Tag Archives: travel

Guelaguetza 2014 Photo Out-takes — Oaxaca Folkloric Fesitval Dazzles Crowd

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It’s more like a party than a traditional performance. Oaxaca’s annual Guelaguetza folkloric festival draws crowds from throughout Mexico and all over the world.

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If you hang around the stage at the end while most of the crowds leave, you might be handed a small cane cup filled with mezcal and get a close-up photo, too.

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I hosted a group of Australians and we had third row seats. That’s the luck of the draw, plus mostly getting to the tourism office early.  We bought these tickets in early June.

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Even photo out-takes are worth looking at!

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For a discussion about the cultural and political controversy surrounding Guelaguetza, see my July 24, 2014 post.

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People ask me all the time if Oaxaca is safe.  There were 11,000 people in the audience, plus all the performers. Instead of the crush, we did the WAVE!

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The exit is through a narrow underground tunnel and then down the Cerro del Fortin steps.  Most of us left that way!  Everyone was calm, helpful, friendly, gracious and orderly.

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We took a few minutes to stop and look at the stunning views of the city and the Santo Domingo Church below.

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Is Oaxaca safe?  YES!

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One big crowd pleaser is the Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma. It is a story of the Spanish conquest over the Aztecs. Many villages do this ritual dance. It is an important part of indigenous Mexican identity.

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The chief dancer is the Moctezuma, and featured are two girls, each representing the duality of Mexico — The Malinche and Doña Marina – who are one and the same.  How high the dancers leap is a feat of pure prowess and determination.

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Everyone in the crowd was hoping to catch a pineapple — one of the Guelaguetza gifts thrown — actually hurled — from the stage into the audience by each village represented.

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If we had our hands and a hat up, we got bread, radishes, lettuce, palm hats and fans, rolls, tortillas, sticky tamarind fruit, ritual bunches of fragrant greens.

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I managed to catch a bunch of bananas that I shared with my neighbors in keeping with the meaning of Guelaguetza. Only the front row received the pineapples. I think the organizers were afraid of injury!

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By the time we left the auditorium it was almost 10 p.m. We were hungry and thirsty. Somehow, sweet rolls didn’t seem enough. My mantra: time for a mezcal margarita and a good meal. This is the hour most Mexicans have their dinner! It was way past my bed-time.

Guelaguetza2014-29Our group of five women walked about six blocks to La Biznaga where we were lucky to find an open table. Beware: the margaritas are especially potent! The spinach lasagna (yes, Italian) was wonderful. Safe? Yes!

Finding Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo: Photo Highlights

After a week in Mexico City with eight wonderful participants who came along for our Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Study Tour, I came back to Oaxaca to immediately welcome four Australian women, all textile lovers. We have been all over town and out into the craft villages from sunrise to sunset, with more to go!  Sunday, Tlacolula market. Monday, Guelaguetza.

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I must confess I haven’t had a moment to process photos and report on the incredible pre-Guelaguetza activities that make Oaxaca a must-see destination this time of year.  The streets are packed with parades, revelers, music, dance, textile vendors and food.  Yesterday, after circling for over an hour in search of a parking spot (all lots filled, no empty street spaces), instead of sleeping over as I had planned, I gave up and returned to the Teotitlan del Valle casita I call home.

Okay, so here are photo highlights of our Mexico City adventure — a wonderful time was had by all!  Next Art History Study Tour:  August 7-11.  Three spaces open!  This is a great way to ease into discovering Mexico City.

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Several of our travelers had been to other parts of Mexico many times but shied away from the big city.  They discovered that Mexico City is vibrant, safe, rich in art, and has some of the world’s most amazing restaurants.

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It was a really amazing experience for me.  I had never been there before and am left with so much more information and reading to do and historical research to do that it will keep me busy for quite a while. — Susan Sandoval, California

 

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Our art historian, Valeria, is going to Switzerland for advanced study in September, so the August 7-11 repeat study tour will be the last for a while.  It is an amazing introduction to the Mexican Muralists:  Rivera, Orozco and Siquieros, plus provides an in-depth look at the mystique and mastery of Frida Kahlo.

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We enjoy fine dining, market fare, artisan galleries, and much more, too.

