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2017 Day of the Dead Study Tour, Small Village Rituals and Traditions

The small villages in the Tlacolula Valley outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, are rich in culture and tradition. Perhaps nothing is more sacred here than the Day of the Dead celebrations. This ancient pre-Hispanic ritual to honor ancestors is thousands of years old, as are the indigenous Mexican people who observe it.

Offerings on the altar. Favorite foods, beverages.

Out here in the countryside, observances are elemental. They rarely feature glitzy parades, masquerades, endless firecrackers and Ranchera music that now defines the experience of city celebrations. That’s not to say, don’t celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca City. It is to say, give yourself the added experience of participating in a more contemplative introduction to Oaxaca village practices beyond the city.

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead Study Tour: 5 days, November 1-5, 2017

I’m inviting you to come along with me to personally explore the small towns off the Panamerican Highway, where we will meet local families, join them in meals, pay tribute at their altars, welcome the spirits of the dead (difuntos) back to earth, accompany them to the cemeteries where difuntos return to their resting places. We sit with them at the graveside to ease their return.

Sand paintings, part of the tradition, Muertos

Here, off the beaten path, you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the meaning of Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico.

For several years now, I’ve thought about bringing a group together to discuss the cultural rituals of life and death, differences and similarities. How do we integrate and observe death, dying, grief, mourning and the celebration of life in our own traditions?

La Catrina, making a mockery of death

How do we understand the practices here in Mexico? What can we learn from this mystical and spiritual culture? What are our shared and divergent experiences? On reflection, how will this Day of the Dead study tour alter our own feelings about death and loss?

So, this will be a small group experience of no more than 10 people. We want to have a very low impact in homes and cemeteries where we visit. You are invited to bring your journals, notebooks, cameras, iPhones, sketchpads, or anything else you need to document this personal experience.

Dia de los Muertos Altar, San Pablo Villa de Mitla

I will invite resource experts to accompany us on our journey to help guide the conversation, and give you historical and cultural perspectives.

There will be some pre-workshop readings that I will send to you to prepare for the trip and the conversations we will have along the way.

Itinerary, Day of the Dead Study Tour: Rituals and Traditions

  • Wednesday, November 1: Visit San Pablo Villa de Mitla and San Juan Guelavia (Arrive to Teotitlan del Valle on your own by 9:00 a.m. We will designate a meeting place.)
  • Thursday, November 2: Visit a local market, then Tlacochuaya de Morelos and Teotitlan del Valle
  • Friday, November 3: Meet the artisans who bake bread, make beeswax candles, prepare tamales
  • Saturday, November 4: Participate in a cooking class that features ritual foods with a mezcal tasting
  • November 5: Depart on your own to Oaxaca any time after breakfast

What the Study Tour Includes:

  • 4 nights lodging in Teotitlan del Valle at a local guesthouse, starting November 1
  • 4 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • 4 dinners
  • Cooking class and mezcal tasting
  • All daily transportation from Teotitlan del Valle to the villages
  • Bread and chocolate to present at family altars
  • Honoraria to village hosts, artisans, invited speakers and resource experts
  • Packet of materials to prepare you for the study tour (via email)

Cost: $1,195. per person for double occupancy, shared room and bath. $1,495. per person single occupancy, private room and bath.

At the Mitla cemetery, Arturo Hernandez decorates his mother’s grave

The study tour does not include airfare to Mexico, round-trip taxi from Oaxaca city to Teotitlan del Valle, some meals as noted in the itinerary, admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, snacks, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals.

How to Register? Send me an email. 

Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before 45 days before the study tour begins. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After the 45-day cut-off date, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before the 45-day deadline, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Marigold flowers, the difuntos follow the scent

2017 Mexico Textiles and Folk Art Study Tour: Tenancingo Rebozos + More

This study tour is designed as an intensive personal learning experience. Here in Tenancingo de Degollado and beyond, you will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, understand family traditions and culture, and help honor and preserve craft.

Rebozo seller, Tenancingo Town Market

Rebozo seller, Tenancingo Town Market

Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico (Edomex), is the source for handwoven ikat rebozos or shawls made on back-strap and flying shuttle looms by master artisans. Some count only 27 remaining reboceros — the men who weave the cloth. Not long ago there were hundreds. We will also meet the puntadoras — the women who hand-knot the intricate fringes. The experience of being there is so inspiring that I want to keep sharing it with you. I invite you to return with me for a memorable, curated Mexican textile and folk art study tour.

