Beyond the hubbub of Oaxaca City and the famous Guelaguetza cultural dance extravaganza, are the Sierra Norte and Sierra Mixe mountain villages noted for their silk weaving, natural dye culture, and outstanding pottery. We will take you there during the week of July 25-31, between the two Guelaguetza performances on July 25 and August 1. You might want to reserve your Guelaguetza tickets to make this a memorable week immersed in Oaxaca folk art and culture. This is the first time in two years since the pandemic that the folkloric performance will take place on the Cerro Fortin hill above the city.
We will be based in the famous weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, where skilled artisans have been weaving serapes and blankets for centuries. Now, they concentrate on making fine quality rugs for floors and wall-hangings. We also explore the surrounding villages of the Tlacolula Valley where we meet flying shuttle loom weavers, ceramic artists and basket makers. Our last day together is topped-off with an expoventa that features the best artisans from the far reaches of the state.
Monday, July 25: Arrive and check into our B&B in Teotitlan Del Valle and get settled in for the next few days of adventure. Perhaps you will want to purchase Guelaguetza tickets for the Monday, July 25 performance in the city, too.
FYI: We recently completed 4 tours.
All travelers returning to the USA and Canada tested COVID NEGATIVE.
Tuesday, July 26: Day 2 is our orientation day. You will learn about and explore the textile traditions of Teotitlan. We will discuss how the weaving tradition is passed down from generation to generation, visit weaving studios, learn about the use of natural dyes, the meanings of traditional designs, weaving techniques, and how the production of handmade textiles sustains the entire town.
Wednesday, July 27: On Day 3, we will take a two and a half hour ride into the Sierra Norte to visit San Pedro Cajonos and their new silk sanctuary, which opened in 2020. The leaders of the weaver’s guild in this town will walk us through this incredible facility and discuss silk production. We will learn about the history of pre-Columbian silks, the introduction of Asian silk after the Spanish conquest, and the domestication of the species to a wild species also harvested in this town. We will discuss the silk process, how silk worms are cultivated, and watch how silk threads are spun, dyed, and woven on the back strap loom. You will also enjoy a special sale of silk products such as scarves, blouses, dresses and jewelry. A special lunch menu will be prepared for us by the silk weavers on their sanctuary terrace overlooking the magnificent Sierra Norte mountains, complete with local foods including handcrafted tortillas.
Thursday, July 28: On Day 4, we will travel the Pan American Highway that runs through the Tlacolula Valley. We visit a Zapotec women’s cooperative in the San Marcos Tlapazola foothills to discuss the process and tradition of making red clay pottery. The women dig the clay from pits not far from where they live. Our next stop will be Mitla, where we will visit a weaver who specializes in weaving wool and cotton fabric on treadle looms using natural dyes. Before returning to our B&B, we will stop at a palenque to learn about mezcal and have a special taste of the wild species of agave.
Friday, July 29: On Day 5, we’ll get an early start and drive into the mountains of the Mixe pueblo of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte. This town has a rich tradition of making musicial instruments, textiles and pottery. We will be greeted by a group of weavers and embroiderers who specialize in making cloth using treadle looms. They also use local alder wood, a local natural dye that produces a rich, deep brown-orange on cotton fibers. We will learn about the meanings of their embroidered designs and discuss cultural appropriation. The village was involved in a 2015 dispute with a French design brand that copied verbatum traditional designs that have been part of their cultural identity for centuries.
Our final stop in Tlahuitoltepec will be to a visit with master potter Victor Vasquez, who specializes in large format clay musicians that represent his community’s musical tradition. In his studio, we will learn about his work and see their open fire kilns.
Saturday, July 30: Day 6 is our final day, and we have planned a special grand finale expoventa. We have invited weavers from Oaxaca Coast, Isthmus, and Mixteca to present to us their best selection of textiles. We will see textiles woven on back strap looms from the pueblos of San Mateo Del Mar, San Juan Colorado, Triqui, and San Pedro Amuzgos. We will give you first choice with a preview showing, then open the expoventa to the public after we have first pick. Gala farewell dinner, too.
Sunday, July 31: Depart. We will help you arrange transportation to the airport or to the city to participate in the August 1 Guelaguetza performance.
Oaxaca is the Mexican state with the greatest diversity of weaving techniques; this tour complements the tour of the coast we offer during the winter season and provides a better understanding of textile traditions in this area of Oaxaca.
Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator is Eric Chavez Santiago. Norma Schafer will also accompany this tour. Eric is a weaver and natural dye expert, and has personal relationships with each artisan we visit. He is a Oaxaca native, born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle, and speaks Zapotec, Spanish and English. Eric was the founding director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca from 2008 to 2016. In 2017, Alfredo Harp Helu and Isabel Granen Porrua asked him to open, manage and promote indigenous craft through their folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He is now a partner with Norma in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator and operates Taller Teñido a Mano, a family enterprise that creates naturally dyed woven goods for international sales and distribution. Eric is a graduate of Anahuac University and has made textile presentations throughout the world. Our Teotitlan del Valle expoventa will be held in the new Teñido a Mano weaving and dye studio in the village.