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Oaxaca Art + Archeology with Chiapas Add-On: Study Tour with Penland School of Crafts

Travel and learn with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC in collaboration with Penland School of Crafts, one of the foremost centers for art and craft education in the United States. This is an unparalleled opportunity to study  folk art, craft and contemporary art of Oaxaca, with an option to extend your time to explore San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas and surrounding Maya villages.  An in-depth indigenous Mexico educational experience.

  • Registration Deadline: November 15, 2014
  • Only 12 spaces available!

Oaxaca–February 12-19, 2015: 7 nights and 8 days of cultural immersion and discovery! Archeology, food, contemporary and folk art, wood carving, pottery, weaving and Carnival celebrations. The best of the best! Starting at $3,285 double occupancy, includes lodging, most meals and transportation, and a tax-deductible $500 gift to Penland School of Crafts.  Single occupancy option: $3,695.

Every minute of the trip has been a teaching in every aspect.Most valuable to me has been sharing with you and learning so much!! – Elizabeth Steinvorth

Optional: Add-on Chiapas.  Depart Oaxaca on February 19, travel overnight from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas on a luxury bus with reclining seats.  Arrive in Chiapas in time for breakfast,  textile talk and orientation walk!

Add-on Chiapas–February 20-25, 2015: 5 nights and 5 full days to explore the land of the Maya — archeology, textiles, traditional medicine, precious stones and jewelry making traditions.  We are based in San Cristobal de Las Casas at the crossroads of the Maya world, an international mountain town of outstanding beauty. Our host is luxurious boutique LaJoya Hotel. We offer two levels of accommodations there: Single occupancy Platinum-level luxe, $2,695. Single occupancy Gold-level luxe, $2,395. For double occupancy, we offer Bronze-level semi-luxe, $1,845 at a nearby hotel. Choose your comfort level!

Contact Norma Hawthorne by email to receive your registration form or get your questions answered.

Penland School of Crafts is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and was founded on the principles and values of preserving and promulgating the rich folk art traditions of the local culture. In keeping with these roots, we offer you a week-long study tour to explore the indigenous world of Oaxaca, Mexico, with a six-day add-on option to Chiapas, Mexico. Here art and craft have flourished for centuries.

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Oaxaca and Chiapas mountains are scattered with remote indigenous villages where amazing art is created in the tradition of the ancestors. Every piece has a back-story and is a testimony to the creativity and beauty that is Mexico today. We invite you to become a part of this exciting, personalized program.

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I have greater respect for the people and their talent and family values. Incredibly beautiful art work. – Lee Ellis

I know now that I can be comfortable and enjoy traveling where I do not speak the language. Some of my preconceived ideas about Mexico were incorrect. – Edna McKee

During our week together in Oaxaca, you will

  • discover or better know the 16th century Spanish colonial city of Oaxaca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • meet ceramic, textile, and wood-carving artists and artisans
  • meet contemporary artists in their studios and discover a vibrant international art scene
  • visit a Zapotec village where pre-Lenten Carnivale is celebrated with extravagant costumes and energetic revelry
  • spend the day in Ocotlan to better know the art of Rodolfo Morales
  • explore famed Zapotec archeological sites with an expert English-speaking guide
  • sample local cuisine during a cooking class with one of Oaxaca’s best known teachers
  • dine at some of Oaxaca’s greatest restaurants and meet the chefs
  • see Oaxaca like an insider through the eyes of Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

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Oaxaca, Mexico Itinerary — February 12-19

Day 1: Thursday, February 12. Participants will travel independently from their home city and arrive at the Oaxaca, Mexico, international airport. If you come directly from Houston, you will clear customs and immigration in Oaxaca. If you connect through Mexico City, you will clear customs and immigration there before boarding your connecting flight to Oaxaca. We will send you a complete travel guide one month before the program date. When you give us your flight arrival information, we will arrange private transportation to meet you at the airport and bring you a short distance to our Oaxaca city B&B. If you arrive in time, meet us in the lobby at 8:00 p.m. for a light supper, if you wish. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 2: Friday, February 13. After breakfast, we will be transported along the Ocotlan Folk Art and Crafts Route to visit the home and museum of famed Oaxaca artist Rofolfo Morales, the lively weekly market where locals shop, and see the exquisite work of embroiderers, potters and sculptors.  A gala welcome dinner ends our day. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Saturday, February 14. The contemporary art scene in Oaxaca is considered by experts to be among the best in Mexico. We have arranged a day of meeting painters and lithographers in their studios to discuss and see their work, and learn more about Oaxaca’s rich art culture. In late afternoon, we depart for the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle. Overnight at a family-owned guest house for a taste of the more humble village life. (B, D)

