2022 Oaxaca Textile Adventure Tour: Sierra Norte Mountains

Tuesday to Sunday, July 25 – 31, 2022 – 7 days and 6 nights

The remote mountains of the Sierra Norte region of Oaxaca are home to some of the finest backstrap loom weaving villages in the state.  Here, ancient weaving traditions are practiced just as they were centuries ago before the Spanish conquest. Moreover, the weavings tell stories of indigenous beliefs that include images in the textiles of local flora, fauna, celebrations, and daily life. This is a textile adventure tour because these villages are not easy to get to, requiring day trips of several hours back and forth from Teotitlan del Valle by van. We think the journey is worth the travel if you want to explore a part of Oaxaca that is definitely “off-the-beaten-path.” This tour is limited to 10 participants. We will have 6 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available. First come, first served for room selection. 

What and Where is the Sierra Norte? Click Here.

Handwoven Triqui huipil

We are based in the weaver’s village of Teotitlan Del Valle. This will put us a bit closer to our destinations. Each day we will take a van trip to meet textile artisans that specialize in wool, silk, cotton, and natural dyes woven both on back strap and pedal floor looms. The visits will be to family studios or a weaver’s cooperative to learn about their processes and discuss quality and weaving techniques.

Naturally dyed rugs from a master weaver

This seven-day and six-night textile adventure tour includes visits to the two remote mountain villages of San Pedro Cajonos and San Pedro Tlahuitoltepec.  In addition, we will visit specialized weavers in the Tlacolula valley, a doll maker, a pottery village, and enjoy a mezcal tasting. We will host an expoventa on our final morning, inviting weavers representing other remote textile villages in the state, including Triqui, San Pedro Amuzgo, San Mateo del Mar, and San Felipe Usila. 

We have scheduled this tour to be held during the week between the two Guelaguetza performances at the Cerro del Fortin in Oaxaca City. They are held on Monday, July 25 and Monday, August 1, 2022. Perhaps you want to bundle this spectacular folkloric dance extravaganza into your travel plans!

Preliminary Itinerary

July 25, Monday, Day 1.  Arrive in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, by evening and check-in to our comfortable and upscale Bed and Breakfast Inn. Snack box provided for late arrivals. 

July 26, Tuesday, Day 2. We spend this first day visiting four weaving studios in Teotitlan del Valle to orient you to weaving and natural dyeing. You will see demonstrations of pedal loom weaving and dyeing techniques with indigo, cochineal and wild marigold. Here, we will visit a weaver who cultivates silkworms, dyes them with natural plants and insects, another weaver who makes leather and woven wool handbags and totes, a beeswax candle maker who provides the traditional ritual velas for community celebrations. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Overnight in Teotitlan.

Indigo dye vat, Teotitlán del Valle
Natural dyed tote bag, woven wool with leather, sturdy zipper, lined with interior pockets

July 27, Wednesday, Day 3. We rise early to travel two-and-a-half hours to San Pedro Cajonos after breakfast. There, we visit with one of the finest, most distinguished silk weaving cooperatives in Mexico. They created a sanctuary to cultivate and preserve silkworm production, with hand-spinning, natural dyeing and weaving. You will see the entire process and meet these talented people. They will prepare a homemade lunch for us and show us their silk textiles and accessories that are for sale. We return to Teotitlan del Valle in time for dinner.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner included. 

Silkworm parade. Worms become cocoons. Cocoons become fine threads to dye and then weave.
Silk blusa with hand-knotted fringes, indigo dyed, San Pedro Cajonos

July 28, Thursday, Day 4. Today we stay local and take a rest from the road. After breakfast, we venture out to San Marcos Tlapazola to visit a renown red-clay pottery cooperative, then we travel a short distance up the road to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit a weaver who specializes in home goods and clothing dyed with natural plants. We stop to see the work of a sewist-embroiderer who makes dolls. We wrap up our day with an artisanal mezcal tasting in Santiago Matatlan before returning to Teotitlan del Valle.  Includes breakfast, lunch, mezcal tasting and dinner. 

