Bargain Shopping and Cheap Eats in Oaxaca

Is it possible to find and buy high quality textiles in Oaxaca at bargain prices? That was my question yesterday as Chris and I returned to Oaxaca city for her last day here on this visit. She loves to shop at thrift stores and on sale. I do, too, but I’m always on a quest for top quality. I don’t know thrift or consignment shops in Oaxaca (except for one listed below) where one can purchase good, gently worn handwoven Oaxaca clothing. I have favorites in Taos and Santa Fe.

Chris wanted to go back to Lake Chapala with a couple of Oaxaca huipiles. So, I named this day of foraging: Low Brow Shopping (more based on pocketbook limitations than taste) and set about to show her a few favorite places where I know the quality is very good and the prices much more affordable than the collectors’ galleries I know about. Often, these are the places that cater to locals, too.

The quest: How can we find a beautiful huipil or blusa for under $100 USD?

As for eating, in my humble opinion, its definitely possible to eat well in small comedors and restaurants that are not on the Andador Macedonio Alcala or adjacent streets like Garcia Virgil, Cinco de Mayo and Reforma. This is the hub of the tourist center and prices are higher here because rents are higher. To find, good cheap eats, go to the auxiliary streets and neighborhoods that are several blocks away. I still rarely, if ever, eat at food stalls on the street, mostly because of sanitation issues.

Three Favorite Oaxaca Bargain Shopping Recommendations (can you recommend others?)

  • Hilo de Nube. These blusas and huipiles are handmade and embroidered in San Juan Guichicovi, a town in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The style is very distinctive to the region that offered a type of dress favored by Frida Kahlo. The Oaxaca shop is located at M. Bravo #214, Oaxaca Centro. Here, blouses start at $30 USD. They combine free-form, human-guided chain stitching embroidered by machine. Prices go up based on intricacy of design, and if the garment incorporates hand-embroidered stitching, too. Base cloth is high quality cotton, linen, or sateen. My friend Susie introduced this shop to me and I’m passing it along to you as a go-to spot for bargain-hunting fashionistas.
  • Shop with No Name! I can’t give you a link because there is none. This shop is located just the other side of the Zocalo at Bustamante #119 about mid-block on the left between Guerrero and Colon, near musical instruments and CD shops. It is operated by Lilia Gonzales Bolaños. Telephone: 52-951-169-5965. What makes this shop great is that if you know your textiles, you can find excellent designer pieces hidden on the racks between the lesser quality goods. Perfect for the huntress in you! Look for the whimsical smocked blouses from San Pablo Tijaltepec, gauzy and finely woven cloth from San Mateo del Mar, natural dyes from Pinotepa de Don Luis.
  • Artesanias Que Tenga Buena Mano. Operated by Francisco Hernandez, this little shop is found on Calle de Constituccion tucked into a step-down almost basement location next to Casa Oaxaca Restaurant. Textile offerings are limited but of excellent quality at fair prices. I even saw a piece woven by Teofila Palafox from San Mateo del Mar. Francisco also designs filigree jewelry and there is a good collection of pieces here, as well as funky folk art. Don’t blink or you might miss it.
  • La Selva de los Gatos. The Cat Jungle! An all-vegan cat cafe & pet adoption center located at the corner of Calle Abasolo and Calle de la Republica, features a boutique of gently-worn clothing (I guess this qualifies as a thrift shop) they sell to raise funds to spay, neuter and adopt out stray cats that have been rescued. The vegan cafe serves up reasonably priced fare — eat a play with the cats, too.

Get a Oaxaca Lunch for Under $10 USD

Ok, we are not going to regurgitate the top-level $$$$ dining spots operated by award-winning chefs that show up on every travel site — the ones like Conde Nast Traveler or Travel and Leisure or Food & Wine — that recommend Casa Oaxaca, Origen, Criollo, Los Danzantes, Restaurante Catedral, Levadura de la Olla. At these spots, you can easily spend $25-45 USD per person for lunch, which is fine if you are on a limitless budget or splurge vacation. Here, a mezcal cocktail can cost you $12 USD, too.

At the humble comedors, the food is simple although it can also be complex. Wash it down with a good Mexican beer — Victoria, Negro Modelo, Tecate or Sol — or select a fruit water such as Agua de Pepino con Limon (cucumber and lime), Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus), or Agua de Sandia (watermelon). Good to give your wallet a break from time to time.

