Monthly Archives: April 2014

Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Mexico City Art History Tour

Come to Mexico City for an art history tour to explore the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera through their art.

We will have a long weekend — 4 nights and 5 days, November 13-17, 2014  —  to learn about Diego Rivera‘s stunning Mexico City murals and visit Casa Azul where Diego and Frida Kahlo lived.  Through their eyes, you will better understand Mexico’s political and social history. Our guide is art historian Valeria Espitia who shares her passion for the Mexican Muralists and guides us through these spaces:

  • Palacio Nacional
  • Palacio Bellas Artes
  • Museo de Mural de Diego Rivera
  • Secretaria de Educacion Publica (SEP)
  • Casa Azul — the home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
  • Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño

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Casa Azul  — Museo Frida Kahlo is a tribute to the life of both artists. Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño has the largest private collection of Frida and Diego paintings in the world. She was a benefactor and life-long personal friend of Rivera.

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Plus, we will shop for outstanding folk art, and eat at local markets, historic and fine contemporary and traditional restaurants!

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The trip includes:

  • 4 nights lodging at a highly rated, historic center hotel
  • 4 breakfasts
  • guided discussions by art historian Valeria Espitia, MFA, educated at UNAM and Southern Methodist University
  • visits to folk art galleries
  • introduction to Norma’s favorite restaurants (meals not included)
  • transportation to Casa Azul and Dolores Olmedo Museum

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Preliminary Itinerary

  • Thursday, November 13 — travel day, arrive and check into our hotel.  Join in for an optional group welcome dinner (arrive by 6 p.m.)
  • Friday, November 14 — guided visit to SEP, San Idlefonso, and the Abelardo Rodriguez market where Rivera’s students painted
  • Saturday, November 15 —  guided visit to Palacio Bellas Artes and Museo Mural de Diego Rivera, folk art shopping
  • Sunday, November 16 — guided visit to Casa Azul and Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño
  • Monday, November 17 — depart

Be ready to WALK and then, walk some more!  Don’t forget to bring an extra suitcase to pack the treasures you pick up along the way.

Cost:  $595 per person double occupancy.  $795 per person single occupancy.


What the trip doesn’t include:

  • lunches, dinners, snacks, alcoholic beverages
  • transportation to/from Mexico City
  • museum admission fees
  • mandatory international health/accident insurance
  • tips for hotels, meals and other services

Cost:  $595 per person double occupancy.  $795 per person single occupancy. Maximum: 8 people.


Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance is due by October 1, 2014.  Payment shall be made by PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

Please understand that we make lodging and other arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please tell us in writing by email.   After October 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before October 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a signed and witnessed waiver of liability, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

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To register, email us at We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary and substitute leaders without notice.


People of Oaxaca: Portrait Photography Workshop

Arrive Friday, January 30 and leave Friday, February 6, 2015. Options to arrive earlier and stay longer! You and any camera you have are welcome!

Creating a great photographic portrait means how to connect with your subject, source natural light, and apply aesthetic judgment. Whether you are taking amateur photographs of family, friends, or interesting people you meet on your travels, or you are more adept at using a professional-type camera, we can teach you how to capture stunning images. Making great visual art also depends more on the intersection of heart, mind and eye than it does on using the “best” camera. 

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You are welcome to use any camera you are comfortable with: basic point-and-shoot to iPhone to professional DSLR.  Our emphasis is on the photographer-subject relationship and good composition, finding the best subject and knowing how to interact with them. We offer you an amazing ethnographic travel photography experience.

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, photo by Matt Nager

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, photo by Matt Nager

We are based in the indigenous Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, where we introduce you to people whose faces show an 8,000 year old pre-Hispanic culture. This is an opportunity to get up close and personal with people you may otherwise not meet on your own!  We are on location here with photographer/instructor Matt Nager to create powerful portraits.  Our daily schedule takes you into people’s homes and workshops, and on day trips to local markets, and Oaxaca City.

Here are four photos by Matt Nager that give you an example of who you will meet, like Porfirio Santiago and his wife Gloria, 87-year-old weaver Secundino, and a man dyeing wool who we met along the way.

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Portrait photography doesn’t need to be complicated and can create lasting memories for both the photographer and the person being photographed. This workshop will teach you the approaches needed to simplify the portrait process and make it fun!

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Who should attend?  The workshop is for amateurs, as well as intermediate and advanced photographers who are new to portrait photography. We strip down often overly complicated conditions to bring the photographer face-to-face with the subject. We will practice both impromptu, street photography and classic pre-arranged portrait sessions.

