Monthly Archives: January 2021

February 2022: Chiapas Textile Study Tour–Deep Into the Maya World

February 22 to March 2, 2022 – 8 nights and 9 days, starting at $2,795

We are hopeful for 2022! We are SOLD OUT and I’m taking a wait list. Please send me an email if you want to join the wait list. There is a possibility I will open a second section. A $500 deposit will secure your place. This tour is strictly limited to 10 participants.

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, we aim to give you an unparalleled and in-depth travel experience to participate and delve deeply into indigenous culture, folk art and celebrations. Our hope, too, is that we will all be well and it will be safe enough to travel to Chiapas by February 2022. If for any reason we must cancel this tour, you will receive a full 100% refund. See notes below about COVID vaccination requirements to travel with us.

The Maya World of Chiapas, Mexico, spans centuries and borders. Maya people weave their complex universe into beautiful cloth. Symbols are part of an ancient pre-Hispanic animist belief system. In the cloth we see frogs, the plumed serpent, woman and man, earth and sky, the four cardinal points, moon and sun, plus more, depending on each weaver.

Andrea with her award-winning huipil, San Andres Larrainzar
San Juan Chamula woman, Los Leñateros print + paper making studio

We go deep into the Mayan world of southern Mexico, from February 22 to March 2, 2022. While we focus on textiles, we also explore what it means to be indigenous, part of cooperative, live in a remote village, have agency and access to economic opportunity. We meet creative, innovative and talented people who open their doors and welcome us.

Church official, Zinacantan, Chiapas
Melanie brought 25 boxes of crayons to give to children along the way

Our dates of February 22 to March 2, 2022, are reserved in a fine historic hotel. 8 nights, 9 days in and around the San Cristobal de Las Casas highlands.

Cost • $2,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,295 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms.

Ancient Maya cemetery, San Juan Chamula
We distributed more than 50 pairs of glasses to help weavers see

Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.

Home goods for export made on flying shuttle pedal loom
Extraordinary gauze woven huipil from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas

We are committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory. That is why we are spending eight nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles, weaving and embroidery traditions.

Saints dress in traditional garments, Magdalena Aldama
Julia and friends in Tenejapa during Carnival

Our cultural journey takes us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. We explore churches, museums and ancient cemeteries. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.

Embroidered skirts and shawls, Zinacantan Sunday Market

There will be only ONE study tour to Chiapas in 2022.

Your Study Tour Leader is Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We have invited Sheri Brautigam, author of Living Textiles of Mexico, to participate as our expert resource guide (to be confirmed).

Lynn and Andrea — of course! She bought it.

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • culture, history and identity of cloth
  • cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation
  • wool spinning and weaving
  • clothing design and construction
  • embroidery and supplementary (pick-up) weft
  • Maya textile designs — iconography and significance
  • village and individual identity through clothing
  • social justice, opportunities and women’s issues
  • market days and mercantile economy
  • local cuisine, coffee, cacao and chocolate
  • quality and value
Men wear flowers, too, in Zinacantan

We work with one of San Cristobal’s best bilingual cultural guides who has worked with weavers and artisans in the region. Alejandro is a native Mexican who knows textiles and can explain the meaning of the woven symbols embedded in the cloth. You will enjoy learning from him.

Keeping the edges straight on a back-strap loom

We will travel in a large comfortable van as we go deep into the Maya world. We promise a sanitized van and all necessary precautions during our visits.

