Eric Chavez Santiago and I are back at the Oaxaca Lending Library for a repeat presentation of Stories in Cloth: Oaxaca Textile Narratives on Monday, February 7, 2022, at 5 p.m. The first one we did in January was sold out and this one is, too. However, if you want to come early to see if you can get in at the last minute if there are no shows (as there often are), we invite you to do that.
The presentation goes until about 6 p.m. Then, our weaving friends will show and sell their work. They represent the most outstanding and famous weaving family of this southern Oaxaca coast village where the finest gauze weaving can be found in the entire state of Oaxaca. Bring your credit card or cash for purchases. Sale opens at 6 p.m. Come for the sale if you can’t make the presentation.
Stories in Cloth: Oaxaca Textile Narratives gives you knowledge of weaving traditions in our state: history of weaving technologies, types of looms, types of fibers, types of natural dyes, iconography — what the symbols and figures woven into the cloth mean, clothing identity from village to village, and where to find some of the best textiles in and around the city.
Unfortunately, the presentation cannot be videotaped at this time.
Want to meet the best weavers in the city where they live and work? Take the Oaxaca City Textile Collector’s Tourfor an in-depth, exclusive and insider experience to meet these and other fine artisans who represent their villages and cooperatives. Some maintain a residence on the outskirts of the city and this is where we take you for a day of exploration and discovery.
The Costa Chica of Oaxaca actually includes the southern part of Guerrero state, stretching from Puerto Escondido north to Acapulco. We don’t go quite as far as Acapulco, but we go deep into Amuzgo territory. The Amuzgo ethnic group encompasses northern Oaxaca and southern Guerrero. As in many parts of the world, political boundaries have nothing to do with tribal affiliations. I have seen this in India, China, Chiapas and Guatemala, too.
Some years ago, I discovered the weaving family of my friend Jesus Ignacio when Instagram was in its infancy. I saw through his photos that the workmanship was extraordinary and he was dedicated to reviving ancient patterns, many lost to common memory. I knew that our itinerary took us to Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, and learned that Zacoalpan is a nearby sister village where back-strap loom weaving also has important traditions. I added this family to our tour.
During our first visit a few years ago, Jesus showed us examples of textile fragments he was able to find and replicate. The family grows their own native, pre-Hispanic cotton on a small plot that he and his father tend. They grow coyuchi brown, soft green and creamy white. His mom, aunts and cousins process the cotton by hand, separating the fibers and taking out the seeds which they save for future planting. They roll a petate around dried corn leaves and beat the cotton on top with two hefty sticks to soften it. Then, they card and spin it using a malacate or drop-spindle. The cotton is then ready for the back-strap loom.
I describe all this because the preparation is an integral part of the weaving process and takes a lot of time. To calculate he cost of a hand-made garment, we must factor in all the steps in the vertical production process — from growing to the final blusa or huipil.
Not only does the family use native cotton, they also use natural dyes: indigo, cochineal, wild marigold (pericone), nanche bark, zapote negro (a local fruit), and occasionally purple snail dye which they buy from Pinotepa de Don Luis across the Oaxaca-Guerrero border.
I want to share with you these words that Jesus wrote to me a few days ago. He doesn’t speak English, but he uses Google Translate. I’m copying what he wrote verbatim. When I read it, it makes me cry.
“Thank you friend Norma for visiting us. The Zacoalpan textile workshop teacher has been very talented, I have focused on helping her to spread her backstrap loom arts, even though I do not have compensation from the teachers, but my passion is to spread our ancestral knowledge. I feel so grateful for your visit in my humble home where we are struggling with stereotypes.
“I have always dreamed of going very far for the world to know our arts. I know our textiles are in danger of extinction, but I have not been able to make a lot of progress due to lack of support. The only support we have had is from your trip to our workshop. I have been a young dreamer, sometimes it makes me sad because I have not found a job in my profession, which is civil engineering. I have become very sad because our Mexico lacks employment. My dream is to become a better construction engineer but I have not been able to find work to practice my profession.