The Workshop:

  • Use natural light and respond to different lighting situations
  • Include portraits in your travel photography
  • Direct your subject through varying body positions
  • Identify your own photographic style
  • Find and execute portraits “on the fly”
  • Practice street photography
  • Use skills you learn through daily assignments
  • Learn more with one-on-one coaching sessions with Matt
  • Contribute to a gift for subject families and the community museum — included in your workshop fee

Each day we will discuss different techniques and review best of day images.  There will be plenty of time for discussion, feedback, and sharing.  We will address topics such as: How do you stay inspired?  What do you say and do to sustain authentic connection with your subject?  How do you prepare yourself to stay open, interested, and flexible? How do you get people to relax, be natural, and not be afraid of the camera?


At the end of our week together, we will select our best portraits and hold a group show and reception, inviting local guests. This is an extraordinary gift and cultural exchange. We will send you a complete itinerary and daily schedule after you register.

A word about equipment and experience:  We will send a list of “what to bring” after you register! All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced.  The techniques learned in this workshop can be applied to any camera and format. You will want to bring a USB cord to download your photos to your computer for editing images and sharing them. Optional: If you use a DSLR, you may want to bring a tripod, extra memory cards, an extra battery, battery charger, a portrait lens,  Photo editing software such as Lightroom is very helpful. We use Dropbox to share and show photos, and we will send you an invitation to join for free after you register. It’s easy!

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Your Workshop Leader is Matt Nager

Matt Nager is a Denver, Colorado, based portrait and editorial photographer. His love for nature and the outdoors, as well as his interest in people and culture, is central to his photography. Matt has over 12 years of photography experience. Before starting his own photography business, Matt worked with the Dallas Morning News and the Rocky Mountain News. In addition to photography, Matt also regularly shoots video and recently completed his first documentary titled: Campania In-Felix (unhappy country) which looks into the rise of health issues in Southern Italy as a result of illegal waste disposal. His clients include: DISCOVER Magazine, Fast Company Magazine, Mother Jones Magazine, The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Matt speaks English and Spanish, and is learning Italian.  His work is at:

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Workshop Includes:

  • 7 nights lodging
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 2 group lunches
  • 6 group dinners
  • group transportation when part of itinerary
  • guided visits to local markets, artisan workshops
  • 18+ hours of instruction
  • one-hour private coaching and feedback session

Alejandrina Rios and Tito Mendoza Ruiz by Norma Hawthorne

Preliminary Itinerary:

Day One, Friday, January 30: Travel to Oaxaca and check-in to our B&B (D)

Day Two, Saturday, January 31: Learning Session, village walkabout orientation, street photography assignment, portrait session with local family (B, D)

Day Three, Sunday, February 1: Learning Session, Tlacolula Market excursion, photography on the fly (B, L, D)

Day Four, Monday, February 2: Learning Session, photo review/feedback, portrait session with local family (B, D)

Day Five, Tuesday, February 3:  Learning Session, photo review/feedback, Oaxaca City photo excursion  (B)

Day Six, Wednesday, February 4: Learning Session, photo review/feedback, archeological backdrops, Yagul and Mitla field trip (B, L, D)

Day Seven, Thursday, February 5: Learning Session, photo review/feedback, prepare for final best of week portfolio (B, D)

Day Eight, Friday, February 6: Depart

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Lodging/Accommodations and Cost

We are based in the Zapotec rug weaving and textile village of Teotitlan del Valle. To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations at a local, women owned and operated bed and breakfast posada that is part of a family compound.  We offer you delicious homemade meals made with locally grown, organic ingredients.

Registration Options:

  1. Base Cost: $1,195 per person double occupancy with shared bath (sleeps two)
  2. Single Supplement: $1,495 single room with private bath (sleeps one)
  3. Take a Zapotec Oaxaca Cooking Class on February 6, $70, learn to make Oaxaca mole
  4. Come early or stay later in either Oaxaca ($125 night) or Teotitlan del Valle ($45 night) per person

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

The trip does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and transportation to and from Teotitlan del Valle.

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Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit based on your preferred options is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any add-ons costs) is November 15, 2014. We request payment with PayPal only.  Tell us you are ready to register and we will send you an invoice to secure your registration.  After November 15,  refunds are not possible.  You may send a substitute in your place.  If you cancel before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

To get your questions answered and to register, contact:

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to modify the itinerary as necessary.


Another Tlacolula Market Sunday: Guajolote Shopping

We didn’t set out to buy two cute, baby guajolotes. It just happened. An impulse purchase, you might say. My impulses tend to center around clothes, jewelry, or maybe a larger than necessary size ice cream cone. My Zapotec neighbors, on the other hand, covet what they can add to their barnyard.


Where I live in Oaxaca, one sign of a woman’s wealth and independence is how many pigs, goats, guajolotes, or chickens she owns. Raise them to plump and they convert to pesos in a year or so. Pocket money she can do with as she pleases.

What is a guajolote, you may ask?

This is a pre-Hispanic wild turkey indigenous to Mexico, named by the Aztecs, and preferred to domesticated turkey by locals in the know!