  • We visit 6 Maya weaving villages
  • We enjoy home-cooked meals
  • We meet makers and directly support them
  • We go far and away, off-the-beaten path
  • We decode the weaving designs unique to each woman and village
  • We explore three towns on their market days
  • We understand the sacred, mysterious rituals of Maya beliefs
Innovative colors with traditional designs from Alberto Lopez Gomez

Who Should Attend  Anyone who loves cloth, culture, and collaboration • Textile and fashion designers • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors • Photographers and artists who want inspiration • Resellers

Winn finds a treasure at our Regrets Sale on the last day

Daily Itinerary

Tuesday, February 22: Travel day. Arrive and meet at our hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will receive directions to get from the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport to our hotel. The airport is a clean and modern facility with straightforward signage. You will book your flight to Tuxtla from Mexico City on either Interjet, AeroMar, Volaris or Aeromexico. To find best routes and rates, search Skyscanner.com There are plenty of taxis and shuttle services to take you there. Your cost of transportation to/from San Cristobal is on your own. Taxis are about $55 USD or 800 pesos. Shared shuttle is 180 pesos or about $10 USD.

Fine food and beverage is a cornerstone of our visit, too

Wednesday, February 23: On our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas, we orient you to the textiles of the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion, we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil Museum Shop for fine regional textiles, meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church, and visit two outstanding textile shops. We guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. We finish the morning together with a Group Welcome Lunch. (B, L)

Carnival in Tenejapa, Chiapas

Thursday, February 24: Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and household supplies. Peer into dimly lit doorways to find hidden textile treasures. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags. Keep your eyes open. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron. After a box lunch at the centuries- old Romerillo Maya cemetery, we continue on up another mountain to visit Maruch (Maria), a Chamula woman at her rural home. Surrounded by sheep and goats, Maruch will demonstrate back strap loom weaving and wool carding, and how she makes long-haired wool skirts, tunics and shawls. Perhaps there will be some treasures to consider. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)

Maruch using a warp board called stairway to the moon to prepare back-strap loom
It was cold in the Chamula highlands at over 7,000 feet altitude

Friday, February 25: After breakfast, we set out for a full morning at Na Bolom, Jaguar House, the home of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic folk art and jewelry. We walk the gardens and learn about Franz and Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and their relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After hot chocolate there we go to the outskirts of town to an outstanding women’s weaving cooperative that was founded over 40 years ago. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. After lunch on your own, we meet in the early evening to visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian healer Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B)

Sergio Castro explains Naha Lacondon jungle rituals

Saturday, February 26: We set out by foot to a nearby textile collaboration that houses three different cooperative groups, one of which is founded by Alberto Lopez Gomez who was invited to New York Fashion Week in 2020. We hear presentations about creativity, style, innovation, and how to incorporate tradition while breaking new ground. Next, we stop at Los Leñateros, the hand-made paper workshop that is also a graphics arts print studio. You will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B)

Alberto Lopez Gomez combines tradition with innovation and creativity

Sunday, February 27: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we meander the open-air market, then visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. You’ll find out why. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs. (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Alejandro and Maria Meza Giron, Tenejapa
Magdalena Aldama back-strap loom weaving, the finest

Monday, February 28: Today, we make a study tour to the textile villages of San Andres Larrainzer and Magdalena Aldama. This is another ultimate cultural experience to immerse yourself into families of weavers in their humble homes. We will see how they weave and embroider beautiful, fine textiles, ones you cannot find in the city markets or shops. They will host a show and sale for us, and we will join them around the open hearth for a warming meal of free range chicken soup, house made tortillas, and of course, a sip of posh! (B, L)

Hearty lunch Rosita + Cristobal, Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas
Bitty peeks out from behind exquisite cloth, San Andres Larrainzar

Tuesday, March 1: This is expoventa day! We have invited one of the finest embroiderers of Aguacatenango blouses, an amber wholesaler, an organic coffee grower/roaster, and other artisans to show and sell their work. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)

Enjoying cocktail hour in hotel garden before gala dinner

Wednesday, March 2. Depart. You will arrange your own transportation from San Cristobal to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. The hotel guest services can help. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to get to Tuxtla, plus 1-2 hours for check-in. Connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country.