Day 4: Sunday, February 15. After a hearty, homemade breakfast, we go to the outstanding archeological sites of Mitla and Yagul, then visit the home studio of a master weaver who will demonstrate tapestry weaving on the two-harness pedal loom. You will see a natural dye demonstration and make your own cochineal-dyed silk scarf.  Then, we will visit a family who cultivates their own silkworms, hand-spins and dyes the silk, and then weaves it into stunning clothing. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle. (B, L, D)

Day 5: Monday, February 16. Following breakfast, we take a cooking class with one of Oaxaca’s outstanding cooking teachers. She will take us on a walking tour of the  market where we will shop for fresh ingredients, then work together with her guidance to prepare a delicious traditional repast that includes, of course, one of Oaxaca’s famous mole dishes and a mezcal tasting. After lunch, we return to Oaxaca by private van. (B, L)

Day 6: Tuesday, February 17.  It’s Fat Tuesday and Carnival Time in Oaxaca. The Mardi Gras costumed parade in the village of San Martin Tilcajete rivals pre-Lenten festivities around the world.  Join the locals who know what revelry is all about as we follow the king and queen of Carnival through village streets, dancing all the way. We will enjoy a delicious lunch together at a locally-owned restaurant before we return to Oaxaca. (B, L)

Day 7: Wednesday, February 18.  Archeology and artisanry is our focus as we visit famed master craftsmen in Atzompa, the pottery-making village, and Arrazola, the alebrije-making village where wood carvers and painters create fanciful mythical animals and replicate scenes of village life. You will see demonstrations and meet the grand masters of Oaxaca Folk Art.  Just outside of Oaxaca city lays the stunning and important Zapotec archeological site of Monte Alban. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago considers this to be the finest example of social and government organization in Meso-america. Sturdy walking shoes and walking sticks encouraged! (B, L)

Day 8:  Thursday, February 19.  Some of you will depart Oaxaca and return to your homes.  Others will stay on with us to take the overnight luxury bus to Chiapas for the next leg of our adventure. (B)

Norma is not only knowledgeable, she is part of the local community. Her deep connection to the people made for a rich experience. – Jane Crowe

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$3,285 per person double occupancy. $3,685 for a single supplement. Includes $500 per person tax-deductible gift to Penland School of Crafts.

Register Today. Contact us to receive a registration form. Have Questions? Ask Norma Hawthorne at normahawthorne@mac.com

Chiapas, Mexico Itinerary — February 19-25

Day 1: Thursday, February 19.  Luxury overnight bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas (B)

Day 2: Friday, February 20. Check in to our San Cristobal de Las Casas Hotel. At breakfast, we will meet a local expert who will talk about Maya textiles and Chiapas textile traditions. Then we’ll take a walking cultural orientation tour of the compact, pedestrian-friendly city.  After a group lunch, you will have time to recharge before we visit folk-healer Sergio Castro and his private museum.  Overnight SCDLC. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Saturday, February 21: During breakfast, we will introduce you to the history of ancient Maya jewelry design and adornment, visit the Jade and Textile museums, and enjoy a Market Meander after lunch. There is nothing so tantalizing as the outdoor crafts market in San Cristobal de Las Casas, where vintage and new textiles, clothing, home goods, clay sculpture, beadwork and lots more capture your senses. Overnight SCDLC. (B, L)

Day 4: Sunday, February 22: The magical indigenous church in San Juan Chamula blends Spanish Catholicism with local folk beliefs. After breakfast and a discussion about Maya mysticism, we will visit the church and local market, then stop at Zinacantan where colorful flowers grow in greenhouses and are the theme of intricately embroidered cloth that are sewn into skirts (faldas) and shawls (chals).  (B, L)

