San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, Where Textiles Tell Stories

San Juan Colorado is up the mountain about an hour-and-half from Pinotepa Nacional along the Costa Chica. It’s at the end of the road, so secluded that the Spanish Conquest and proselytizing priests didn’t reach here until much later. It’s why traditional backstrap loom weaving and natural dyeing have survived over the years.

Mostly women weave here, but some men are also learning. Girls start when they are around ten years old. Native wild preHispanic cotton grows here, too — caramel colored brown, mint green, creamy white make up the palette. White thread can also be dyed red with cochineal, blue with indigo, yellow with wild marigold, brown with nuts and bark. Brazilwood turns white cotton to a fucsia hot pink. Cooking cotton in an iron pot dulls the color. White becomes a soft grey.

We visit one of the oldest cooperatives, Jini Nuu. We gather in the courtyard under the shade of an almond tree The bark is also a dye material. Yuridia and Verónica welcome us. The older women are sitting on the ground, legs tucked under them, bare toes peeking out from their posahuanco wrap-around skirts, spinning cotton with the drop spindle, picking seeds from the cotton to get ready to spin it, and weaving on the backstrap loom.

Our group sits down for lunch. We are served tamales stuff with a local specialty of mangrove mussels and another type stuffed with chicken. There is a spicy beef broth soup, tasty fruit waters, avocado, Oaxaca queso fresco, and plenty of made in the comal tortillas. We are in foodie heaven. Our desert is a shot of Piedra de Alma mezcal.


Mid-afternoon we cross the village to visit Camerina and the Las Sanjuaneras cooperative where they weave beautiful gauze fabric and work only in natural dyes. Their oldest member is age 81 and their youngest is in her 30’s. Cooperatives are important social and economic organizations, offering ways to marketi and also provide mutual support.

Let us know if you want to go in 2023

Designs woven into the cloth are selected by each weaver. They I clise the flora and fauna of the region. Since we are near the coast, this includes crab, turtles, ducks, birds, stars, rainbows, mountains, scorpions, pine trees, corn plants, chickens. The row of women figures holding hands depicts solidarity. Shoulder decorations of zigzag depict the Feathers of Quetzalcoatl — the serpent god. The double-headed eagle has special significance: the duality of life, ting-hangs, man-woman, fertility.

Tututepec, Oaxaca: Reviving Ancient Mixtec Weaving Traditions

We are in Tututepec, the ancient capital of the Mixtec empire, the second most powerful indigenous group in Oaxaca beside the Zapotecs. Here, atop a mountain overlooking the coastal plain, the Mixtecs, led by 8 Jaguar Claw protected their vast territory.

After a visit to the museum that documents the pre-Hispanic history, we walk across the street to the municipal building where an artist painted murals of village life pre- and post-Conquest, including the Afro-Mexican coastal traditions.

We meet Luis Adan, a 30-year old master backstrap loom weaver who does everything. it’s an immersion experience with insider access. Why? The van drops us at the foot of a dirt trail with steps carved into the steepest part of the hillside we must climb. Luis Adan and his family live in an ancestral home perched at the top.

EVERYTHING? Yes. He makes the drop spindle malacate. He dyes organic native cotton with purple snails he harvests himself along the rocky coast. He grows native cotton, spins it and dyes it. He uses local plant materials, wood bark, flowers, leaves. He keeps an indigo dye vat going continuously. He is weaving posohuancos — native wrap around skirts — with raised figures of stars, snakes, rain, serpents, corn seeds, the four cardinal points, a double headed turkey.

There are four huipiles for sale. Short blouses in indigo and native hand spun cotton. There are several wefts of woven cloth. The one for 12,000 pesos is all natural dyes. It takes four to six months to weave.

We have lunch under an overhang on a dirt floor. We are served homemade tortillas, chicken with mole estofado and mole negro, fresh queso fresco, steamed squash, and watermelon and mandarin juice. This was the most delicious food — and we ate with a view looking down the mountain.

Then we sat down to watch and to learn. A breeze sweeps across to cool us down from the coastal heat and humidity.

Woven belt to hold up skirt
Coyuchi native brown cotton, indigo and caracol púrpura
Cold dye process using fresh muitle leaves
Native cotton handspun yarn

On the Manialtepec Lagoon, Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour

It’s our first full day in Puerto Escondido. First, we explored the village market. Then, in the afternoon through evening, we were with Eve from Lalo Eco-tours to understand the coastal environment at the bioluminescence lagoon a few miles north of town.

We made our way through mangroves and side channels off the lagoon in a small power boat. Eve, who is of African and Mixtec descent, was born and raised here. He knows the waterways intimately and knows all the bird species. Migratory birds from North America come to this brackish water for winter.

We then land on the beach just before sunset, where we participate in a Ridley baby turtle release, followed by a picnic and marshmallow roast!

if that wasn’t enough, some of us took the plunge into the lagoon to experience the feeling of swimming in bioluminescence.

Back to the Hotel Santa Fe for a mezcal and sleep.

we now are making our way north into remote rain villages to meet back strap loom weavers and dyers.

Who wants to go in 2023? Send me an email. norma.schafer@icloud.com

On the Oaxaca Coast: Our Textile Journey Begins

This morning at 7 am we boarded the 35-minute AeroTucan flight from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido. This is the launching site for our 8-day textile adventure through the Costa Chica, the Pacific Coastal area between Acapulco and Puerto Escondido.

The coastal mountains are riddled with villages where indigenous women dye home-grown, pre-Hispanic cotton and weave on backstrap looms. We go off the beaten path to see how they live and create, mindful of public health and cultural sensitivity.

12-pax Cessna Caravan flies at 9,700 feet over pine forest and swoops down to land at the beach

We have eight women traveling with us. Cultural anthropologist Denise and I are the Oaxaca Cultural Navigators. For now, we are relaxing at the Hotel Santa Fe. Today is our travel day. Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner. I’ll be keeping you posted as we progress north up MEX 200 and the Oaxaca coast.

OLL Textile Presentation Features Triqui Weaver Julian Barrios

Many of you know we are making a presentation tomorrow, January 11, 2022, at 5 pm at the Oaxaca Lending Library. It is about Oaxaca textiles and we are calling it Stories in Cloth.

We are introducing a talented young Triqui weaver who works with naturally dyed cotton on the backstrap loom. He will be bringing an array of huipiles and blusas to show.

i believe the presentation is sold out, but if you don’t have a ticket, maybe you could come in at 6:30 for the sale?

At the end of the presentation, we will hold an expoventa and offer what he makes for sale. Bring cash and your credit cards. These rices are spectacular.