“My only dream is to have a house of my own and work. Sincerely, I am deeply grateful for your support in purchasing the art we make. I also have a dream that one day I will get to know your country, the USA, friend Norma. It is my only wish.
“I used Google translate.”
Find Jesus on Instagram: @textil_zacoalpan
I’m sharing the contact because we don’t want them to have to wait another year for our visit to sell something! They ship internationally. Please support them. Our group was the only one to visit in the last two years. The work is finely made and exceptional. You must be able to do a wire transfer to his bank account. I use the App Remitly to send wire transfers to Mexico.
Arrive on Saturday, January 21 and depart on Monday, January 30, 2023 — 9 nights, 10 days in textile heaven! Starting at $3,195.
This tour is strictly limited to 10 participants – 6 single rooms and 2 shared rooms.
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. If for any reason we must cancel this tour, you will receive a full 100% refund. See notes below about COVID vaccination requirements and testing to travel with us.
To register, please complete the Registration Form and email it to us. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a request to make your reservation deposit.
Cost is $3.195 per person shared room or $3,995 per person for private room. See details and itinerary below.
This entire study tour is focused on exploring the textiles of Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. You arrive to and leave from Puerto Escondido, connecting through Mexico City or Oaxaca.
We go deep, and not wide. We give you an intimate, connecting experience. We spend time to know the culture. You will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, enjoy local cuisine, dip your hands in an indigo dye-bath, and travel to remote villages you may never get to on your own. This study tour focuses on revival of ancient textile techniques and Oaxaca’s vast weaving culture that encompasses the use of natural dyes, back-strap loom weaving, drop spindle hand spinning, and glorious, pre-Hispanic native cotton in warm brown called coyuchi, verde (green) and creamy white. We cover vast distances on secondary roads, traveling to secluded mountain villages. This tour is for the most adventurous textile travelers! For hearty travelers only!
Villages along the coast and neighboring mountains were able to preserve their traditional weaving culture because of their isolation. The Spanish could not get into those villages until the late 18th century. Much now is the same as it was then. Stunning cotton is spun and woven into lengths of cloth connected with intricate needlework to form amazing garments. Beauty and poverty are twin sisters here.
We have invited a noted cultural anthropologist to travel with us. She has worked in the region for the past 15 years and knows the textile culture and people intimately. We learn about and discuss motifs, lifestyle, endangered species, quality and value of direct support.
What we do:
We visit 7 weaving villages in Oaxaca and Guerrero
We meet back-strap loom weavers, natural dyers, spinners
We see, touch, smell native Oaxaca cotton — brown, green, natural
We participate in a sea turtle release with sunset dinner on the beach
We swim in a rare bioluminescence lagoon
We visit three local markets to experience daily life
We travel to remote regions to discover amazing cloth
We learn about Africo-Mexican identity on the Costa Chica
We support indigenous artisans directly
We attend Dreamweavers annual sale
We escape WINTER in El Norte
Take this study tour to learn about:
the culture, history and identity of cloth
beating and spinning cotton, and weaving with natural dyes
native seed preservation and cultivation
clothing design and construction, fashion adaptations
symbols and meaning of regional textile designs
choice of colors and fibers that show each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
the work of women in pre-Hispanic Mexico and today
2023 Itinerary — Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour
Saturday, January 21: Fly to Puerto Escondido—overnight in Puerto Escondido, Group Welcome Dinner at 7 p.m. (D)
Sunday, January 22: Puerto Escondido market meander, lunch and afternoon on your own. Late afternoon departure for turtle release and Manialtepec bioluminescence lagoon with beach dinner. (B, D)
Monday, January 23: Depart after breakfast for Tututepec to visit a young weaver who is reviving his village’s textile traditions, visit local museum and murals — overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
Tuesday, January 24: After breakfast, we go to the Pinotepa Nacional market, the largest in the region, then on to the weaving village of San Juan Colorado to visit two women’s cooperatives working in natural dyes, hand-spinning, and back strap loom weaving. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