  • Cabuche. This has been a long-time cheap eats favorite. Restaurant is owned by Rodrigo Fuentes Moreno who carved out his niche after leaving La Biznaga some years back. Pozole and tacos reign here. Lots of vegetarian options. You can get a big or small bowl of pozole, with white, red, or green stock, with vegetarian, chicken or pork options. The hominy is plump and delicious. My dish with pork was tender and easily chewed. Take your pick of taco fillings: huitlacoche, potatoes and chorizo, tinga de pollo, calabacitas, and more. Hidalgo #1017, in the block beyond the textile museum going away from the Zocalo.
  • Casa Taviche. Go another block further on the left to find this hidden gem that many of us find to be among the best comedors in the city. The Comida Corrida, the three-course fixed price lunch offered by many places, comes with appetizer, entree, dessert and a glass of fruit water for under $10 USD here. Order a la carte and it can be more. Hidalgo #1111.
  • Casa Bestia. I had a delicious brunch here a couple of weeks ago with Carol, Dean, Kay and Winn. It’s billed as an art gallery and co-working space, but it features a lovely outdoor dining area under some amazing shade trees. You can also find hand-made clothing in the gallery. They offer workshops and cooking classes, too. The kitchen serves up delicious gluten-free oatmeal pancakes and excellent lunch fare at moderate prices. Very relaxing. Located in the Conzatti Park neighborhood of Oaxaca. Gomez Farias #114.

Got recommendations for Cheap Eats and Bargain Shopping? Write us here!

What to look for when Bargain Shopping? Tips for discerning quality!

  1. What is the quality of the cloth? Is it 100% cotton or is it mixed with polyester?
  2. Do know for certain that the textile isn’t made in China? So much of what is sold on the street are Chinese knock-offs. Buyer beware!
  3. Turn the garment inside out. How are the seams finished? Will the threads unravel? Are the seams machine stitched or finished by hand? Are the stitches tight and even? A French seam with no exposed selvedge will hold up the longest.
  4. Are the threads naturally dyed or are these commercial threads? Are the dyes prone to bleeding or running (commercial or synthetic dyes will run if they haven’t been pre-washed)
  5. If the garment is back-strap loomed, are there any snags or imperfections? Do the patterns line up or are they mismatched?
  6. If there is embroidery, turn it inside out and look at the embroidered threads to discern whether they will hold up after several wearings.
  7. Can you wash this garment by hand and hang to dry or does it need to be dry-cleaned?
  8. Can the vendor tell you who made it and where it was made?
  9. Do you love it or are you buying it because of price?

Want to buy directly from the maker? Want access to Oaxaca state’s most important weavers who are renowned for their finest workmanship? Come with us on The Collector’s Tour!

Encore: Visiting the Tlacolula Market and Mitla Archeological Site

My friend Chris is visiting from Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Guadalajara within a few days after my son and daughter-in-law returned to New Mexico. And, I’m returning to the USA on March 27, just a few days after Chris goes back home to Guad. So, its a whirlwind of getting ready to leave and sightseeing with Chris. I am returning to some of the same places I was the week before with the kids. It’s funny how even with a return visit to someplace I’ve already been, there is always something new to see.

Here’s what was on the agenda with Chris:

  1. San Pablo Villa de Mitla Archeological Site — We went on Saturday. Admission is free on Sundays if you are a permanent resident or senior. Otherwise, the entry fee is 90 pesos (about $5) per person. There is a new entry process. You wait at the gate at the back parking lot and they let groups of 10 into the site about every 15 minutes. A goodly amount of time to devote here could be more than an hour. I suggest you read up on this historic Zapotec religious site before you go. I also like to go early in the morning to avoid the midday heat.

2. Bia Beguug Weaving Studio with Arturo Hernandez Quero and his son Martin, operate this designer home goods weaving studio where amazing cloth is made on the flying shuttle loom. This is the go-to-place for tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads, throws, and shawls — many of which include natural dyes in cotton and wool.

3. Lunch at Mo-Kalli. Except when we got there, the comedor operated by traditional cook Catalina Chavez Lucas was closed! Strange for a Saturday. So, our alternative was to have lunch at Comedor Mary at the Tlacolula Market. Here, owner Elsa, carries on the tradition of her grandmother Mary, with delicious, clean and safe-to-eat traditional food, including some tasty Mole Negro and Mole Coloradito. Cost is about 200 pesos per person. Even though food is already prepared, please be patient; it can take a few minutes to get served.

