Tag Archives: tourism

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

Mexico Travel Photography: Colors of Mexico, My Set of Five

Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1810.

Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1810

We had a five-day photo challenge on the Facebook page I moderate, Mexican Travel Photography. I thought I’d publish the set of five photos I submitted here. Except that I couldn’t find FIVE. I only found FOUR. Oops. Lo siento.

Tlacolula Market Candy Cart

Tlacolula Market Candy Cart

I must have been too preoccupied commenting on others’ beautiful posts. So I’m adding one here, but I disqualify myself from posting for five days in a row! Counting is such a challenge.

Birthday pinatas and papel picacho, Teotitlan del Valle

Birthday pinatas and papel picacho, Teotitlan del Valle. iPhone photo.

Mexico Independence Day is coming up on September 16. It marks Mexico’s liberation from Spain after four hundred years of occupation. So many streets throughout Mexico, in all the little towns and villages, in all the big cities are named 16 de Septiembre. For good cause.

Colorful plastic woven baskets, Tlacolula Market.

Colorful plastic woven baskets, Tlacolula Market.

And, not to be confused with the Mexican Revolution of 1920-1920, or Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla, the fight again the French that became a cry for freedom by African-Americans and Mexicans living in the U.S. during the American Civil War.

Oaxaca Red casita color. With Gar Bii Dauu. Local endangered succulent.

Oaxaca Red casita color. With Gar Bii Dauu. Local endangered succulent.

I recently repainted the casita this intense red. I guess this was the photo I forgot to post to make up the Set of Five. Disculpeme.  Gar Bii Dauu is an indigenous succulent found in Oaxaca. It is a Zapotec word and endangered specie.

Coming Up: Next Mexico Travel Photography photo challenge. Join and weigh in with your choice for what subject you want represented next. Or, join and just enjoy the photography by people who share our enthusiasm for Mexico.

 

 

Mexico Travel Photography: Five Day Photo Challenge Editor’s Choice

Last week, I posted a Colors of Mexico photo challenge on Mexico Travel Photography, a Facebook group I moderate. We had 45 people take part. I didn’t count the total number submitted, but it was a 5-day challenge. We saw a lot of beautiful photographs of Mexico.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Mexico is where anything goes! Vibrant color is everywhere. The photographs in this post run the gamut from people, buildings, food, clothing, festivals, markets, street life, re-engineered cars that would have become junk in the USA, and then some. There are literal and figurative photos, abstract and impressionistic.

David Taylor.

David Taylor shared this photo of live dress-up dolls.

As this blog’s writer/editor, I took the liberty of selecting photos to post here that I thought were especially dramatic for the choice of color (or not).

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

As editor, I also took some artistic license to crop the original photos submitted on Facebook and do some photo editing enhancements. I used my judgment in this process. Why?

Day 5, Mexico Colors Photo Challenge. "Day of the Dead" celebration in Zinacantán, Chiapas. (In tzotzil language is called "Sk`in Ch`olelai")., Ana Paula Fuentes

Ana Paula Fuentes. Day of the Dead, Zinacantán, Chiapas. “Sk`in Ch`olelai”in Tzotzil.

Sometimes the subject of a photo reveals itself by getting in closer. Cropping is all an experiment and depends on each person’s preference. Some people are afraid of doing this, but you can always revert to the original. Nothing lost by trying. If I altered your photo and you don’t like it, please forgive me!

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

For example, I didn’t crop this chicken in the market photo that Miles took. It’s so close you can see the pin hairs.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

And, I bet Donna got right up to this young boy judging by his expression. Zoom. Zoom.

Please share this post!

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

This is exactly as Mary shot this picture. I confess I bumped up the color a bit. Such a beautiful Mexican landscape. They are growing healthy food, here.

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

I got in closer on Kathy’s photo so we could see the juice of that orange slice, and yes, says Kathy, the mouth-watering ceviche. Thank you. What’s for dinner? Anyone have a good recipe?

Hollie Taylor Novak. Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. Its what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.

Hollie Taylor Novak. Funky, Rusty, Junky.

Hollie says, “Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. It’s what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.”

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers at the Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers, Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

A Oaxaca desfile is a joyous parade. We have them here all the time, and it’s wonderful. Shannon got up close to get the intricate embroidery on the dresses. It’s what Oaxaca is known for. Don’t stay away!

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

I wrote to Diane that this looks like a Luis Barragan design. Intense primary colors. Gorgeous. I didn’t touch this one. Love how the right angles contrast with the round trees. Ah, Mexico.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

The subject is holding a bull that spits fireworks. It’s a traditional part of Oaxaca celebrations. We see these at Christmas, especially. Not for the faint of heart, but dazzling.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Ok, I did a big crop on this one to get our eyes focused on the glorious indigo dyed cloth at Oaxaca’s textile museum, and that amazing red-orange wall in the background. Love that splatter of indigo blue on the floor tiles.

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Gad, do you think Mexico could be any more colorful than this? Not likely!

Please share this post!

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago sent this one in on the last day of the Challenge. We all loved the sky! Omar is age 22 and is graduating from university this December. He has an eye!

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market... // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market… // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

And, Moises sent us this one of the ubiquitous embroidered apron worn by all traditional Zapotec women who live in the Tlacolula valley. And, where do you buy these? Why at the Sunday Tlacolula market, of course! I enhanced the color and did a crop so you could see the embroidery detail.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen sent us this terrific masked man whose garments are covered in bells!

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge - Hualulco

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge – Huatulco

Good enough to eat. I bet it was tasty, fish head and all. I cropped in closer. Such a great color. Wonder what the seasoning was? Squash? Carrots? Huatulco is Oaxaca’s beach resort. Flights go there direct from the USA.