Handmade doll from San Pablo Villa de Mitla
Backstrap loom weaving in Mitla
Kiln at red clay pottery studio, Tlapazola

July 29, Friday, Day 5. Back on the road after breakfast, we travel about two-hours to the mountain village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec to meet weavers and embroiderers who work in cotton and wool.  You will learn about the production of wool ponchos, cotton shawls woven on the backstrap and pedal looms that are locally dyed with Palo de Aguila (alderwood). Here they create distinctive embroidered dresses, shirts and blouses, designs that have been illegally appropriated by international brands. We will discuss the issue of cultural appropriation with the family. After lunch, we will visit a large format potter, famous for his amazing pieces featured In museums and collections around the world. We return to Teotitlan del Valle in time for dinner. Includes breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Indigo-dyed cotton shawl woven in Tlahuitoltepec, hand-knotted fringes called punta
Iconic embroidered blouse from Tlahuitoltepec

July 30, Saturday, Day 6. GRAND FINALE Dinner and Expoventa. 

After breakfast we will arrange for a local laboratory to come to give you a Covid test (at your own expense) 24-hours in advance of your departure to return to the USA. Then, we take you to the workshop studio of Taller Tenido a Mano for a private expoventa featuring outstanding weavers from San Mateo del Mar, San Pedro Amuzgo, San Felipe Usila and Triqui. You get first pick. We will then open up the expoventa to the public. You have the rest of the day free to explore the village or arrange a taxi to visit some of the local archeological sites. We wrap up our time together with a Grand Finale Gala Dinner.  Breakfast and dinner included. 

Gala huipil from San Felipe Usila, Papaolapan

July 31, Sunday, Day 7. Departure.

We will arrange taxi service (at your own expense) to take you to the city to extend your stay, or to take you to the airport for your return home. Breakfast included. 

San Mateo Del Mar collector’s huipil from the Palafox family

About your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator 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. 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.

Eric Chavez Santiago explains natural dyes

What is Included:

  • 6 nights lodging
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • 4 dinners
  • Snacks
  • Expert bilingual guide services
  • Luxury van transportation
  • Mezcal tasting
  • An educational experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included:

  • Airplane tickets
  • Required international travel insurance
  • In-country COVID test
  • Required vaccines, PPE and hand-sanitizer
  • Any meals, snacks and taxis not specified in the itinerary
  • All alcoholic beverages, tips and personal purchases

Price for a shared room is $2,895

Price for a single room is $3,495

We have 6 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available to reserve on a first-come, first-served basis.

Quesadillas hot off the comal, stuffed with squash blossoms, quesillo

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 March 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before May 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 May 15, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before May 15, 2022, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. 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 be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. Fully vaccinated is defined as all vaccinations required by the CDC including boosters. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before May 15, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and email it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 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. 

Beeswax candles handmade in Teotitlan

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.

Who Should Attend • Anyone interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into textile 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 buy and find the stories to market what you sell.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received by May 15, 2022 or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Backstrap loom, a weaving in process

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: Oaxaca and surrounding villages are colonial and pre-Hispanic. The altitude can be 7,000 feet or higher in the mountain villages. Many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear study shoes.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments or you are immunocompromised, 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.

Agave piña ready for roasting to make mezcal

2022 Day of the Dead Culture Tour

October 29 to November 4, 2022—6 nights and 7 days— $2,895 for a shared room and $3,495 for a single room. We have 3 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.

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.

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Day of the Dead Altar

Beyond the city, in the Tlacolula Valley, many 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.

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

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Study Tour Highlights:

  • Visit homes, altars and cemeteries in three Zapotec villages: Teotitlan del Valle, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, and San Marcos Tlapazola
  • 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
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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 complete with costumes and face painting differ from those in villages even as outside influences impact change. Our desire is to give you a full immersion experience that evokes what Day of the Dead may have been like 20 or 30 years ago–mystical,  magical, transcendent and spiritual.

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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 participants, to give you an orientation about to what to expect and do during our visits, and to offer you an intimate, personal experience.

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We give you an insider’s view. You have the guidance of local expert Eric Chavez Santiago who will lead this cultural tour. Eric is a partner in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

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. 

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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.

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Moreover, he is deeply connected and will introduce you to some of the finest artisans in the region, where you will meet weavers, natural dyers, ceramic artists, 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.

