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- Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Our Clients Include *Penland School of Crafts *North Carolina State University *WARP Weave a Real Peace *Methodist University
Tell us how we can put a program together for you! Send an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tag Archives: travel
Millions of Monarch Butterflies: A Visit to the Biosphere Reserve in Michoacan, Mexico: Study Tour Details
Arrive Thursday, January 31 and depart Monday, February 11, 2019. Eleven nights and twelve days in the heart of one of Mexico’s greatest folk art centers. Sold Out. Taking a waiting list.
|Th-1/31, Day 1||
Arrive Morelia, overnight in Morelia
|F-2/1, Day 2||
|Sa-2/2, Day 3||
City and gallery walk, lunch and art history of region, discussion Purepecha indigenous community, visit famous graphic artist and silversmith, plus numerous galleries (B, L)
|Su-2/3, Day 4||
Once Around the Lake – Pottery, markets and embroidery, Tzintzuntzan, village story embroidery, painted pottery. We will visit markets, archeological sites, potter Nicolas Fabian Fermin and needleworker Teofila Servin Barrida (B, L), overnight in Patzcuaro
|M-2/4, Day 5||
|Tu-2/5 and W-2/6, Day 6 & 7||
After breakfast, travel to Pueblo Magico Uruapan, overnight in Uruapan for two nights. Visit Fabrica San Pedro for handmade blankets and La Huatapera in the Maseta Purepecha. (B, L)
Travel to Textile and Mask/Wood Carving villages including Anhuiran. Meet Cecelia Bautista and family rebozo weavers, makers of Paracho guitars and carved masks (B, L), Return to Patzcuaro with overnight on 2/6.
|Th-2/7, Day 8||
Open day in Patzcuaro, evening special event, Patzcuaro overnight (B)
|F-2/8, Day 9||
Depart from Patzcuaro in early morning, arrive to Monarch Butterfly Biosphere and Pueblo Magico Angangueo, overnight in Angangueo (B, L)
|Sa-2/9, Day 10||
Day in Angangueo, depart to Morelia in late afternoon. (B, L)
M-2/11, Day 12
|Day on your own in Morelia. Grand Finale Dinner. (B, D)
Depart Morelia for flights home
This is a preliminary itinerary, although the dates are firm. We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary based on availability of artisans.
The State of Michoacan is one of the most diverse for production of Mexican artisan crafts. Indigenous people here make more than thirty different types of handwork, making it one of the richest states in Mexico for appreciators and collectors of folk art.
You will fly into Morelia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During our week together we will stay in two Pueblo Magicos and explore the history and traditions of the native Purepecha people. You will meet noted artisans who are recognized as Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art and invited participants to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and Feria de Artesanias at Lake Chapala.
These are potters, weavers, silver jewelry makers, mask and furniture wood carvers, luthiers (makers of guitars and violins), lacquer-ware makers, coppersmiths, painters and graphic artists.
As many of you know from participating in other trips with me, our goal is to also get out of the van, walk, explore and discover. This way, we have a deeply intimate experience with the artisans where they live and work: in their homes and studios, off the beaten path. Our goal will be to know those who have already achieved fame and meet those whose talents are yet to be widely promoted.
In the process, we become 21st century explorers ourselves.
I have friends who live in Patzcuaro who are knowledgeable about the region. I will invite them to lead group discussions about regional artisans, folk art, ceremonial practices, and customs. One is a noted photographer and I will invite her to give us a visual overview of the region in our first days.
Our guide comes highly recommended, is bilingual and lives in the area. We will have luxury van transportation to take us to the areas on our itinerary. The places we will visit are safe and secure.
Cost: Double occupancy (shared room with private bath), $2,795 per person Single occupancy (private room/bath) is $3,295 per person
All prices in USD. One-third of the total is due now to reserve. The remaining balance shall be made in two equal payments, the first on August 1, and the second on December 1, 2018.
- Double room deposit to reserve is $932, remainder in two equal payments on August 1 and December 1 = $931.50
- Single room deposit to reserve is $1,099, remainder of balance in two equal payments on August 1 and December 1 = $1,098
If you reserve after August 1 and before December 1, two-thirds of the deposit is due. If you reserve after December 1, full-payment is due.
Trip is limited in group size.