4. Sunday Tlacolula Market. This is our weekend go-to tourist attraction in the Tlacolula Valley. If you go on your own, we have a map available for sale to guide you. We got there early, by 10 a.m., and it was still packed. I’m still wearing a mask in densely populated areas, and the narrow aisles of this market makes me cautious. I bring along a rolling shopping cart. Our purchases included a clay flower pot from Tlahuitoltepec, bars to make hot chocolate, locally grown and roasted peanuts, chicken gizzards for the dogs, a painted enamel gourd filled with flowers to gift, limes, a stainless steel strainer, carrizo baskets for packing my mezcal to take back to the USA, a clay bowl from Dorotea and the Red Clay Pottery Women designed with holes to use for strawberries, an armful of lilies, an embroidered Catrina doll handmade by Armando Sosa from Mitla.

There are plenty of handcrafts here of varying quality: clay mugs from Atzompa and Tlapazola, shawls, scarves, aprons, handwoven rugs, jewelry, blouses and dresses, hammocks, woven palm baskets and colorful plastic totebags. Need an extra suitcase? You can get that here, too. If you are a local, this is where to get everything you need to eat and run a household.

You might want to eat lunch at the market by buying a piece of raw grill meat or sausage, cooking it over the open flame along with onions, tomatoes, wrapping it in a tortilla smeared with a ripe avocado. Or, you could take a moto-taxi tuk-tuk like we did to make our way to the kitchen of traditional cook Evangelina Aquino Luis at her Cocina Tradicional Nana Vira, where we had higadito, chiles rellenos, and Mole Coloradito with grilled lamb, washed down with a Victoria beer and melon water. Dessert anyone? Nicuatole, of course.

Then, we came home to rest!

Deep Into the Mixteca Alta: Oaxaca Textile + Folk Art Study Tour

5 nights, 6 days, March 7-12, 2024

We go deep into the Mixteca Alta, a mountainous region of the Sierra Madre del Sur in the north of Oaxaca state that is situated between the capital city and the Oaxaca coast. Home to Mixtec-speaking people and other language groups (among them Chatino, Zapotec, Triqui). This tour will explore the predominantly Mixtec pueblos situated a few hours northwest of the city, her history, landscape, and handcrafts including textiles, ceramic, and palm weaving. This will be our first offering of this destination which is far off-the-beaten-path where tourists don’t usually travel. Nestled in the folds of the mountain range are villages that are still making utilitarian and beautiful objects just as they have for centuries.

Wintering in Oaxaca? Wrap up your stay with this adventure into the Mixteca Alta!

We are going to an important Oaxaca source for basket weaving, back-strap loom weaving, silk cultivation, and pottery. We invite you to round out your knowledge of Oaxaca beyond the central valleys of the Zapotec capital to learn more about some of the 16 diverse indigenous groups that inhabit the state.

Our road into the mountains will be winding and there are distances to travel. Some days, we may be in the van for an hour or two at a time. While we won’t do a lot of walking or hiking on this route, we ask that you be travel-ready with stamina for a road trip and an unparalleled adventure.

Day 1, Thursday, March 7: Arrive in Oaxaca city, lodging in the city one night. Overnight: Oaxaca City.  Meals included: none

Day 2, Friday, March 8: Today, we get on the road first to visit Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan convent and learn about its history. This imposing structure was built just 20 years after the conquest in the 16th Century by the Dominican order atop an important Mixtec temple site – a trading center, religious and cultural hub for the region.

Then, we explore Geopark Mixteca Alta, which is considered to be the most geologically complex region of Mexico. This community project is part of the UNESCO Global Geopark system and showcases the biodiversity and amazing landscape formed by erosion and layers of million-year-old rocks caused by the interaction between nature and society.

Here, amid this beautiful landscape we find a workshop of traditional potters in the town of Tonaltepec that use natural fermentation inks from barks of the local trees to create a special decoration on the pottery pieces made here. Lunch with the family.

Overnight in Tlaxiaco. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us and tell us which payment method you want to us to make your deposit.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Day 3, Saturday, March 9: This is market day in Tlaxiaco and we will get there early, right after breakfast. This is the largest market of the region, where artisans come to sell palm weavings, textiles, leather work and ceramics. After wandering the market and lunch, we travel to San Andres Chicahuaxtla, where we will meet a cooperative of Triqui pueblo weavers who specialize in supplementary weft and very fine gauze weaving techniques on a back strap loom. On our way back to Tlaxiaco, we will stop in Santa Maria Cuquila to meet a cooperative of weavers who specialize in creating traditional huipiles with back strap looms.