What Is Included

• 8 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within walking distance to the historic center and pedestrian streets

• 8 breakfasts • 4 lunches • 1 grand finale gala dinner

• museum and church entry fees

• luxury van transportation

• outstanding and complete guide services

The workshop 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 instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,295 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

Melanie adorned in pompoms and her Cancuc huipil

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 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 1, 2021. The third 50% payment of the balance is due on or before December 15, 2021. 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 December 15, 2021, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 15, 2021, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds.

If we cancel for whatever reason, we will offer a 100% refund of all amounts received to date.

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 to travel with us. You must also wear CDC-approved face masks, use hand-sanitizer, and maintain all public health precautions.

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

Pom poms are us, and Sheri models them well!
Meet our guide, Alejandro — a knowledgeable textile and cultural translator, too

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: San Cristobal de las Casas is a hill-town in south central Chiapas, the Mexican state that borders Guatemala. The altitude is 7,000 feet. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, mostly narrow and have high curbs. Pavement stones are slippery, especially when walking across driveways that slant at steep angles across the sidewalk to the street. We will do a lot of walking. Being here is a walker’s delight because there are three flat streets devoted exclusively to walking. We walk a lot — up to 10,000 steps per day at a moderate pace. 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.

Sunnie and Phoebe from behind a flying shuttle pedal loom at rest

Oaxaca and Public Health Reflections

I want to be honest. I never thought Oaxaca Cultural Navigator blog would morph into an on-line retail shop to sell Oaxaca textiles and jewelry. This has been an unusual year. No tours. No workshops. No travel. Only worries about getting the vaccine and staying healthy. It seems now that getting the vaccine won’t be enough. We must continue to stay vigilant with masks, distancing, hand-sanitizing for the next years. You may want to read this National Geographic article: COVID-19 will likely be with us forever.

This morning I received a notice from Leigh Thelmadatter, author of Creative Hands of Mexico blog, who has decided to suspend publication. I’ve struggled with this same decision, too, since I’m not in Oaxaca and I don’t have a definitive plan to return. I don’t have anything to write about first-hand, and my commentary, when I feel there is news to share, is filtered through the eyes and ears of others. It’s frustrating to think that life may continue this way indefinitely. I’m grateful to those of you who continue to read … and to shop. You are supporting our artisans and my endeavors to keep Oaxaca in our lives.

I’ve stuck my neck out and I want to be hopeful, which is why I’ve set dates for the Oaxaca Day of the Dead Culture Tour 2021. Soon, I will announce a 2022 Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour and a Chiapas Folk Art Study Tour. The deposit to reserve is modest and fully refundable, just in case we have to cancel. The issues are concerning: Will Mexico be ready to accept tourists safely and will we be able to move in a bubble of safety and security? Honestly, I don’t know the answer.

I’ll have my second vaccine on February 3. Some of you are still struggling to find appointments or you haven’t reached the age threshold yet to receive the vaccination. Hopefully, by summer 2021 we will have a better picture of what’s in store for us for the rest of year.

Life goes on in Oaxaca.

Cloth imprinted with Day of the Dead theme for decorating.

In Teotitlan del Valle, a family I am very close to (not my host family) just had a big fiesta to honor the comprometidos (engagement parties) of their two children. A comprometido is when the two extended families of the girl and boy come together in the altar room to exchange vows of loyalty and commitment to each other, family and community.

I received photos. There were maybe 100 people from both sides gathered together to share respects and give testimony to loving and caring for each other. I saw maybe a handful of people wearing masks. In normal times, this is an amazing celebration. In Covid times, what I saw was alarming and disconcerting, a definite super-spreader health risk.

I sent a note of congratulations to the family, trying to suspend judgment, knowing that tradition is more powerful than science in many indigenous communities. I received a note back from the mom, telling me she was waiting for the vaccine to come so they would be safe. I’ve learned, living in Teotitlan for 15 years, that judging the behavior of others does not bring me closer to cultural understanding or sensitivity. In fact, an attitude of superiority in the “I know best” mentality creates a divide reminiscent of the conquest/evangelizers. Let’s take pause to remember that indigenous and enslaved people mistrust those who say they know what’s best.

