro Siquieros, at Museo Bellas Artes

There is so much to revisit, see and do, within eight square blocks. I never tire of repeating visits to the Rivera, Orozco and Siquieras murals. I never tire of eating at Azul Historico or Los Girasoles or El Mayor. I never tire of people watching.

I’ve watched this dig develop over the last two years

I always ask for a room at the back of the hotel facing the Cathedral. For the last several years, I have watched a vacant colonial house being transformed into an archeological dig from my hotel window.

On the walking street, Francisco I. Madero, Mexico City

All around the area there is transformation related to restoration and archeological discovery. Beneath Argentina Street you can see newly exposed Aztec carved stone covered by plexiglas pyramids. It gives perspective about where we walk and what came before us.

Black Christ, Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

Mexico City is now one of the world’s most important travel destinations. It is safe and filled with amazing art, culture, food and shopping. I hope it’s on your bucket list.

 

 

Cuetzalan del Progreso Hosts Annual Fair, Puebla, Mexico

It’s sunrise in Cuetzalan del Progreso, Puebla, Mexico. I’m high in the mountains of the Sierra Norte where the indigenous language of Nahuatl is spoken. Beaded and embroidered blouses are predominant here. This is one of the original ten Pueblo Magico‘s and my second visit here. Definitely worth the return!

Selling handwoven and embroidered wool ponchos on the market steps

Selling handwoven and embroidered wool ponchos on the market steps

The triangular scarves and ponchos called huipiles (that I know as quechquemitls) are still woven on back strap looms. Local women walk barefoot on cobbled streets that climb and wind vertically through the village.

Sleeve detail, cotton embroidered blouse, Cuetzalan, Puebla

Sleeve detail, cotton embroidered blouse, Cuetzalan, Puebla

The women and girls are adorned with blouses featuring colorful figures of birds, barnyard animals and flowers, winding vines. Bodice ruffles are edged in turquoise, orange or red. Depending on their village of origin, the cap sleeve could be shirred or plain.  Men wear traditional white shirts and pants, their feet protected by hand-hewn leather thongs, their heads covered in woven straw hats. Traditions are strong here.

Shirred cap sleeve with elaborate embroidery, Cuetzalan, Puebla

Shirred cap sleeve with elaborate embroidery, ruffles, Cuetzalan, Puebla

I’m traveling with my sister Barbara, who I met in Mexico City earlier in the week. We joined up with friend Merry Foss in Cuetzalan for the annual Feria del Cafe, the raucous celebration of regional coffee.  The coffee farms here are plentiful. We are at the right altitude and the beverage is delicious.

Finely embroidered bodice panels waiting to be made into a blouse, Pedro Martin Workshop

Finely embroidered bodice panels waiting to become a blouse, Pedro Martin Workshop

I’m using Sheri Brautigam’s guidebook, Textile Fiestas of Mexico, to find the textile artisan Pedro Martin at Taller Mazatzin known locally as Casa Rosa. The book has an ample section on Cuetzalan. To get to his village of Cuauhtamazaco, 30 minutes from town on a winding mountain road, Barbara and I hop into the back of a covered pick-up truck that is lined with passenger benches. In remote regions of Mexico, this transport mode serves as the major means of getting around. Cost is 8 pesos each.

Alfredo Pisarro and crew at Pedro Martin Workshop

Alfredo Pizarro (2nd from left) and crew at Pedro Martin Textile Workshop

Pedro, his brother Alfredo Pizarro, cousins and nephews, work magic on a back strap loom. They innovate the traditional huipil design to combine colors and patterns that yields a fine cotton gauze.  For blouses that have the intricate, detailed embroidery, they source the bodice panels from only the finest needleworkers who live in remote villages and work only in 100% cotton.

I'm modeling an innovative two-tone huipil from Pedro Martin textile workshop

I’m modeling an innovative two-tone huipil from Pedro Martin textile workshop

In the studio, it is the men who cut the patterns, sew and weave.  Pedro Martin and his family participated in the Feria del Rebozo at the Franz Mayer Museum, Mexico City, last year.

Using local transportation in and around Cuetzalan, Puebla

Using local transportation in and around Cuetzalan, Puebla

Internet service here is intermittent. So, I’m writing before we go off to another village where Merry Foss started a textile cooperative seven years ago. She is doing an expo-venta tomorrow morning with a group of collectors from Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico, who are also here for the fair. The women of Merry’s cooperative make extraordinary beaded blouses, called chakira. The beads originally came to Mexico from Europe and Asia as ballast on the Spanish galleons and the China Poblana shirt was born.

Embellished huipil (quechquemitl) with lots of bling, Cuetzalan, Puebla

Embellished huipil (quechquemitl) with lots of bling, Cuetzalan, Puebla

Most of the embroidery and beadwork around town is made for the tourist market and is of average quality. No fine needlework, no finished seams. You see the finest work being worn by the women themselves. The trick is to be able to locate the best of what is made. You can find a few pieces in the artisan market. (See Sheri’s book for details.) But, I’ve been asking the ladies, Where can I get one like yours? 

Vendors on the steps leading up to the market, Cuetzalan, Puebla

Vendors on the steps leading up to the market, Cuetzalan, Puebla

As the coffee fair started, I wandered to the church courtyard beckoned by the waft of copal incense. I met a group of women gathered waiting for a celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The majordoma, or leader of the group, kept the copal incense burner alive with intermittent puffs of breath on the burning coals.

The mayordoma turns to smile at me. I made a 100 peso contribution to refrescos.