Wednesday, January 25: After breakfast, we return to the mountain and the village of Pinotepa de Don Luis. Then, we visit the Converse shoe project where talented artists hand-paint footwear, carve gourds and make amazing graphic art prints. We have lunch with Tixinda Cooperative members and caracol purpura purple snail dyers in their home, complete with show and sale, and cultural talk. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. (B, L)
Thursday, January 26: After breakfast, we travel up the coast highway into the state of Guerrero, where we visit two outstanding Amuzgo weaving groups in Xochistlahuaca and Zacoalpan. They are working to revive ancient designs and incorporate locally grown native, wild cotton. Overnight in Ometepec. (B, L)
Friday, January 27: After breakfast, we begin our six-hour road trip back to Puerto Escondido, with a stop at the Afro-Mexican Museum to understand Mexico’s Black history. We stop in Pinotepa Nacional for lunch. Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B, L)
Saturday, January 28: This is a day on your own to explore the area, return to the Puerto Escondido market, take a rest from the road trip, enjoy the beach and pools, and begin packing for your trip home. Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B)
Sunday, January 29: After breakfast, the morning is on your own. Then, attend the annual Dreamweavers Expoventa featuring the Tixinda Weaving Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis. Other regional artisans are also invited, making this a grand finale folk art extravaganza — a fitting ending to our time together on Oaxaca’s coast. Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Puerto Escondido. (B, D)
Monday, January 30: Depart for home.
Note: You can add days on to the tour — arrive early or stay later — at your own expense.
Cost to Participate
$3,195 shared double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
$3,995 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)
Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigators: Norma Schafer and Eric Chavez Santiago
Norma Schafer is founder of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, which she started in 2006. a retired university administrator, she is an author, photographer and textile maker Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican textiles and folk art with a special interest in artisan development and promotion. He is a weaver and natural dyer by training and a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa started Taller Teñido a Mano dye studio where they produce naturally dyed yarn skeins and textiles for worldwide distribution. Eric is a business partner with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, too. He is trilingual, speaking Zapotec, Spanish and English and is a native of Teotitlan del Valle. He is a graduate of Anahuac University, founder of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca education department, and former managing director of folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture and community.
We sell out each year so don’t hesitate to register if you are interested in participating.
Full Registration Policies, Procedures and Cancellations– Please READ
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 August 15, 2022. The third payment, 50% balance, is due on or before November 15, 2022. 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 November 15, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 15, 2022, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date (less the $500 non-refundable deposit). After that, there are no refunds UNLESS we cancel for any reason. Then, if we cancel, you will receive a full 100% refund.*
We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2022, there are no refunds.*
Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.
We require proof of COVID-19 vaccination. We also require that you send us results of a NEGATIVE covid test two days taken two days before the tour starts.
Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico! It’s a Mexico requirement.
Plane Tickets, Arrivals/Departures: Please send us your plane schedule at least 45 days before the trip. This includes name of carrier, flight numbers, arrival and departure time to our destination.
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.
Access and Rugged Travel, Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do some walking and getting in/out of vans. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please reconsider your participation. This is off-the-beaten-path travel. If you require a luxury van and hotels, this is NOT the tour for you. Our hotels on the road are safe, clean, secure and have air-conditioning. They are not luxurious. They are the best the region has to offer, however. Our van is a standard Nissan with manual transmission and limited storage capacity. Luxury vans are not available here. Our drivers are safe and friendly. Some mountain roads we travel are winding and unpaved. I’d call this trip one of the more rugged that we offer, designed for the more adventurous among us. It takes some wherewithal and stamina to get into the remote areas where some of the best textiles are made.