We will be based in a comfortable Bed and Breakfast establishment one block from the market in Teotitlan del Valle for our time together. (You might decide to arrive early and stay a few nights in the city or extend your trip to be in the city afterward.)

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Angel in Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread)

Preliminary Itinerary

Saturday, October 29: Arrive in Oaxaca and travel to Teotitlan del Valle. Check in to a highly-rated, locally owned bed and breakfast inn. Snack box available for arrivals after 8 p.m.

Sunday, October 30: During our breakfast orientation, we discuss how Day of the Dead is celebrated in the villages and then go on a walking tour that includes the village market, church, archeological site, and cultural center. Today you will also visit the homes and studios of rug weavers, candle makers, and silk weavers talking with them about their own family observances. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle. (Includes breakfast and welcome dinner)

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Teotitlan del Valle tamales with mole amarillo, made by Ernestina

Monday, 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 village of San Marcos Tlapazola to meet artisans and discuss their family Dia de los Muertos traditions. You will see demonstrations of red clay pottery 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). We finish the day with a mezcal tour and tasting in Santiago Matatlan, mezcal capital of the world. Mezcal is an integral part of Zapotec celebrations and we will see why. (B, D)  

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Monday, November 1: After breakfast, travel to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to meet a noted weaver artisan who will take us to their family gravesite at the village cemetery and talk about history and traditions. Visit a home where a traditional altar tells the story of ancient Zapotec culture. Our hosts will explain the ancient, pre-Hispanic altar offerings and go deep into the meaning of Muertos here in Oaxaca. You will bring your offering of chocolate and bread to put on their altar to honor our host’s ancestors. We will spend the day with this family and enjoy a very special lunch that they have prepared in our honor. – Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, tambien.  (B, D)  

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Tuesday, November 2: After breakfast, we will visit the Teotitlan del Valle cemetery to see preparations being made to honor dead loved ones: cleaning and decorating the graves. Then we will spend the afternoon in the courtyard of a traditional cook, who shows us how to make hot chocolate and tamales with mole amarillo. We’ll have late lunch there and then accompany her to the cemetery while she sits with her loved ones as they return to the underworld. After the cemetery, you will enjoy a before bedtime snack and discuss how participating in Day of the Dead has 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, we will arrange for any laboratory tests (at your own expense) required to re-enter the USA. Then, we will hold an EXPOVENTA to showcase the work of outstanding weavers representing various villages throughout Oaxaca state, including San Juan Colorado, Triqui, and San Mateo del Mar, and San Pedro Cajones. The rest of the afternoon is on your own. You can arrange a taxi to take you to the city, to neighboring villages or archeological sites. We will enjoy a final goodbye supper before you depart. (B, D)

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.

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What Is Included

  • 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
  • 6 nights lodging at a charming B&B hotel in Teotitlan del Valle
  • museum and church entry fees
  • luxury van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services
  • multi-lingual translation
  • the cultural experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included

The program 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 • $2,895 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,495 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

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Natural dyes have strong color, beautiful and more complex than synthetic dyes

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 June 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before September 1, 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 September 1, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before September 1, 2022, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. 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 be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before June 15, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and forward it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 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.

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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

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 recommend you bring a walking stick and wear study shoes.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments or you are immunocompromised, 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.

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Sitting vigil in the village cemetery, Dia de los Muertos

Happy New Year 2022 From Oaxaca

sending you wishes for a healthy 2022, filled with hopefulness and promise for all goodness and well-being, from our house to yours, our family to yours. We hope to see you in Oaxaca or wherever our paths will cross. With thanks for your support and for following us over the last year as we navigate a new world in this era of caution and uncertainty. There is still much to be thankful for. Abrazos fuertes.

These are photos I took over the last few days as 2021 came to a close, as we visited family and dear friends, as we gathered outdoors, carefully, in celebration.

New Year’s Day visit to Taller @feylola for a natural dye and weaving demo

Índigo-dyed wool yarn at Arturo’s studio in Mitla
A walk in the campo with the dogs to the grotto
Ernestina’s tamales con mole Amarillo
Armando’s handmade doll from Mitla
Walnut raisin gluten-free birthday cake on New Year’s Eve
With my comadres Janet and Elsa
Traditional corn pudding called nicuatole from Rosario
Tlacolula church regalia and gold leaf
New year’s special at Armando’s in Mitla, atole with espuma de chocolate
A New Year gathering of family and friends. Santiago is Cat Boy.