What the Trip Includes:
- 10 nights lodging in excellent accommodations
- 10 breakfasts
- 7 lunches
- 2 dinners
- Bi-lingual guide services
- Michoacan van transportation specified in the itinerary
What the Trip Does Not Include:
- Airport transfers to/from hotel
- Tips, taxes, alcoholic beverages, meals not included in the itinerary
- Travel insurance
Reservations and Cancellations. We accept payment with PayPal or a personal check payable to Norma Schafer OCN/LLC and mailed to our agent in Southern California. Let us know how you wish to pay and your preferred type of room — shared or single. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 1, 2018, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 1, 2018, we will refund 50% of your deposit.
Who Should Attend • Textile and fashion designers • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors • Wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source • Photographers and artists who want inspiration • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration
Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do a bit of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight because there are pedestrian streets, although there are also hills. The altitude is 7,000 feet PLUS. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let us know before you register.
This may not be the study tour for you.
Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.
Zinacantan is about thirty minutes by taxi from the center of San Cristobal de Las Casas. They grow flowers here. Large greenhouses dominate the landscape like a checkerboard rising from the valley to the hillsides.
This is a prosperous community that exports this produce throughout Mexico, as far as Mexico City and Merida.
Local dress reflects this love of flowers. Women’s skirts and chals (shawls), men’s pants and ponchos, and rebozos to cradle babies are densely embroidered with flower motifs.
It used to be that this work was all done by hand. Now, the embroidery machine has taken over the life of the cloth, which is often completely covered in intricate flower motifs so dense you can hardly see the base fabric.
It used to be that the base cloth was woven on a back strap loom. This is now rarely the case. Most is either woven on the treadle loom or by commercial machine.
It used to be that the village was identified by its hot pink cloth. Now, we see purples and blues. It’s common to see shiny colored threads in both the woven cloth and the embroidery thread. Fashions change and the Zinacantecas innovate new designs, use new color variations, and new embroidery motifs.
Far beyond Mexico City, Mexican women love their bling.
Sheri Brautigam and I went early to Zinacantan yesterday on a discovery trip to check out new places to take the next Chiapas Textile Study Tour group. Sunday is Zinacantan market day but you have to get there early. The women with textiles have spread out their wares on the street at 6:00 a.m. and start putting their things away by 10:30 a.m.
Our best advice is go there first before Chamula.
2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour. Taking reservations now.
Wander the streets off the Zocalo. There are homes and stalls that sell good new and vintage textiles. The old pieces might be ten, fifteen or twenty years old. People stop wearing them because the colors are outdated not because the cloth is worn.
You can easily spend an hour here.
Here you will find hand embroidered cloth woven on back strap looms. This could include cross-stitch (punto de cruz) and French knots, in addition to other traditional needlework. How can you tell? Turn it over and look at the underside.
The embroidery machine has come to Chiapas and can replicate cross-stitch and everything else. The village women now wear the work made by machine and it’s beautiful, too. Everything is a personal choice!
The obvious tragedy is the damage to the Church of San Lorenzo during the September 7, 2017, earthquake that rattled Chiapas and the southern Oaxaca coast. The destruction dominates the horizon. The church is closed until further notice by INAH. People say it may be impossible to repair. There is talk in the village about building another church.
I remember entering the candlelit space in years past where all corners were adorned with flowers, abundant, fragrant. The altar was like a floral arrangement unlike any other I had seen. The aroma made me swoon. Now, the saints have been removed to a corrugated shed. INAH is responsible for all historic churches in Mexico. Few in and around San Cristobal de Las escaped damage. There is years of work to be done. Will Mexico have the will to repair?
Back on the street we find hand-woven and embroidered bags, silky polyester blouses machine embroidered with complementary colors, belt sashes and skirt fabric. Since it’s market day, tarps are also covered with piles of fruits and vegetables, and staples for the home.
The Aztecs ruled this territory before the Spanish. They dominated as far south as Nicaragua. The Zinacantecos had strong links with the Aztecs, and enjoyed a privileged trading relationship. The village served as political/economic center for Aztec control of the region before the Spanish reached Chiapas in 1523. Our friend Patricio tells us that many locals intermarried with Nahuatl speaking Mexica’s.
The Zinacantan feathered wedding dress is a carry over from this past.