Our travel to remote villages will be by van on secondary roads with curves, usually not for more than two hours. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a health questionnaire to complete. If you have walking or car dizziness issues, this may not be the trip 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.
Note: Itinerary subject to schedule change and modification.
We’ve just added this new day tour to our menu of workshops and tours. It is designed to give textile collectors, retailers, wholesalers, fashionistas, and aficionados exclusive access! Different and more specialized than any of our other one-day textile experiences, we take you into the homes and studios of some of the finest weavers and cooperatives found in the State of Oaxaca. What makes this different?
Based on our vast experience working with weavers, we know who makes the absolute best garments! They are individuals and families who come from remote areas of Oaxaca: the coast, from the Mixtec, Triqui or Mixe regions. They represent their families here in the city, where they maintain a residence. Where they live and work are obscure, unknown, off the beaten path, up switchback roads high in the mountains beyond the Guelaguetza stadium, or in the foothills of new neighborhoods under the shadow of the Sierra Madre del Sur. Because we have personal relationships with them, they welcome us and whomever we bring to their homes to see their collections.
Because this tour is so personal, we limit it to FOUR people at a time.
Cost: $450 for one person. Add $200 per person for each additional person.
Itinerary: We pick you up in the historic center of Oaxaca at 9:00 a.m. in a comfortable four-wheel drive vehicle. We need this to pick our way up the switchback road up to the top of a mountain that overlooks the Oaxaca valley! We return you to the city around 5:30 p.m.
You meet the makers! All along the way, you will see demonstrations, discuss motifs and iconography, how the fabric and dyes are created, and learn about the cultural history of the cloth. A rare and insider experience.
Who we visit:
Nationally recognized back-strap loom weavers from San Mateo del Mar, where they create gauze clothing embellished with sea life, flora and fauna of their region, mostly 80/2 and 60/2 finest gauge cotton or silk. Three types of weaving are employed — 1) passed thread technique; 2) supplementary weft technique; and 3) double-faced technique. San Mateo is on the ocean on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, eight-hours from Oaxaca city.
Award-winning back-strap loom weavers from San Juan Cotzocon in the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca. You find symbols of serpents, flowers, mountains and whimsical animals in their work. Fine, intricate detail using the supplementary weft technique. High in the mountains, about half-way between Oaxaca city and Salina Cruz, were you to go there it would take five-hours on a curving mountain road. Then, would you know who to contact?
Outstanding pieces from a cooperative based in San Pedro Amuzgos in the Sierra Sur, that includes pieces made from hand-spun coyuchi and green cotton, indigo and cochineal dyed threads, and the rare caracol purpura. This cooperative also represents work from Xochistlahuaca and Zacoalpan, sister Amuzgo villages in Guerrero, plus Santiago Ixtayutla and Santa Maria Zacatepec — a mere 125 miles from Oaxaca, but a seven-hour road trip over winding mountain passes!
The exclusive bodega of a famous collector who explains how he works with artisans and supports them OR a young, innovative Triqui weaver who is working only in natural dyes using traditional motifs created on the back-strap loom.
Mid-way through the day, we make a lunch stop in the city at a cafe that serves delicious food featuring Oaxaca specialties. Lunch is at your own expense and not included in the cost of the tour.
Note: Because artisan schedules are variable, we reserve the right to adjust the itinerary without notice.
Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator is Eric Chavez Santiago.
Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican textiles and folk art with a special interest in artisan development and promotion. He is a weaver and natural dyer by training and a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa are founders of Taller Teñido a Mano dye studio where they produce naturally dyed yarn skeins and textiles for worldwide distribution. Eric is a business partner with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, too. He is trilingual, speaking Zapotec, Spanish and English and is a native of Teotitlan del Valle. A graduate of Anahuac University, Eric founded the Museo Textil de Oaxaca education department in 2007 and went on to become managing director of the folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular, a post he held until late 2021. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture and community.