Procession led by men and women holding candles, a church officiant with copal incense

Nevertheless, now we know that even with the vaccine (see the National Geographic article above), we need to continue to adhere to safety guidelines. Public health messages are ignored in Mexico, in the USA and around the world as we struggle to curb infections.

Will it be safe to travel to Oaxaca in October 2021? I’m hoping the answer is YES. Many friends are there now. They live there permanently, full-time or are there for the winter because it is too damn cold at home. They are managing to stay safe, stay away from super-spreader events, and stay home. They wear masks when others don’t. They limit contact. They are scared, just like us.

For now, I will continue to write substantively from time to time. And, I will also continue to sell until you tell me you are sick and tired of my using this space to promote artisan craft. I also want to apologize that the blog has turned the corner from travel and culture to something else — an identity I just cannot put my finger on right now. I’m just not ready to let it go. I still have hope in our future.

Also, I’m keenly aware that the comments section isn’t working here. It is a function of an outdated theme — a technical issue that I can’t yet wrap my arms around.

Mostly Mexico Mixed Bag Sale: Textiles, Jewelry

There are 29 items in this sale today. They include earrings, necklaces and bracelets, handwoven and natural dyed wool rugs from Oaxaca, and two beautiful pieces of clothing. It’s a mixed bag! All are reduced significantly as I prepare to make my move to Taos, NM. Prices start as low as $15. I hope you find something you like. Please scroll down to be sure you see everything.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo, Zelle, and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee).

#1 Vintage 1950’s Mexican Sterling and Moonstone, 7″ long. $225 $165
SOLD. #2 Vintage Mexican Silver + Turquoise Bracelet, 7-1/2″ long. $135 $75
SOLD. #3 Vintage Raoul Sosa Designer 1970’s Bone Bracelet, 5″ inside, opening is 1-1/8″ $295 $195
SOLD. #4 20 Centavos Silver 1939 Mexican Coin Bracelet, 7-1/2″long. $125 $65
SOLD. #5 Oaxaca faceted onyx, pearl + sterling filigree. 3/4″x1/2″ $45 $37
SOLD. #6 Mexico Sterling silver filigree and garnet. 1-1/2″ x 1″ $20 $15
#7 Vintage cast sterling silver + pearls Butterfly earrings. 1-1/4″ x 2″ $55 $35
SOLD. #8 12K Gold filigree and coral. 1″x1/2″ $125 $90
#9 12K gold finest filigree earrings. 2″x1″ $235 $155
SOLD. #10 Oaxaca Chou design bead earrings 2-1/2″x1″ $45 $25

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo, Zelle, and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee).

SOLD. #11 Vintage 12K gold filigree, pearl, glass. 1″x1-3/4″ $225 $160
SOLD #12 Federico Jimenez Oaxaca signed turquoise and silver, 2-1/4″x1″ $225 $185
SOLD. #13 Mexican onyx and sterling button earrings. 7/8″ x 1″ oval $25 $20
SOLD. #14 Israeli designer Ayala Bar. 3/4″x1″ $50 $20
SOLD. #15 Sterling silver, India. 2″x1″ $55 $45
#16 Vintage Oaxaca Virgin of Soledad Sterling and White Heart Glass Beads, 19″ $385 $325
#17 India Vintage Rabari tribal necklace, adjustable. 26″ $135 $95
#18 Oaxaca, black hand-polished clay beaded necklace, 21″ $75 $65
#19 Vintage Morocco Bedouin Amber, Coral and Metal Necklace, 17″ $295 $195
SOLD. #20 Chiapas Maya Coin Necklace, Ties to adjust length. $25 $15

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please DO NOT SELECT buying goods or services — so we don’t pay commissions. We also accept Venmo, Zelle, and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee).