Taxi to get there, 150 pesos from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Taxi to return, 100 pesos. Get it at the back corner of the church before you enter the market street.
It costs about 150 pesos to get there.
Oaxaca and Chiapas have a lot in common. They are the two poorest states in Mexico, have the lowest literacy rates and in the rural areas there is little or no access to health care.
Chiapas and Oaxaca have the highest percentage of indigenous people in Mexico, yet they are under-represented in politics and business, lack access to education.
For this entire time in Chiapas, I am using only my iPhone 8Plus with zoom lens. All the photos you’ve seen since February 12 are from my portable device with very little editing. I’m a devotee. Thinking of selling other equipment!
Thank you for following this adventure. There is more to come. Our Chiapas Textile Study Tour Group 2 starts this coming Tuesday evening.
Join us for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour, February 27-March 8
Magdalenas Aldama is an hour-and-a-half from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, on a winding road deep into the mountains beyond San Juan Chamula. Its isolation is protection from the forces of modernization. The Spanish had difficulty getting there to evangelize. Traditions run deep and strong.
Being remote is a double-edge sword. It guarantees lack of access to education and decent health care. It ensures sustaining traditional practices like building with wattle and daub, creating garments with the back strap loom.
This is the same story for many villages tucked into the swales of eight thousand foot mountains around the city.
On our quest to explore the textiles of the Maya people surrounding San Cristobal de Las Casas, it is important to meet and know the people where they live and work. This is a cultural journey to appreciate artisania, to give support and to put funds directly into the hands of the makers.
Magdalenas Aldama women weave some of the most beautiful blouses and huipiles in Chiapas. They are intricate textiles with ancient pre-Hispanic Maya symbols that have spiritual and physical meaning. It can take six to eight months to weave a traditional Gala Huipil used for special occasions.
Typical Maya symbols incorporated into the cloth — a story of life:
- The milpa — corn fields, squash and beans
- The sacred forest — pine trees
- The Four Cardinal Points — sun, moon, earth and sky
- The Toad — harbinger of the rainy season
- The Vision Serpent — to guide the way
- Plus any personal designs preferred by the weaver
During our van ride we talk about what to look for in a quality garment as we approach Magdalenas. We are sewers, embroiderers, collectors, knitters, appreciators of the creative work that women do.
- How are the seams finished? Are the seams raw and unraveling?
- Is the embroidery done on cloth that is made on a back strap loom or is it done on cheap commercial polyester or a poly/cotton blend?
- Are the embroidery stitches small, tight, evenly executed?
- Is the weaving even and are the supplementary weft threads densely packed?
First stop is to the home of Rosa and Cristobal. They were activists in the Zapatista movement, working for land reform, indigenous rights, access to services, and justice for Maya people. Twelve women in the extended family gathered in the smokey kitchen to prepare our lunch: handmade tortillas, sopa de gallina (free range chicken soup).
Babies are tied to their backs with rebozos. Toddlers and youngsters played around their mothers’ skirts. The wood fire was pungeant, smokey, making it difficult to see or breathe.
After an expoventa in the adjacent barn, we went to the plank wood house of Don Pedro and his son Salvador, just a few blocks away to see their fine handwoven ixtle bags. Women in the family brought traditional Magdalenas huipiles and blusas, woven pocket bags, belts and embroidered skirt fabric.
Over breakfast this morning we share our impressions of the experience.
- Lanita commented that this is a culture where back strap looms are everywhere. Women can do it a bit at a time, between caring for children, cooking, tending the kitchen garden, after chores are done.
- Carol appreciates that joy is possible in any circumstance. We see the power of a community of women, and as women travelers, we, too, become a community of women. We made connections. There are ore things that make up the same among us that make us different.
- Mary Anne notes that she learned more about the social justice issues of the Zapatistas. They are not a bunch of rebel revolutionaries.
- Cath says that this trip is more than about textiles, although this is a good place to start. To be here is to look beyond the fibers, to look at the totality of life and ask, Where did this cloth come from? Who made it? What does it mean? Where is the woman who designed it?
Textiles are a way into being part of another culture. We could dig in, experience, open up to what else it is we can see and discover. We were excited to find cooperatives where innovative design uses traditional fabric woven on the back strap loom.
Most importantly, we provided direct support to women, men and families whose work we appreciate, admire and regard with respect.