How to Register? Send us an email at least a week in advance of your visit. Give us a choice of dates you could be available. This is important because artisan schedules are irregular. We customize every appointment. We then send you a request for a 25% non-refundable deposit that can be paid using Zelle or Venmo after we confirm date availability. We will need your pick-up location, too.
Note: Some artisans only accept bank deposits using wire transfer. We recommend you install the App Remitly to make purchases. Others may accept credit cards. All accept MXN pesos in cash. (U.S. dollars require that artisans take funds to a money exchange, which charges them high commissions. We don’t recommend this form of payment.) Also of note: We highly discourage bargaining. Prices are fair and you are buying direct from the makers. It takes hours, days, weeks, months to make one garment.
Norma Writes for Selvedge Magazine Issues #89 + #109
Creating Connectionand Meaning between travelers and with indigenous artisans. Meet makers where they live and work. Join small groups of like-minded explorers. Go deep into remote villages. Gain insights. Support cultural heritage and sustainable traditions ie. hand weaving and natural dyeing. Create value and memories. Enjoy hands-on experiences. Make a difference.
What is a Study Tour: Our programs are designed as learning experiences, and as such we talk with makers about how and why they create, what is meaningful to them in their designs, the ancient history of patterning and design, use of color, tradition and innovation, values and cultural continuity, and the social context within which they work. First and foremost, we are educators. Norma worked in top US universities for over 35 years and Eric founded the education department at Oaxaca’s textile museum. We create connection and help artisans reach people who value them and their work.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
We Contribute Two Chapters!
Click image to order yours!
Meet Makers. Make a Difference
Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university, textile and artisan development experience. See About Us.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your independent travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, curators, universities and others come to us to develop artisan relationships, customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Select Clients *Abeja Boutique, Houston *Selvedge Magazine-London, UK *Esprit Travel and Tours *Penland School of Crafts *North Carolina State University *WARP Weave a Real Peace *Methodist University *MINNA-Goods *Smockingbird Kids *University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
October 27, 2023: Day of the Dead Ocotlan Highway Tour. It’s Market Day! The biggest of the year. See special altar food and decor, visit artisans, explore culture, eat at a traditional open air cocina de humo (grill kitchen). SOLD OUT.
October 29, 2023: Teotitlan del Valle Altars and Studio Visits to natural dye and weaving artisans who invite you to their altar rooms to share family traditions. Meet a traditional beeswax candlemaker. Eat mole and mezcal in a local family comedor. 6 SPACES OPEN.
Oaxaca has the largest and most diverse textile culture in Mexico! Learn about it.
When you visit Oaxaca immerse yourself in our textile culture: How is indigenous clothing made, what is the best value, most economical, finest available. Suitable for adults only. Set your own dates.
One-Day Custom Tours: Tell Us When You Want to Go!
New--Ruta del Mezcal One-Day Tour.We start the day with pottery, visiting a master, then have lunch with a Traditional Oaxaca Cook who is the master of mole making. In Mitla, we meet with our favorite flying shuttle loom weaver, and then finish off with a mezcal tasting at a palenque you will NEVER find on your own! Schedule at your convenience!
January 13-21, 2024: Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour. Very popular! Get your deposit in to reserve. For intrepid travelers. Visit 7 back-strap loom weavers. Explore the culture of cloth and community. SOLD OUT!
March 28-April 3:Screenwriting for Film + Television with Harry Werksman, Golden Globe award winning writer. Develop character, plot, scene. Learn what it takes to pitch a story. Take your ideas from concept to delivery. NEW!
We require 48-hour advance notice for map orders to be processed. We send a printable map via email PDF after your order is received. Please be sure to send your email address. Where to see natural dyed rugs in Teotitlan del Valle and layout of the Sunday Tlacolula Market, with favorite eating, shopping, ATMs. Click Here to Buy Map After you click, be sure to check PayPal to ensure your email address isn't hidden from us. We fulfill each map order personally. It is not automatic.
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle