Monthly Archives: June 2010

Photography Travel Workshop–Day of the Dead 2010 in Oaxaca, Mexico

Click on the two links below for 2011 photography expeditions. Taking registrations now for

2011 Day of the Dead Photography Expedition and

Summer 2011 Oaxaca Photography Expedition: Market Towns and Artisan Villages.

COURSE DESCRIPTION–DAY OF THE DEAD PHOTO TRAVEL WORKSHOP: October 29-November 4, 2010. Explore the magic and mystery of Day of the Dead – a feast for the visual senses – a six-night, seven-day expedition that immerses you into the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico.  During this annual religious and cultural festival the city vibrates with color, music, and Mardi Gras-like energy.  You will travel with photographer and documentary filmmaker Linda Booker, and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Norma Hawthorne to visit and document the food, religious symbols, people, cemeteries and family celebrations both in the city and in the rural Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle.   By the end of the workshop, you will use your digital SLR camera for visual storytelling and cultural discovery.

This workshop is limited to six participants.

The workshop focuses on the use of color digital photography to capture, record and document the traditions and practices of this ancient pre-Hispanic celebration that has its roots in Aztec culture, mixed with Catholic ritual.    During our week together, we will roam the markets where preparations for home altars and gravesites are made: an abundance of candles, chocolate, bread, candies, fruit, flowers, the favorite food and beverage of departed loved ones.  We will visit the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery to capture elaborately decorated resting places and family revelers, meander city streets to come upon masked parades, visit homes, archeological sites, and enjoy a cooking demonstration.

This workshop is for beginning and intermediate-level amateur photographers who want to learn more about their digital SLR cameras and move more comfortably beyond the automatic setting.  Topics covered include using natural light, composition, night-time photography, capturing emotion, focusing on details, and taking the time to set up your shot.  Learning documentary-style photography is different from walking around and being a tourist!  It means immersion, looking for opportunities to see things from the participant perspective.  You’ll capture people in their natural state, experiment with rituals, family environments, and sense of place.  During the workshop, you will review each other’s work, give feedback, encouragement and gentle critique, as we mix class instruction with being out on the streets.

About Your Workshop Instructor, Linda Booker

Linda Booker is a documentary filmmaker with a keen and creative eye.  Linda’s recent documentary film, “Love Lived on Death Row,” has received high praise from lay and academic audiences when it screened at film festivals and universities across the country.  She is the recipient of a grassroots community screening tour grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and has produced documentary-style videos for North Carolina non-profits and musicians.

After graduating from Florida State University in Tallahassee with a degree in visual communications, Linda Booker spent the next thirteen years as a graphic designer and art director for major publications, including Yacht Vacations, Palm Beach Illustrated, Toy & Hobby World, and Triangle Business Report.  As feature photographer for Yacht Vacations, she traveled to capture images that were published in the magazine.  Her work and interests have taken her to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rica, England, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Grenada, and many locations throughout the United States.

In 2005, after completing the Certificate in Documentary Studies Program at Duke University (Durham, NC), Linda became founding president of By the Brook Productions.   She created and coordinates the ChathamArts Sustainable Cinema Series, a highly regarded and innovative program, along with a local at-risk youth filmmaking program, Shooting4Change.  Her Web site is: An example of the Shooting4Change project is at

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One, Friday: Oaxaca.  Meet at our hotel and gather for an early evening orientation, followed by a welcome dinner. (D)

Day Two, Saturday: Oaxaca.  Meander Oaxaca on foot in the morning, visiting splendid churches and art galleries, photography, graphics arts museums, including Centro Fotographico Alvarez Bravo  After a group lunch, you will have the option to travel to the craft village of Arrazola to visit a famous wood carver or continue to explore Oaxaca on your own.  Meet on the Zocalo for evening refreshments.  Dinner on your own.  (B,L)

Day Three, Sunday:  Oaxaca.  After an early breakfast, spend the morning at Abastos Market, then travel to Monte Alban, the extraordinary Zapotec archeological site, followed by an afternoon in the pottery village of Atzompa.  At 7 p.m. we will depart for the majestic Xoxocotlan Panteon (cemetery) for an incredible Day of the Dead experience.  This is a very late evening; we may be out until at least midnight.  Perfect for night photography.  Dinner on your own.  (B,L)

Day Four, Monday:  Teotitlan del Valle. Morning is on your own after breakfast. Depart at noon to Teotitlan del Valle and check-in at your bed and breakfast.  Lunch in the village.  Afternoon visit to the home of Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas, for a rug weaving and natural dyeing demonstration, followed by a visit to famed painter Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez for a discussion and demonstration of his art. Dinner on your own.  (B, L)