SOLD. #21 New Mexico hand-cut/inlay turquoise, onyx, spiny oyster necklace, 20″ $185 $135
#22 New Mexico turquoise, coral + sterling pendant, $65 (does not include chain) $40
SOLD. #23 Oaxaca Black Clay Bead Mexican Coin Necklace, 20″ $65 $35

The four rugs below can be used on floor, wall, or to adorn furniture. Woven on a treadle loom by Taller Teñido a Mano in Oaxaca, Mexico, they feature all natural dyes created in the studio. Sturdy and beautiful.

#24 Indigo ikat + zapote negro, 22×33″ $295 $250
#25 Indigo, un-dyed wool, cochineal, pomegranate, 23×23″ $195 $155
#26 Indigo, cochineal, un-dyed wool, 23×36″ $285 $250
#27 Cochineal, indigo, marigold, pomegranate, 23×23″ $195 $155
#28 Chiapas designer Alberto Lopez Gomez, size small, 22″x25″ $495 $420 — featured at 2020 New York Fashion Week
SOLD. #29 Designer Camelia Ramos, Malinalco, Esto. de Mexico,
ikat poncho, 100% cotton, $175 $125

A Nod to Dr. MLK: Dream Big

Dream Big, whomever you are, wherever you are.

“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”— from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.

Inspiring social justice leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our dreams this year are a convoluted mash-up of wanting this pandemic to end, wanting protection from it with a vaccine, wanting to make plans to return to Oaxaca, wanting a safe and secure democratic transition of government leadership, wanting the sickness and death counts to trickle to nothing, wanting detained immigrants separated from their families to be treated with dignity and released, and for Black Americans to go to sleep without fear and with access to a fair and equal justice system, want to touch and be with our family and friends.

For my friends in Oaxaca, I wish for a return to normalcy that will guarantee the return of tourists who will support their livelihoods and provide food, shelter, health and well-being for their families.

Dreams are about hopes and wishes. A friend wrote to ask me to identify three wishes for 2021, as the tradition of making resolutions arrived on December 31 and we now find ourselves smack in the middle of January 2021. Have we given any formalized thought to this? Did we write down our dreams and wishes and post them on our refrigerator door? Or fold then in origami paper and light them with a match, sending these dreams skyward to the heavens to ensure they will come true in the Asian tradition.

The Dream, by Marc Chagall

Dreams. We want them to come true. We are still working on the dreams evoked by Dr. Martin Luther King. May his memory guide us in our quest to do better on earth as we work toward healing, justice, and peace for each and every human on the planet.

I’m using this day for reflection and recommitment to the principles that Dr. King articulated, as I walk with friends in the beauty of the natural world, think about those we have lost this year to coronavirus, violence, and starvation. I believe each of us has the responsibility to heal our world and make it a better place.

Dr. Martin Luther King. May his memory be for a blessing.

Hopeful! 2021 Oaxaca Day of the Dead Culture Tour

October 28 to November 4, 2021 – 7 nights and 8 days, starting at $2,795

We are hopeful! Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico, is meaningful and magical.  Celebrations in the villages go deep into Zapotec culture, community, tradition and pre-Hispanic practice. Some say it is the most important annual celebration in Mexico and here in Oaxaca, we know this is true. This tour is limited to 10 participants.

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, we hope to give you an unparalleled and in-depth travel experience to participate and delve deeply into indigenous culture, folk art and celebrations. Our hope, too, is that we will all be well and it will be safe enough to travel to Oaxaca by October 2021. If for any reason we must cancel this tour, you will receive a full 100% refund. See notes below about COVID vaccination requirements to travel with us.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MuertosMitaAltar-724x479.jpg
Day of the Dead Altar

Now, back to the tour: Beyond the city, in the Tlacolula Valley, the smaller villages are still able to retain their traditional practices.  Here they build altars at home, light copal incense, make offerings of homemade chocolate, bread and atole, prepare a special meal of tamales, and visit the homes of relatives to greet deceased ancestors who have returned for this 24-hour period.  Then, at the designated hour, the living go to the cemeteries to be with their loved ones  — either to welcome them back into the world or put them to rest after their visit here – the practice depends on each village.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 13_PanteonJungle-724x526.jpg