Overnight: Tlaxiaco. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch

Day 4, Sunday, March 10: A place I’ve always wanted to go! Come with us to El Porvenir, San Pablo Tijaltepec to meet a collective of embroiderers. They specialize in the technique of smocking that produces whimsical figures depicting wildlife and barnyard animals on the bodice design. After lunch with this group, we travel on to San Mateo Peñasco, where we will learn about the silk production. The town traditionally supplies cultivated silk to the coastal weavers of the Mixteca Baja. Silk, a protein-based fiber, absorbs cochineal, caracol purpura and indigo like none other!

Overnight in Tlaxiaco. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

Day 5, Monday, March 11:

After a leisurely breakfast, we return to Oaxaca city where you will have the afternoon on your own, but along the way we stop in Nochixtlan for lunch and market day. Gather in the evening for a Gala Grand Finale Dinner at a highly-rated city restaurant.

Overnight: Oaxaca City. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6. Tuesday, March 12: Return to your home countries or extend your trip in Oaxaca on your own.

Travel Day. Meals included: None

Note: Schedule is preliminary and is subject to change throughout our tour, depending on artisan availability, etc.

What Is Included

  • 5 nights lodging at top-rated hotels
  • 4 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • Grand Finale Gala Dinner in Oaxaca City
  • Museum and park entry fees
  • Luxury van transportation
  • Complete guide and translation services

The tour 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 artisans, guides, and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $2,995 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before October 15, 2023. The third 50% payment of the balance is due on or before January 7, 2024. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After January 7, 2024, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before January 7, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable reservation deposit. After that, there are no refunds.

If we cancel for whatever reason, we will offer a 100% refund of all amounts received to date, less the non-refundable deposit.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

NOTE: All travelers must provide proof of vaccination for COVID-19 and bring 6 antigen testing kits to travel with and test along the way. You must also wear CDC-approved face masks, use hand-sanitizer, and maintain all public health precautions as requested.

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us. We will then send you an invoice to make your reservation deposit.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: The Mixteca Alta is almost 7,000 feet high. To get there, one must ascend secondary roads that are paved yet winding. We will do some walking in the villages and in the Geopark. If you have motion sickness, please bring medication and ginger chews. We rotate seating on the van to give everyone a chance to sit up front! We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear sturdy shoes.

NOTE: If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the program 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.

Alert: WARP Offers Grants to Textile Artisans–Apply Now


DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 26!

Weave a Real Peace (WARP) is an international textile organization that supports artisans, offers scholarship grants, and holds an annual meeting to bring together textile makers and appreciators to talk about all things weaving, cloth, and community. I have belonged to this organization for many years, organized its Oaxaca annual conference in 2017, and find it to be very satisfying to be a member.

I’ve offered to help spread the word about submitting applications for scholarships to help individuals and organizations improve their capacity. All textile artisans are invited. They may need help with the application based on language skills — so if you work with a Mexican weaving cooperative, we hope you will jump right in and help them submit an application in the next week. Thank you.

Here is the application information:

Dear Friends of WARP,

There is one week left to apply for a 2023 WARP Artisan Support Grant! Please help us spread the word: Textile artisans from any country are welcome to apply. WARP is offering one-time grants of up to $500 for individual artisans and up to $1,000 for artisan groups. This year, we are providing two grant options: one for Basic Needs and one for Development. This reflects the fact that while many artisans may still need COVID or other emergency support, others are transitioning out of an emergency situation and now have needs that are more development-oriented. 

The application deadline is March 19th, 2023. The link to the electronic application form is below, with details about this year’s grant program. Please share this announcement with any textile artisan or artisan group you think would benefit from this grant.For any grant related questions, please contact Diane Manning, WARP Grants Committee Chair, at dkmanning@gmail.com.Best wishes,WARP Grant Committee

Here is the LINK TO THE ELECTRONIC APPLICATION.

Use the electronic form to submit, but I’ve included the language of the grant application below.

2023 WARP Textile Artisan Grant Application

Weave a Real Peace (WARP) is a catalyst for improving the quality of life for textile artisans worldwide. We are an inclusive global network of individuals and organizations who value the social, cultural, historic, artistic, and economic importance of textile arts. Learn more about WARP at: www.weavearealpeace.org.

We are delighted to announce that, for 2023, WARP will again award monetary grants to textile artisan communities in need. 

This year, WARP is offering two grant options: one for Basic Needs and one for Development. This reflects the fact that while many artisans may still need COVID or other emergency support, others are transitioning out of an emergency situation and now have needs that are more development-oriented. 