Day Five, Tuesday:  Before breakfast, walk to the local village market where Day of the Dead preparations unfold.  After breakfast, travel to Mitla, late Zapotec-Mixtec archeological site and visit village weavers.  After lunch, in the late afternoon, enjoy a special cooking demonstration. Walk to the village Panteon (cemetery) for Teotitlan observance.  Group dinner optional.  (B,L)

Day Six, Wednesday: After breakfast, enjoy the morning to explore the village and surrounding countryside or take a taxi to Oaxaca for a final day of shopping or sightseeing.  This is a free day.  We will meet for a farewell dinner either in Teotitlan or Oaxaca (group choice).  (B, D)

Day Seven, Thursday:  After breakfast, we say our goodbyes and depart.

What You Should Bring

1)     Your energy and enthusiasm

2)     Digital SLR camera

3)     Laptop computer

4)     Software for organizing and presenting images (such as Photoshop Express)

5)     Batteries and battery charger

6)     Memory card(s)

7)     Pen and notepad

Plus, sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat

(Upon registration, you will receive a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list and other useful information.)


To keep this trip affordable, we have selected accommodations that are clean and basic.  For the first three nights in Oaxaca, all rooms will be shared, two people to a room; each room with private bath.  The Oaxaca hotel is conveniently located one block from Santo Domingo Church in the central historic district and steps away from great shopping, restaurants, museums and galleries.

For the three nights in Teotitlan del Valle, you will have the option of having a double room with shared bath for the base price of the trip; single supplement with shared bath (add $100); shared room with private bath (add $200); single room with private bath (add $300).  Please indicate your preference.

Cost:  The basic cost for the trip is $1195.00 USD. This includes six nights lodging double occupancy, six breakfasts, five lunches, two dinners, transportation to villages and archeological sites, entry fees to ruins, and all instruction.  Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

It does NOT include airfare, taxes, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals and transportation.

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit ($600) is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by September 1, 2010.  Payment may be made by check or PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After September 15, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before September 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit or $300.  If you cancel between September 1 and September 15, we will refund 50% of your registration, or $600.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, contact: or call (919) 274-6194

Please make your deposit payable to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, and mail it to: Norma Hawthorne, 110 Blue Heron Farm Rd., Pittsboro, NC 27312.  Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  For more information, see:

How Can Someone From Mexico Get a Tourist Visa to the U.S.?

April 11, 2015. Please contact your Congressman’s office or an immigration lawyer for help. I do not know how to help your family members get a visa to visit the U.S. I am sorry. If you write me about this, I cannot answer. It is a difficult situation and I apologize because of the U.S. immigration rules.


This is the $50 million dollar question.  There is no simple, easy answer of course.  I have been successful helping some of my friends from Oaxaca get 10-year visitor/tourist visas because of my persistence and because they are great people who love their country and their profession.  They have every desire and reason to return to Mexico after their visit.  It has also been because I have a wonderful Congressman, U.S. Representative David Price, who understands that not every Mexican wants to live and work permanently in the U.S.   His office has helped me be the communication liaison with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City after I have written letters of invitation and support advocating for tourist visas.  Here is how the process has worked for me and my recommendation:

Mexican visa applicants must show/demonstrate that they fully intend to return to Mexico after their visit.  That means that they must prove that they have a business, profession or livelihood that sustains them there and that they are economically self-sufficient.  Often, the U.S. Embassy will ask people to show the balances in their bank accounts as proof of their financial stability.  The applicant must have an advocate who is a U.S. citizen.  This person or group of people will write letters of invitation and show that there is a reason for the applicant to come to the U.S.  This might be to visit family members, to demonstrate or exhibit (not sell) a particular art or craft, to meet professionals like themselves for intercultural exchange.  Letters of invitation from any associations or professional organizations or non-profits are very helpful in substantiating the applicant’s portfolio.

And, most importantly, after I have assembled all this information on behalf of my friends, I call my Congressman’s office and let them know the date of the Embassy appointment in Mexico City, along with the names and passport numbers of my friends.  I ask the Congressman’s office if they will send an email to the U.S. Embassy to request that they take a special look at my friend’s visa application.  It is very important to know that the U.S. Embassy does not appreciate being asked to give someone a visa and they see this as coercion.  The Congressman’s office is very clear that they do not do that.  But, they will help if the prospective visitor is indeed connected to a constituent and has a legitimate reason for being here.