I had no particular goal in mind on Sunday, my last day in Oaxaca until June, but to pick up some little clay dishes made in San Marcos Tlapazola for my sister. She uses them as handy soap dishes. Some people use them for salsa.

The ladies of San Marcos ply the market with bundles of little clay vessels and figures wrapped in their rebozos held close to their bosoms. They also set up shop on the street, displaying platters, clay pitchers, tortilla griddles, and other kitchen essentials. I’m especially fond of their primitive figures.

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My neighbors had no particular goal in mind either. We wandered for a while. Then, they went shoe shopping. We stopped for nieves at my favorite Tlacolula purveyor Nieves Rosarita, one of the many stalls that line the street near the Banamex bank ATM.

Nieves means snow in Spanish, is like ice cream but with less cream and more intense flavor. My favorite is Besos de Angel with cherries, nuts, and fresh grated carrots. Truly yummy.  Especially when topped with tuna aka the fruit of the nopal cactus, not the fish. Next, we followed the abuela through the labyrinth to find the seller of Atzompa green pottery, and finally began to make our way out of the market back to the car.


Then, there they were. Love at first sight. None of us could walk away, though I must confess we tried. I even reached out to touch their silky smooth feathers. After a heavy bargaining session, not one, but two guajolotes had a new home. We could tell by their chortles and cries that they needed to be together and this was, in part, a guilt purchase, too.

On the way to the car, many people stopped us along the way in envy. Envy is when another admires something you have and then asks, how much did it cost. The humble reply is to always understate the value. This is not a boastful culture.


As they settled comfortably on the lap of their new owner in the front seat of my car, I reached out to stroke their long skinny necks. Their eyes closed and they fell asleep on the ride home. Definitely a first for La Tuga and me!


Pedicures and Haircuts in Oaxaca: Essentials

This is not meant to be a frivolous post. When you are here in Oaxaca, Mexico, for more than a few days or weeks, you need to know a few essentials. Like where to take care of your feet when you pound the pavement for hours on end looking for that best quality, bargain priced huipil or quechquemitl. or the perfect ripe avocado, the restaurant with the best mole negro, and the market stalls that sell candied figs and oranges, and pecans for my Moroccan tagine, or the right size anchor and screw to hang a picture in the concrete wall. It’s a hard life!

Then, there is the hair. Men can easily walk into a barber and ask for the Number Two blade on the electric clippers. For women, it’s a little more complicated. Short hair might need a trim every three or four weeks.


Tomato and Candy Apple Red? Toes matter.

We might like a haircutter who uses several different types of scissors to get the best layering and then feathering, making sure that each tendril is exactly the same length on both sides of the face. The details matter.

So, we ask around, seek the advice of friends, try out a new spot that just opened or keep going back to the tried and true hairdresser who does an okay job, but we know how to find him/her. We go back because it’s also risky to try someone new. 

This post was written in 2014.

The recommendation is no longer current.

This week, Carol Knox and I splurged on our feet. We got the DeLuxe Spa Pedicure at XXXXX (deleted salon) a small, impeccably clean, nicely appointed hole-in-the-wall salon just opened by Mayra and Noemi, two delightful young women who met each other at beauty school. We had pounded so much pavement trailing Power Shopper Susan during the week, that we needed urgent care.

Now I’ve heard some people here complain that pedicures take too long. They want in and out in thirty minutes. They can’t imagine how anyone could take so long to soak and trim cuticles. Here in Oaxaca feet are lovingly cared for because toes show. Almost every woman wears open shoes or sandals. (Many of them are four inches high.) The super-deluxe pedicure with rose petals in a bubbling hot water bath, exfoliation, massage, and heat treatment (in addition to clipping, cleaning, trimming), takes at least an hour. (There are no high thrones here that include back massage along with water agitation, as far as I’ve discovered.) However, it’s still a great excuse to relax, take it slow, not think about texting or emailing. Close your eyes and feel that hot water bath relaxing your tired feet, melting away those callouses. Ah.

I’ve tried several places. So far, I think XXXX is the best, although their selection of OPI colors could be more extensive. Nevertheless, the 250 pesos (about $19 USD) special deluxe is 100 pesos cheaper than where I had been going. Another option is to get the standard pedicure at 180 pesos that comes without the rose petals, water agitation, exfoliating cream and heat treatment. That’s about $13 USD.

Then, impulsively, I decided to get a haircut. Mayra did the cutting. Excellent. Perhaps one of the best haircuts ever. 100 pesos (about $7.00 USD).  I had been paying 70 pesos (about $4.50 USD) at Fashion, another small, woman owned shop on Fiallo near Arteaga recommended by Jo Ann. I liked it there. But XXXX is more centrally located and easier to get to and a bit more plushy. I’m certain the young women owners would love your business!

Got your own recommendations? Add them here in the comments section!