Day 5: Monday, February 23: Today, we study Chiapas archeology and documentary photography through the eyes of husband-wife explorers Frans Blom and Gertrude Duby-Blom, who worked with Maya Lacandon people starting in the 1920′s.  Their home museum, Na Bolom, the jaguar house, tells the story of early archeological work in Mexico. After an optional lunch at the museum cafe, you will have time to explore San Cristobal de Las Casas on your own. (B)

Day 6: Tuesday, February 24: The Maya archeological site of Tonina is not as well-traveled as nearby Palenque, but many say it is equally as stunning and outstanding treasures have been excavated there. This all-day adventure will take us from the mountain highlands to semi-tropical lowlands to explore this extraordinary site whose pyramids are the most vertical in the Maya world. And, yes, you can climb them! After a picnic lunch, we make our way back to SCDLC with a stop at the back-strap loom weaving village of Oxchuc where textiles are embellished in shimmering metallic threads.  Our study tour ends with a grand farewell dinner and many memories to share.  (B, L, D)

Day 7: Wednesday, February 25:  After breakfast, transfer from San Cristobal de Las Casas to Tuxtla Gutierrez to board your flights back to your home country.

Ready to Register? Contact Norma Hawthorne.

The entire time was so interesting and full of fun. So much we got to experience would never had happened if we had come on our own. Norma made all the difference with her knowledge and sensitivity of the culture, and all her local friends, who obviously adore her!!! – Lynn Nichols

About Norma Hawthorne. Norma started Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC in 2006 and began offering weaving and natural dyeing workshops in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, where she now lives part of the year. Soon after, she expanded program offerings to include women’s creating writing, yoga, photography, and other forms of textile and fiber arts workshops. In 2011, she retired from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she raised $23 million for the School of Nursing, and directed the School’s marketing and communications. Before that, she had a 25-year career in higher education continuing education and marketing at Indiana University, The University of Virginia, and The George Washington University. Norma holds the B.A. in history from California State University at Northridge and the M.S. from The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. A lover of indigenous textiles, Norma started weaving with naturally dyed wool in San Francisco, collected Amish Folk Art textiles which she recently donated to the Indiana State Museum, owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, and fell in love with Oaxaca arts and artisans when she first visited there in 2005. See Norma’s resume.

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This trip illustrates the value of having a local contact who has a passionate, personal interest and extensive knowledge abut a place, a subject and contacts with people. That’s what made the trip unique, dynamic, rich and transformative. It would not have been possible to have had this experience without Norma – and her energy, generosity and great spirit. Thank you so much! — Barbara Benisch

ReynaAmarilloMetate2 ReynaSaladIngredLodging/Accommodations. In Oaxaca, we have selected highly rated, elegant, upscale accommodations for you where we will spend five nights at Casa Las Bugambilias B&B.  We will also spend two nights at family-owned and operated guest house in Teotitlan del Valle to give you a flavor of humble village life.

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Oaxaca Study Tour Cost: The basic cost for the trip is $3,285. USD. This includes seven nights lodging shared occupancy with private bath, six breakfasts, four lunches, three dinners, transportation to/from airport and activities as noted in the itinerary, site entry fees, all instruction, and a $500 tax-deductible contribution to Penland School of Crafts.

  • OAX 1: Shared double room with private bath; $3,285.
  • OAX 2: Single Supplement, private room with private bath; $3,685.

Chiapas Study Tour Cost:  Three options available. Choose your comfort level. In Chiapas our luxury boutique La Joya Hotel, will host there. Here there are five single suites with king-size bed accommodations for Platinum and Gold-level travelers.  Double, shared rooms are in a nearby upscale colonial-style hotel.

  • CO1: $2,695. Platinum-level luxe single room, premium amenities
  • CO2: $2,395, Gold-level luxe single room, special amenities
  • CO3: $1,845, Bronze-level semi-luxe double occupancy share

The cost does NOT include airfare and related taxes, tips/gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, and some meals as specified in the itinerary.

Please make your 50% deposit check payable to Norma Hawthorne, OCN-LLC and mail to Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, c/o Jacob Singleton, 17052 Leslie Lane, Suite D, Huntington Beach, CA 92649 or tell us you want to pay by credit card and we will send you a PayPal invoice via email. PayPal transactions are online, safe and secure.