You will learn about this and more as you come with us to meet artisans in four different villages who welcome us into their homes and their lives during this sacred festival.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC_0181_Mask_2-724x485.jpg

Study Tour Highlights:

  • Visit homes, altars and cemeteries in four Zapotec villages: Teotitlan del Valle, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, San Marcos Tlapazola and San Miguel del Valle
  • Participate in presenting altar offerings at each home we visit
  • As a group, build a traditional altar to remember and honor your own loved ones
  • Learn to make homemade chocolate with the Mexican cacao bean
  • See a tamale-making demonstration and taste what is prepared
  • Shop for altar décor at the largest Teotitlan del Valle market of the year
  • Learn how mezcal is an integral part of festival culture and tradition
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Best-91-Muertos-9-479x724.jpg

We created this study tour to take you out of the city, beyond the hubbub of party revelry and glitz of a Halloween-like experience that has morphed into a Hollywood-style extravaganza in downtown Oaxaca.  We will compare how city celebrations differ from those in villages by participating in city events first.  Our desire is to give you a full immersion experience that evokes what Day of the Dead may have been like 20 or 50 years ago–mystical,  magical, transcendent and spiritual.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Best51Muertos-47-724x518.jpg

Even so, cultural tourism has found its way into the back roads of Oaxaca.  We do our best to be respectful by limiting the size of our group to 10-12 participants, to give you an orientation about to what to expect and do during our visits, and to offer you an intimate, personal experience.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MuertosCatrinasBest38-35-479x724.jpg

You have the guidance of local expert Eric Chavez Santiago who will co-lead this cultural tour with Norma Schafer, founder of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.  

Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican folk art with a special interest in artisan economic development.  He is a weaver and natural dyer by training, a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola rug weaving family, who was born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions and customs, speaks the indigenous Zapotec language, and serves as your cultural navigator. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b-724x482.jpg

Eric is a graduate of the Anahuac University, and speaks English and Spanish. He can translate language, culture and traditions, tell you about practices in his extended family and how they have experienced the changes over time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is NormaBest11Xoxo10312013-6-724x479.jpg

Moreover, he is deeply connected and will introduce you to some of the finest artisans in the region, where you will meet weavers, ceramic artists, apron makers and traditional cooks. You will have an opportunity to see artisan craft demonstrations and to shop for your own collection or for gifts, as you wish.

You will spend the first two nights in Oaxaca City, then you will move to a comfortable Bed and Breakfast Inn based in Teotitlan del Valle for the remainder of our time together.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0169-724x486.jpg
Angel in Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread)

Preliminary Itinerary

Thursday, October 28: Arrive in Oaxaca City and check in to our centrally-located boutique hotel

Friday, October 29: After breakfast, explore the city and the Benito Juarez market to see preparations for Dia de los Muertos, and gallery/shop decorations. We will also catch a comparsa – the traditional Muertos parade – along the pedestrian street as our schedule permits. Overnight in Oaxaca. (Breakfast and welcome dinner)

Saturday, October 30: Travel to Teotitlan del Valle and check in to our comfortable B&B, take a chocolate making workshop with a traditional cook that includes a visit to the local molino (mill) to grind the cacao bean mixture. See how traditional mole Amarillo tamales are prepared and have a tasting.  We will talk about family altars, their significance and what goes into making one. You will then enjoy comida (late lunch) in the home of a local family.  (B, L)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tamales-e1498503964227-543x724.jpg
Teotitlan del Valle tamales with mole amarillo, made by Ernestina