A Jesus Zarate ikat rebozo is like a Monet painting -- innovative, comforting

Jesus Zarate ikat rebozos are like a Monet painting — innovative, full of movement

  • February 2-10, 2017.  8 nights, 9 days. $1,995 per person shared room with private bath. Single supplement is $300 more per person. A 50% deposit will reserve your space.

Cost includes luxury van transportation from Mexico City to Tenancingo and back, daily excursions, all hotels, 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners, private guide services, gratuities for artisans, guides, drivers and service staff. Does not include alcoholic beverages and optional expenses not included in the itinerary.

Group size limited to 10 people.

Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art Evaristo Borboa Casas at his loom

Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art Evaristo Borboa Casas at his loom

You will arrive and leave from Mexico City.

  • Meet together in Mexico City on February 2 with an overnight there at a historic center hotel
  • Travel to and stay in Tenancingo from February 3-9 at a bed and breakfast oasis
  • Enjoy the company of our bi-lingual guide who migrated from the U.S. to Tenancingo to marry a local thirteen years ago
  • Meet the master weavers of Tenancingo de Degollado in their home workshops

 

  • Learn about ikat warp thread preparation, the complexity of this at-risk textile art and how to differentiate quality
  • Participate in hands-on natural dye and weaving demonstrations
  • Understand the intricacy of a fine hand-knotted fringe called punta or rapacejo, and how it adds to the beauty of the lienza (cloth)
  • Visit three of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos – magic villages where traditional life flourishes
  • Spend a day in Malinalco, a Pueblo Magico, to discover archeology, ancient frescoes, weaving traditions, natural dyes and more

 

  • Spend a day in Taxco de Alarcon,with the next generation of William Spratling Silversmiths. Enjoy a day at the Spratling Ranch and famed Las Delicias, see jewelry making at its finest using Spratling’s original molds with his same excellent handcrafted quality
  • Travel to Metepec, a Pueblo Magico. Climb the archeological site of Teotenango, meet outstanding ceramic artists who make Tree of Life sculptures and cazuelas cooking vessels
  • Spend the last night in Mexico City to depart on February 10 for home OR stay on longer to enjoy museums and world-class restaurants
Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots during our study tour

Puntadora Amalia shows how to tie the finest knots

Along the way, you will eat great food, climb ancient pyramids at important though remote archeological sites, visit three Pueblo Magicos – Malinalco, Taxco and Metepec — and immerse yourself in some of Mexico’s outstanding folk art.

Metepec 48-40 Metepec 48-44

Primarily, we are here to learn about the art and craft of making a fine rebozo, meet the men who weave the cloth and the women who tie the elaborate fringe.

Ikat rebozo handwoven on the back strap loom from Rapacejos gallery

Ikat rebozo handwoven on the back strap loom from Rapacejos gallery

Some of the weavers are innovators, like Jesus Zarate, who incorporates intricate floral, bird and animal motifs on the ikat cloth.

Fito Garcia Escobar-10 Fito Garcia Escobar-12

Some, like Fito Garcia, use splashes of color that looks like confetti. Camila Ramos ikat designs employ ancient indigenous symbols and figures.

Evaristo-2-2 Malinalco 41-41

The revered master, 82-year old Evaristo Borboa Casas, is a traditionalist. All have received top honors for their work worldwide.


Each technique requires mathematical and technical precision, extraordinary creativity and months of work to produce one rebozo.

Fito Garcia Escobar-2

It can take weeks to prepare the ikat warp threads, dye them and dress the loom, with another month or two for the weaving. It can take two or three months to tie a punta, depending on length and elaboration.

After this study trip, I can guarantee that you will better appreciate this textile art form that is at risk of disappearing. Only three or four weavers in Tenancingo continue the back-strap weaving tradition. Sixty years ago there were over 200 weavers working on the back-strap loom.

Malinalco 41-34

Itinerary Includes

  • 8 nights lodging
  • 7 Breakfasts
  • 5 Lunches
  • 5 Dinners
  • Round trip transportation to/from Mexico City center and Tenancingo
  • Transportation to all towns, villages and artisans noted in itinerary
  • Gratuities to artisans for demonstrations
  • Tips for most services, including hotel rooms, van driver, guides

Day 1, Thursday, February 2:  Arrive in Mexico City, overnight. Dinner on your own. We will stay at a historic hotel on or near the Zocalo. As soon as you register, we will tell you where. You might also like to arrive a few days early to explore the city. It’s wonderful!