Pre-Hispanic Oaxaca Cooking Class with Vicky Hernandez

High up the hill in the shadow of Oaxaca’s famed archeological site of Monte Alban is a humble comedor on a dirt side street down the hillside from a paved access road. Carefully make your way down a curved, steep stairway cut into the hill to find the simple kitchen of Cocina Pre-Hispanica con Fogon where Vicky Hernandez teaches about the origin of Oaxaca food. Simple yet complex, organic and healthy, flavorful and rich with tradition.

Carol, who has known Vicky for years, arranged this cooking class for her daughter and her daughter’s fella. I tagged along. While I used to own a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school, there is always more to learn, especially about the roots of Oaxaca food. Moreover, I remember meeting Vicky six years ago when she taught her first cooking class in Carol and David’s miniscule kitchen on Huzares.

First, what is a FOGON? This is the adobe mud table-height cooking stove fueled by wood and topped with a clay comal (griddle) that is nixtamalicized (coated with white calc so the corn doesn’t stick).

Mamela with yellow corn masa, beans, cheese, salsa verde

We start the morning at 8 a.m. Vicky picks us up in the Historic Center where Carol lives, hiring two taxis to ferry the four of us and her to Abastos Market first to do the shopping. Central de Abastos is one of the largest market in Mesoamerica. It is a maze, a warren, a hub of everything Oaxaca — food, drink, pottery, clothing, animals and feed. The uninitiated can get lost — easily. It is best to follow an expert like Vicky, who led us to her favorite organic vendors.


Vicky at Abastos Market, smelling a lime for ripeness

On the cooking class menu today are memelas, sopa de guias, quesadillas with squash blossoms, chicken with mole rojo, atole — all traditional pre-Hispanic foods. So we gather ingredients, wending our way through narrow aisles just as the market vendors start to set up shop. The bustling begins.

Vicky shopping for ingredients ts

We are like ducklings and somehow, we end up on the other side of the market only to exit to find the taxis waiting for us on the street. We climb in and begin the drive up the winding Monte Alban hill.

Cheese vendor, Abastos Market

The day is starting to heat up but the hillside shade keeps us cool. We start off with traditional sweet bread to dunk into a cup of steaming cafe de olla (sweetened coffee flavored with cinnamon). On the table are plump cobs representing different pre-Hispanic colors of corn. Vicky asks Becky to choose which color corn to use for the memelas, and Becky points to the red.

Chicken vendor, Abastos Market
Becky and Tyler with Chipil

Vicky puts the corn kernels into a pot on the charcoal burner and adds calc. Corn needs human intervention to eat. The corn soaked and cooked in calc will soften the hard protective shell, making it edible. Then, the grinding begins. For speed, Vicky uses an untraditional hand-cranked grinder instead of a metate (original stone grinding platform).

Nixtamalization, corn cooking in the olla

We learn that corn soaked in ash is used for corn beverages like atole and tejate, while corn soaked in calc is used for food preparation. We learn that pre-Hispanic cooking translates to using only natural materials: clay, wood, calc and ash, and native plants.

Vicky’s mom preparing a mamela

The memelas are the best I’ve eaten, smeared with bean paste and topped with Oaxaca queso fresco (the crumbly local cheese). The corn base is shaped into a huarache (a shoe). The native red corn turns blue in the cooking. It is crunchy, nutty, filled with flavor. Corn and beans combined are an excellent protein source.

Sopa de Guías ready to eat

For the sopa de guias — squash vine soup — three local herbs are needed: chipil, chipiche and piohito. The base is water to which is added small round squashes called calabacitas that are quartered, squash blossoms (remove the stamens), shredded squash vine leaves, and 2” cut sections of the vine (thick outer strings removed like you do with celery stalks). Nothing of the plant goes to waste. We set about stripping the leaves and flowers from the chipil stalks, careful not to add the seed pods.