  1. Basic Needs: This option is for applicants who are still experiencing hardship due to continuing effects of COVID or other circumstances such as drought, extreme heat, or floods.
    • Basic needs could include but are not limited to: food or seeds for food crops, medical care/medicines, clothing, utilities, dependent care, education, or housing.
  2. Development: This option is for applicants who are seeking to grow their business coming out of COVID.
    • Development needs could include but are not limited to: artisan supplies (dye garden, wood for loom, fiber), equipment (sewing machines, looms, etc.), marketing materials (camera, product photography), technology (cell phones, computer, etc.), training (need to specify what, whom, where), and travel (to attend trade fairs, markets).

NOTE: You may apply for a Basic Needs Grant or a Development Grant, but not both.

Eligibility Criteria:

Textile artisans from any country are welcome to apply.

If you are applying for a Basic Needs Grant, you must describe in your own words what you require and how specifically this grant will help you.

If you are applying for a Development Grant you must articulate a plan that includes specific information about what you want to do, how you want to do it, how much it will cost, and how it will help you  grow your  business. 

Total grants will be up to $500 for individual/family applicants and up to $1,000 for associations/coops/businesses.

You may submit more than one grant application: i.e., one for yourself, and one or more for artisans and/or artisan groups with whom you have a relationship. However, you may not combine applications. Each application will be considered separately.

You may apply for a 2023 WARP grant whether or not you applied for or received a grant from WARP in a previous year.

Timeline:

Deadline to submit completed applications: March 19, 2023. Only applications submitted during this timeline will be accepted.

Grant recipients will be notified: April 14, 2023. Grant funds will be disbursed as soon as possible after grantee notification

Grantees confirm receipt of funds via email: As soon as possible, but no later than 14 days after receipt of funds


Summary written report stating how funds were used (form will be provided): July 17, 2023

Questions?
Contact Diane Manning, WARP Grants Committee Chair, at dkmanning@gmail.com.

Non-Discrimination Statement:
No person shall be denied membership or participation in any of WARP’s activities or operations on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status.

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BASIC NEEDS GRANT APPLICATION

NOTE: You may apply for a Development Grant or a Basic Needs Grant, but not both. 

If you are applying for a Development Grant, please skip this section and go directly to the Development Grant Section below.

You may submit more than one grant application: i.e., one for yourself, and one or more for artisans and/or artisan groups with whom you have a relationship. However, you may not combine applications. Each application will be considered separately.

Please select one:

I am applying as an Individual/Family (you may request up to $500 USD)

I am applying as an Association/Cooperative/Multi-household group (You may request up to $1,000 USD)

I am requesting the following amount:

Your answer

Please describe what emergency you are experiencing (for example: COVID 19, drought, flood, earthquake, war, etc.)

Your answer

Describe how the emergency has impacted you/your family/household or group? Please provide as much detail as possible.

Your answer

How specifically do you plan to use this Basic Needs Grant? Grants may be used for essentials including medical needs, child/elder care, housing, utilities, food, and seeds for growing crops, etc.

The more details you provide, the better the Grants Committee can evaluate your application. If not enough details are provided to fully assess how the grant funds will be used, a grant will not be awarded.

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How many artisans (family/household members/group) would benefit from this grant request?

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How long have you and/or your family/household/group been creating textiles?

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What type of textile do you produce?

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Where do you make and sell your textiles?

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Please attach up to 3 images of your work here. If you are unable to upload the files, please send images to info@weavearealpeace.org. We must see examples of your work for the grant application to be considered.

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Provide any additional information that will support your application. This will help the Grants Committee better understand your needs and how you will use the funds.

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DEVELOPMENT GRANT APPLICATION

NOTE: You may apply for a Development Grant or a Basic Needs Grant, but not both. 

If you applied for a Basic Needs Grant above, please skip this section and go directly to the bottom to submit your application.

You may submit more than one grant application: i.e., one for yourself, and one or more for artisans and/or artisan groups with whom you have a relationship. However, you may not combine applications. Each application will be considered separately.

Please select one:

I am applying as an Individual/Family (you may request up to $500 USD)

I am applying as an Association/Cooperative/Multi-household group (You may request up to $1,000 USD)

I am requesting the following amount:

Your answer

Please describe your 2023 development plan and how specifically your business will benefit from this Development Grant.

(For example, I/we want to expand our 2023 production by 20%, or I /we want to send 5 people to a training workshop so that we can improve the quality of our designs.)