Betsy McNair. I have no idea where this was taken.

Betsy McNair. She says, “I have no idea where this was taken.”

Old here is very beautiful. The textures and layers are a sight to capture. Thanks, Betsy.

Claudia Brewer Michel. How to make the colors of Mexico. Studio of Jacabo Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia Brewer Michel.  Studio of Jacobo & Maria Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia says, “This is how to make the colors of Mexico.” At alebrije carver-painter Jacobo and Maria Angeles‘ studio, visitors see how natural pigments color carved animals. I cropped to get in closer to the hands. A slimy, beautiful mess.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

This is the season for Chiles en Nogada, the traditional dish that celebrates Mexico’s Independence from Spain. Red, white and green! Eat it through September.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Another take on fish, this time a graphic adorning a wall. Peeling paper and paint. Such great texture. I bumped up the yellow and contrast.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Sunset in the Tlacolula valley. Such a beautiful silhouette. Thanks, Araceli.

Please share this post!

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick sent this one among several over the week. I loved the shadows, the rust, and the color contrasts. I couldn’t decide between this one and the Mexico City subway scene. It was the blue that did it.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail sent us this one on Day 2 of the challenge. I cropped in to get us closer to the faces of the children, and highlighted the color. Wanna red lollipop?

Bob Ward.

Bob Ward.

Maybe Bob will tell us where he took this photo. It’s the stippled walls that really pop along with those beaten down doors that might have a few more years left in them. What stories these buildings could tell if they talked.

Please take a look at Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group to see the work that everyone submitted. We’ll do another challenge soon. If you aren’t yet a member, please join. Most of us are amateurs who just love to take photographs of Mexico, her places and people.

Thanks for reading and following!

Norma

How to Correct the Image and Crop a Photo: Download your photo. For simplicity, take a Facebook photo and download it. I use a MacBook so I click on the download and it opens in Preview.

Image Correction: You then use your cursor to open Tools on the Toolbar above. Click on Adjust Color. A screen pops up. Use your cursor to slide the levers to change exposure, contrast, shadow, highlights, saturation, and sharpening.

To Crop, put your cursor on the photo and click the touch pad. A square will come up that you can adjust to decide the area you want to cut. It’s all an experiment and you won’t ruin anything. You can always revert to the original and start over!

 

 

Oaxaca Safety and Day of the Dead: Come or Cancel?

I’m hearing about people thinking of canceling their Day of the Dead trips to Oaxaca this year. Someone said they were afraid of the Zika virus. I haven’t heard of any cases being reported here. Fear is powerful.

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

I returned to Oaxaca five days ago. It was an easy flight from Orange County, California (SNA) to Mexico City on Southwest, then a connection to Oaxaca on Interjet. I arrived in Teotitlan del Valle without incident. Not even an airplane snivel.

Out and about on Sunday in Mitla, I saw tourists. They are mostly Europeans, Germans, Swiss, French, Dutch. Fearless world travelers.

The children's comparsa, Muertos

The children’s comparsa, Muertos

We are rounding the corner to prepare for Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead. Oaxaca is famous for this celebration of life and its continuum. Hotels are usually booked a year in advance.

But fear is in the air. People are asking once again, Is it safe? Should I come? Should I cancel?

The 2016 Guelaguetza is behind us. Observing from my son’s California living room, I heard various numbers: from a 31% to 53% occupancy rate in Oaxaca hotels. This is devastating news to a tourism-dependent city.  Yet, I also heard the auditorium was packed with Mexicans and Europeans. Only the Americans missed out.

My own altar, in memory of dad. This year, we add our mother.

My own altar, in memory of dad. This year, we add our mother.

Why are we so afraid?  I think this is an important question to ask ourselves as protectionism and insularity dominate the political rhetoric in our social discourse. Are we willing to stay put, stay home, close ourselves off from an invigorating world that offers exploration and discovery, and is probably no more or less safe than going to the local mall. Fear is self-protection. It is also paralyzing.

Even Frida returns to celebrate

Even Frida returns to celebrate

I subscribe to Improvised Life. Sally Schneider talks about how important it is to lean into the fear that puts a stranglehold on us. Onward.

It’s true. Oaxaca struggles with its own political upheavals and social justice issues. The zocalo is a gathering place for dissidents and right now, it’s not pretty. The federal and state governments are prone to take impulsive, though calculated aggressive action against demonstrators. We are aware of where these potential flash points can happen and we steer clear. Just like we wouldn’t go into a U.S. neighborhood known to be volatile.

Offerings on the altar. Favorite foods, beverages.

Offerings on the altar. Favorite foods, beverages, pan de muertos

Yesterday, my inbox contained a message from a Day of the Dead tour leader to his clients who seem to be softening on their commitment to visit. In summary:

  • The zocalo occupation is not dangerous, just annoying
  • If there are roadblocks, they are not dangerous, just annoying
  • There is no random violence, nor is there violence focused at the public
  • Protest is a way of life here, guaranteed in the constitution as a way to express grievances
  • The protest leaders and government representatives continue to negotiate

We hope for the best. Meanwhile, life in Oaxaca continues to present its wonderful mysteries, artistic expression, great culinary taste sensations, and an unparalleled opportunity to meet artisans where they live and work.

Sand paintings, part of the transition, Muertos

Sand paintings, part of the transition, Muertos

I urge you to come and not cancel. Day of the Dead is an extraordinary opportunity for examining how we feel about life and death through the eyes of indigenous people. It is with love, not fear. It is with respect for ancestors, not grief.

Oaxaca welcomes you! If you are afraid, buy travel insurance. You should, anyway (smile). Wherever you go.

Over-the-top decorations throughout Oaxaca's centro.

Over-the-top decorations throughout Oaxaca’s centro.