Dolores with Shadows Doug_03.2 DSC_0081.JPGReservations and Cancellations. Please understand that we make lodging and transportation arrangements months in advance of the program. Our hosts often require deposits or payments in full to guarantee reservations. If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After November 15, 2014, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel on or before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

We require that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, and $50,000 mimimum emergency medical evacuation insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

Ready to Register? Tell Norma at normahawthorne@mac.com Have Questions? Ask Norma at normahawthorne@mac.com.

All the workshops were terrific, talented, committed, skilled and well-prepared, thoughtful and easy to work with, generous and passionate…I am inspired to go home and do more work. – Barbara Benisch

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC in cooperation with Penland School of Crafts. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and make substitutions as necessary.

A Word About How to Get There Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, based in North Carolina, U.S.A., has offered arts workshops and cultural immersion experiences in Oaxaca, Mexico, since 2006. Many participants often travel independently to reach Oaxaca on a direct flight from the gateway city of Houston, Texas, on United Airlines. Other major U.S. airlines connect to AeroMexico in Mexico City, which offers several flights a day to Oaxaca. Delta operates a Code Share with AeroMexico. The international airport at Oaxaca is new, safe and clean, as is the Mexico City airport. Our trusted Oaxaca airport pick-up service will personally greet you as you depart from baggage claim.

Note: Tips may be given to your local guides, instructors, and service providers throughout the trip. The recommended tip is 50 pesos per day for each provider per person. Be sure to collect your belongings from your room and check the Safety Deposit Box. Have your Passport, Mexico Exit Visa, and Plane Tickets ready!  You must have at least six months remaining on a valid U.S. passport to enter Mexico.

Please Note: This is a working itinerary, is subject to change and may be modified as we confirm final details for the trip. Be assured that any changes made will only enhance the program and add to your total experience. Thank you for your understanding!

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Oaxaca Faces: Photographs Up Close and Personal

Yesterday, Janet and I went to Cafe Brujula (the compass), a great little spot on Garcia Virgil that roasts its own beans. This before she went off to work in the morning, and I went out and about for a day filled with errands.  Some debate which is better, Cafe Brujula or Nuevo Mundo. You will have to come to Oaxaca and decide for yourself. Oaxaca shade-grown coffee, locally roasted, organic!

We were sitting at a shuttered window, open to the street talking and watching the passersby. The light was streaming into the dark space. The light on Janet’s face was so stunning that she consented to my request to photograph her. I told her she looked like a Zapotec queen.

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The shadows played tricks on me. But, nevertheless, these photos capture her beauty. She is wearing a vintage huipil from Chiapas that I brought back last year.

Last week, Natividad and her husband Arnulfo came to visit me at the casita with their two boys, Arnulfo and Rodolfo. The boys contented themselves by swinging in the hammock and running up and down the stairs to the upstairs terrace.  I have since gone shopping at the Tlacolula market to get wooden trucks for them to play with the next time they come over.

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A lot of what I’ve learned about taking portraits (and I still have a lot more to learn) is because of Matt Nager.  Matt is the instructor for our upcoming Portrait Photography Workshop Tour set to start the end of January 2015.  If your interest is in having a memorable travel experience that includes photography instruction, then come along!  All levels with any type of camera are welcome.

And, don’t forget Day of the Dead Photography Workshop Tour that starts October 27, 2014.  Still spaces open.

 

 

New Dates: Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

The July 2014 art history tour, Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, filled up in just a few days.  So, I’ve scheduled another Mexico City study tour weekend with Diego and Frida.  The Schedule:  Arrive on August 7 and depart on August 11. Are you interested? Space for 5 more people!

If you are intrigued by

  • the mystery of Frida’s relationship with her mentor Diego Rivera, whom she married twice,
  • social and political history of pre- and post-revolution Mexico,
  • Mexican Muralist Movement as populist outcry and government tool,
  • and Mexico City as a food, culture, and art mecca,

This program is for you!

Our art historian guide leaves for doctoral studies in Europe in September, so this may be the last opportunity to learn along with us this year!