The more details you provide, the better the Grants Committee can evaluate your application. If not enough details are provided to fully assess how the grant funds will be used, a grant will not be awarded.

Your answer

Describe the specific requirements to execute your plan. These could include, but is not limited to:

– artisan supplies (dye garden, wood for loom, fiber)

– equipment (sewing machines, looms, etc.), 

– marketing materials (camera, product photography), 

– technology (cell phones, computer, etc.), 

– training (need to specify what, whom, where), 

– travel (to attend trade fairs, markets).

Your answer

Submit a budget that lists the cost for each item you will need to accomplish the plan described above.

For example, if your plan states that you needed 5 sewing machines to increase production, your budget would state the following:

– I/we will purchase  5 new sewing machines

– Each one costs $100

– Total grant request: $500

Your answer

How many artisans (family/household members/group) would benefit from this grant request?

Your answer


How long have you and/or your family/household/group been creating textiles?

Your answer

What type of textile do you produce?

Your answer

Where do you make and sell your textiles?

Your answer

Please attach up to 3 images of your work here. If you are unable to upload the files, please send images to info@weavearealpeace.org. We must see examples of your work for the grant application to be considered.

Add file

Provide any additional information that will support your application. This will help the Grants Committee better understand your needs and how you will use the funds.

Your answer

Scott Roth Says: How to Value a 1960’s Era Rug From Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

This week I received an email from Dorothy saying she had bought a rug in Teotitlan del Valle in the 1960’s when she visited here that she wanted to sell and asked for help to value it. I’m not an appraiser, nor am I a collector of vintage rugs. So, I turned to my friend Scott Roth for help. Scott came to Oaxaca in 1974 from California, a young traveler looking for adventure. In Teotitlan del Valle he saw the potential for adapting the centuries-old serapes, bed and horse blankets into floor coverings and began to work with weavers here to export rugs that became part of the Santa Fe Style. Scott has been an integral part of our village’s import-export business from the beginning.

Dorothy sent me photos and I noticed that one of them included a photo in a book of a similar rug with a citation from Scott explaining the vintage, weaving style and dyes used. I sent him Dorothy’s photos with an appeal for help. Being the kind and generous person that he is, of course Scott said, Yes!

The topic seems interesting enough that I thought some of you may be curious about the history of rug development in Teotitlan del Valle.

Scott Roth Says …

I think you’ve asked the right person to assess the value of this cobija matrimonial. I saw one from the 60’s-70’s yesterday at the monthly Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California) flea market. The vendor was asking $100. I offered much less and he didn’t budge!

In my collection of Teotitlán weaving, I’ve only kept pieces that predate my first visit to Teotitlan del Valle in 1974 if they have both hand-spun wefts as well as hand-spun warp threads. These are easy to date as pre-1950 because around that year factory spun warp threads became available to the weavers.   It’s an important distinction, because the process of hand spinning a warp requires a much higher skill level than spinning a weft yarn, (and more time), and from what I’ve gathered, as much as they were cash poor then, it was worth the savings of time to buy the warps.     

Regarding Dorothy’s rug, this colorful serape/double bed sized blanket from the 1960’s fits in with the shift of market demands from that period.  Foreign tourists were arriving after the completion of the Pan American Highway in the mid 50’s.  And as much as there was still a knowledgeable regional clientele for fine handcrafted wool blankets, the weavers were buying synthetic fiber yarns, often pre-dyed, for the tourists.  I remember distinctly getting Isaac Vasquez’ help (his recent purchase was only the second car in the village!) for my second shipment of rugs in November, 1974, where he kindly informed me that almost not a single one of my purchases was all wool. I was deflated, but soon understood what to look for.  Within five years, my fellow importers and I were requesting all wool wefts, and those shiny acrylic blend yarns disappeared.   

So in a way, Dorothy’s serape is part of a historical record of the adaptions Teotitlán has made decade by decade to market demands.  She could carefully pull out a few inches of the yarn, light a match to the end, and when it starts to burn, quickly douse it in water, or squeeze the flame between fingers to extinguish it.  This flame test results in a indicative hard scale of plastic when the yarns had some synthetic fiber in the blend. An all wool yarn when put through this flame test turns completely to a fine ash when extinguished.   

I’m pleased that she’s referred to the image in the Zapotec Weaver’s book. Those images of pre Columbian deities were a long standing popular design for the Teotitlán weavers.  I hope this helps.  Be well, Scott 

Thanks, Scott. You, too.