Sunday, October 31: After breakfast, walk to the Teotitlan del Valle market to shop for altar decorations to later build a group altar. Bring photos of those you want to remember! Then, we will venture out into the countryside to visit the Zapotec villages of San Marcos Tlapazola and San Miguel del Valle to meet artisans and discuss their family Dia de los Muertos traditions. You will see demonstrations of red clay pottery and embroidered apron making and have a chance to buy if you wish. We will come prepared with altar gifts of chocolate and bread to present to the difuntos. On the road, we will stop at a traditional comedor for lunch (at your own expense). (B, D)  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 6_Zapotecs-7-724x479.jpg

Monday, November 1: After breakfast, travel to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to meet weaver artisans who will take us to their family gravesite at the village cemetery and talk about this village and their history and traditions. Visit homes where traditional altars tell the story of ancient Zapotec culture. You will bring your offering of chocolate and bread to put on their altars to honor the deceased of our hosts.  We will take lunch at a local comedor along the way (at your own expense). Then, make a stop on the way home for a mezcal tasting – Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, tambien.  (B, D)  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is NormaBenchDSC_0153-724x485.jpg

Tuesday, November 2: After breakfast, you will visit the homes of selected weavers in Teotitlan del Valle to experience each family’s variation on altar preparation, and see a weaving and natural dyeing demonstration. You’ll then join a local family for lunch and accompany them to the cemetery to sit with their loved ones as they return to the underworld. After the cemetery, you will have a cena (late repast) of bread and hot chocolate, discuss how participating in Day of the Dead had an impact on you. Compare and contrast this experience with USA and Canadian experiences with death and dying.  (B, L, D)

Wednesday, November 3: After breakfast, the choice is yours for this free-day. You may like some downtime to write about your experiences or take a hike to the reservoir or meander the village. You can also arrange a taxi to take you to neighboring villages or archeological sites. We will enjoy a final goodbye supper before you depart.

Thursday, November 4: Departure. We will help you arrange a taxi (at your own expense) to the airport or you may choose to stay on in Oaxaca or visit another part of Mexico.  (B) Hasta la proxima!

Itinerary subject to change based on scheduling and availability.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is i-482x724.jpg

What Is Included

  • 7 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
  • 2 nights lodging at an excellent boutique hotel in Oaxaca City
  • 5 nights lodging at a charming B&B hotel in Teotitlan del Valle
  • museum and church entry fees
  • van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services

What is NOT Included

The workshop 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 instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,445 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0100-724x486.jpg
Natural dyes have strong color, beautiful and more complex than synthetic dyes

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 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 June 15, 2021. The third payment is due on or before September 1, 2021. 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 September 1, 2021, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before September 1, 2021, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds. If we cancel for whatever reason, you will receive a full refund.

The tour and COVID-19: You are required to send proof of vaccination to participate. You must send Proof of Vaccination by email on or before June 15, 2021. You can take a photo of the documentation and forward it to us. All participants are required to wear face masks, use hand-sanitizer and practice social distancing while together. We will sanitize vans and keep the windows open when traveling together. Please note: You MUST also provide proof of international travel insurance including $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.

Registration Form

Complete the form and Send an email to Norma Schafer.

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice by email that is due on receipt.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is San-Marcos-Tlapazola2-494x724.jpg
Red clay pottery, San Marcos Tlapazola

Who Should Attend • Anyone interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into Day of the Dead practices and traditions, and who appreciates artisan craft — weaving, embroidery, pottery. If you are a collector, come with us to go deep and find the best artisans. If you are a photographer or artist, come with us for inspiration. If you are an online retailer, come with us to find the stories to market what you sell.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept online e-commerce payments only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After September 1, 2021, there are no refunds. If we receive notice of your cancelation on or before September 1, 2021, 50% of the funds you have paid to date will be refunded. After that, there are no refunds.

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.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: Oaxaca and surrounding villages are colonial and pre-Hispanic. The altitude is close to 6,000 feet. Many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We walk a lot — up to 10,000 steps per day. We recommend you bring a walking stick.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour 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 free time to go off on your own if you wish.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC_0292_Abuela_2-724x485.jpg
Sitting vigil in the village cemetery, Dia de los Muertos