Study tour group tries their hand at making fringes

Study tour group tries gives fringe-making a try in hands-on workshop

Day 2, Friday, February 3: Travel by luxury van to Tenancingo, overnight (B, D) Group dinner.

Day 3, Saturday, February 4:  In the morning, meet some of Tenancingo’s best master weavers. We will confirm who later! The group can include Evaristo Borboa Casas, Jesus Zarate, Adolfo “Fito” Garcia Diaz, Fermin Escobar Camacho and Luis Rodriguez Martinez. Take a ride on the flying shuttle peddle loom.  (B, L, D)

Day 4, Sunday, February 5: Today we will visit the big, weekly rebozo market where weavers and puntadoras, the women who hand knot the rebozo fringe, sell their wares. Then, we have lunch at a beautiful outdoor family restaurant in the countryside, followed by a demonstration in late afternoon. (B, L, D)

Day 5, Monday, February 6: We leave early to spend a day in Taxco de Alarcon, Pueblo Magico, with the next generation owner of the William Spratling silver jewelry workshop. First, we will have breakfast at the famous Spratling Ranch followed by a tour and silversmith demonstration. We’ll return to town for a late lunch Spratling’s home and first workshop, Las Delicias, now S’Caffecito. Then, you can roam Taxco on your own. We start our 2-hour return to Tenancingo in early evening. (B, L)

 Owl pin

Day 6, Tuesday, February 7: Malinalco Pueblo Magico. Climb the ancient archeological site (if you wish), the only one in Mesoamerica carved out of the rock face. Visit the workshop of Camila Ramos Zamora and award-winning son Juan Rodrigo Mancio Ramos. See how they work the back strap loom and make natural dyes. See how to dye and prepare ikat threads. Take time to visit the 16th century Augustinian church with the amazing Paradise Garden Murals.  (B, L, D)

Day 7, Wednesday, February 8: After breakfast, we will have a demonstration of another type of weaving, the fiber made from the Joshua Tree leaf called izote. An indigenous family will join us from the countryside to show the process that is made into beautiful, finely crafted bags, some dyed with cochineal. Afternoon on your own to return to your favorite rebocero, do last-minute market shopping and begin packing.  (B, D)

Metepec 48-18 Metepec 48-7

Day 8, Thursday, February 9:  Travel to Metepec Pueblo Magico. First, we will stop to climb the Mesoamerican Teotenango pyramids (if you wish) or visit the adjacent museum. Then, we will visit the Museo del Barro ceramics museum to see the finest examples of Tree of Life sculptures and highly decorated, sturdy cooking pots called cazuelas. After lunch, we will have time to explore the artisans market before returning to Mexico City. Overnight in Mexico City.  (B, L)

Metepec 48-13 Metepec 48-14

Day 9, Friday, February 10: Depart our Mexico City hotel by taxi (at your own expense) to catch your flights home. Or make your own arrangements to stay in Mexico City a little longer and enjoy the Independence Day festivities around town.

FullSizeRender-4 FullSizeRender

The study tour includes round trip transportation between Mexico City and Tenancingo de Degollado, lodging in Mexico City and Tenancingo, meals as noted in the itinerary, travel to all artisans and destinations noted on the itinerary, cultural bi-lingual guide services and most gratutities/tips. Plus you receive a comprehensive packet of information about our location, shopping, restaurants, and itinerary sent by email before the study tour begins.

The study tour does not include airfare, taxi from Mexico City airport to Mexico City hotel, return taxi from Mexico City to the airport, some meals as noted in the itinerary, admission to museums and archeological sites, alcoholic beverages, travel insurance, optional transportation and incidentals.

Reservations and Cancellations: A 50% deposit will reserve your space. The final payment for the balance due shall be made on or before 45 days before the study tour begins. We accept PayPal for payment only. We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us by email that you are ready to register.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email. After the 45-day cut-off date, no refunds are possible. However, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute. If you cancel before the 45-day deadline, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

 

About Travel to Mexico City: The Mexico City Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) is our gateway city and a Mexico City historic center hotel is our meeting point. You can fly to Mexico City from many United States locations on most major USA airlines. Mexico’s excellent new discount airlines Interjet and Volaris service some U.S. cities, as does Aeromexico.

International Travel Insurance Required. We require that you purchase trip cancellation, baggage loss and at least $50,000 of emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip. We will ask for insurance documentation as well as a witnessed waiver of liability form that holds Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC harmless. We know unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, please email us at norma.schafer@icloud.com

We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.