The majordoma turns to smile at me. I made a 100 peso contribution to refrescos.

How to get to Cuetzalan: It’s a six-hour bus ride from Mexico City on ADO or Primera Plus. Almost four hours from Puebla on Via. Buy your tickets in advance. You can’t do this online! Sorry.

Where to stay: We are happy at Casa de Piedra, a clean, lovely hotel set down the steep hill from the plaza. It looks like a stone fortress. Great breakfast and views.

Taller Mazatzin, Pedro Martin Concepcion, tel: 52-1-233-759-3992. Get the colectivo truck at the station on the street behind the church.

 

Textile Fiestas of Mexico: New Guidebook for Smart Travelers

The book, Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping by Sheri Brautigam and published by Thrums Books, is hot off the press. It’s a comprehensive guide to some of Sheri’s favorite Mexican textile villages and towns. I contributed two chapters!

Textile Fiestas of Mexico, book cover

Textile Fiestas of Mexico, book cover

Sheri invited me to cover Teotitlan del Valle, the Oaxaca rug weaving village where I live, and Tenancingo de Degollado, the ikat cotton rebozo weaving center in the State of Mexico, where I often visit and lead study tours. Of course, the answer was Yes!  I’m happy to say I contributed both the descriptive narrative and photography for these two sections.

Evaristo Borboa Casas, age 92, ikat rebozo backstrap loom weaver

Grand Master Evaristo Borboa Casas, age 92, ikat rebozo backstrap loom weaver

Sheri and I share our secrets with you because our first priority is to support the wonderful, talented Mexican artisans — many of whom are Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art. Whether you join a tour or get there on your own, you want this book in your back pocket or tote bag for insider tips.

Selection of Teotitlan del Valle wool rugs from the tapestry loom

Selection of Teotitlan del Valle wool rugs from Porfirio Guttierez studio

How You Can Order the Book!

ISBN: 978-0-9964475-8-4
$24.95 trade paperback
120 pages
200 color photographs, map, glossary, and index

Buy your copy at Amazon, ClothRoads, and at your favorite Indie bookstore. Distributed to the book and library trade by Independent Publishers Group. If you live in Oaxaca, the book is soon to be available at Amate Books on Macedonio Alcala.

How to Buy in Mexico

Patrice Wynn is the Mexican distributor for Textile Fiestas of Mexico. She is also selling the book to buyers in Mexico, both at AbraZos, Zacateros 24 in Centro Historico, San Miguel de Allende, and also by mail. Please write to ventas@sanmigueldesigns.com to get details of how you can have it shipped to you in Mexico, either as an individual or as a store.

Here’s a preview of photos I contributed to the chapters on Tenancingo de Degollado and Teotitlan del Valle.

Tenancingo weaver Jesus Zarate with his amazing ikat butterfly rebozo

Tenancingo weaver Jesus Zarate with his amazing ikat butterfly rebozo

Come with me to Tenancingo, February 2-10, 2017 for an ikat textile study tour. We have a few spaces open for single and double occupancy. You’ll meet everyone I talk about in the book!

Knotting the rebozo fringes can take two or three months

Knotting the rebozo fringes can take two or three months

The beauty of the book is that you can use it when you travel independently or as a resource on a guided visit.

Weaver in the Teotitlan del Valle rug market

Weaver in the Teotitlan del Valle rug market

One-day Natural Dye Textile & Weaving Study Tour–November 3, 2017

We tell you how to get there, the best artisans (in our humble opinion) to visit and when the major festivals are scheduled.

We recommend how to negotiate purchases in the markets and from artisans in their homes. What is the fair and ethical way to shop in Mexico? Sheri explains it!

Indigo dye pot, Teotitlan del Valle

Indigo dye pot, Teotitlan del Valle

We help you discern the good from the bad, the better quality from the mediocre.

At the Sunday rebozo market, Tenancingo

At the Sunday rebozo market, Tenancingo de Degollado

And, we give you restaurant and lodging tips — because where to eat and sleep means you will have a more enjoyable experience.

Ancient Zapotec temple stone, Teotitlan del Valle Community Museum

Ancient Zapotec temple stone, Teotitlan del Valle Community Museum

Through description and photos, you can see what to expect before you get there and plan your travels so your time is well-spent.

Carding sheep wool, a woman's tradition to prepare for spinning, dyeing then weaving

Juana Gutierrez cards sheep wool, a woman’s tradition to prepare for spinning

Chapters include Oaxaca, Chiapas, Uruapan and Puebla, plus Estado de Mexico (State of Mexico). You go deep into local markets, cooperatives and regional celebrations.

Ikat rebozos by Evaristo Borboa Casas, Tenancingo de Degollado

Ikat rebozos by Evaristo Borboa Casas, Tenancingo de Degollado

Author Sheri Brautigam owned a textile design studio in San Francisco for twenty years. She has worked as an English Language Fellow for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, and as a serious collector and purveyor of fine indigenous textiles from Mexico and Guatemala. She sells collector-quality textiles through her online shop, Living Textiles of Mexico, and writes a blog, Living Textiles of Mexico.

Explaining the symbology of the weaving patterns

Omar Chavez Santiago explains the symbology of the weaving patterns

FYI: Many of you know that Teotitlan del Valle is a town of about 6,000 people and 2,000 looms. The major “industry” here is wool tapestry weaving. In the book, I concentrate on a handful of weavers who work only with natural dyes. We are committed to promoting environmental sustainability and respiratory health.

Cleaning a rug woven with naturally dyed wool

Cleaning a rug woven with naturally dyed wool–Federico Chavez Sosa