Vintage Molcajete with salsa, plus ingredients for quesadillas

Next comes the herb epazote. This very aromatic green is used to flavor beans and squash blossom quesadillas. We use quesillo for this, the Oaxaca string cheese. Don’t be skimpy with the cheese! Vicky tells us epazote is also used as a tea to kill parasites and to eliminate gas and bloating when added to beans during cooking. She a scrambled egg sandwich with epazote and chopped onions is the best.

Tyler consuming a quesadilla

The mole rojo, the red sauce for the chicken, is started by cooking together roasted, skinned organic tomatoes and two tablespoons of vegetable oil, then adding two cups of chicken broth. Once this is combined and cooked, we add about one cup of mole paste Vicky bought in the market earlier. Later, we eat this slathered over a piece of cooked chicken, scooping up the sauce with pieces of tortilla. Yum.

Chicken slathered in mole rojo

Kitchen accoutrements are basic: a molcajete to make the salsas, a metate to grind the corn or cacao, a clay olla or cooking pot, a comal (griddle) on which to cook the tortillas. For the salsa to accompany the Sopa de Guias, Vicky puts sliced onion, lime juice, salt and chiles de agua in the molcajete her father made 50 years ago, smashing all the ingredients together. Aromatic and flavorful. If you can’t find chile de agua, you can substitute jalapeño or serrano chiles.


Vicky and Carol go way back together
Tomatoes roasting on bed of charcoal

We sit to eat at a table in the humble comedor with views of the mountain above and the city below. The sun is shining and we are satisfied. At the entry, Vicky’s mother prepares an order for customers at the next table. I sip the hot atole. It is the best I’ve ever had, a rich corn liquid punctuated with small particles of floating corn. I ask to take home the corn residue left after squeezing the liquid through the gauze cloth. I’ll use this to add crunch to my homemade, gluten-free biscotti. In Italy, the residue is what makes polenta. Mexico, the source of corn, provides sustenance around the world.

View from the comedor

When we finish, we walk to the crossroads a short distance from the comedor and hop on a new Oaxaca city bus that takes us back to the zocalo in the historic center I. 20 minutes. Cost: 8 pesos or 40 cents.

Bus to town

Note: Class is taught in Spanish. If you need translation, Vicky can arrange for a translator to be there with you.

How to find Vicky Hernandez:

Telephone: 52-951-396-2621

email: vickyher70@gmail.com

Instagram: cocinaprehispanica

Reserve class with linktree — linktr.ee/cocinaprehispanicaoaxaca

Website: cocinaprehispanicaenfogon.com

Cost: $1,800 pesos per person cash for a 5-hour experience

Four stuffed and satisfied people

Highly recommend for great food and culinary education.

Covid Basics: The Science and What to Know Before You Travel — Part 1

Ted Fahy and Priscilla Taylor are traveling with us to Chiapas in February 2022. We’ve been having back and forth conversations about traveling as safely as possible during COVID. Ted is a retired pediatric physician and Priscilla is a retired pediatric nurse practitioner. I invited them to write an occasional commentary about COVID, concentrating on its relevance to travel.

Because Ted and Priscilla can decipher COVID in basic, easy-to-understand lay person terms, I thought what they say might be helpful to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator clients and readers. Perhaps, this will also be informative for others who are considering international or national travel, too.

Today’s newsletter gives you background for Ted and Priscilla. We are also starting with the basics — What are the differences between viruses and bacteria.

About Edward Fahy, MD and Priscilla Taylor, PNP

We are Ted, retired Pediatrician who is still an active Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Priscilla, retired Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.  Between us we have 85 years of clinical training and experience.  Pediatrics has always been a medical discipline primarily concerned with infectious disease.  We both were born when polio was rampant and rubella (German Measles) caused countless cases of mental retardation, hearing loss, heart defects and blindness – and when a bacterium called H. influenzae (NOT the same as the virus Influenza) killed thousands of kids per year in the U.S.  Ted’s very 1st patient in 1975 was an elderly woman who lived through the Influenza pandemic in Philadelphia in 1919.  She vividly recalled how a family in the brownstone next to hers all died in one night during that pandemic.  

Through long experience we are extremely familiar with infections.  Our goal is to explain the basics of epidemic disease so that you will have a context within which you can better evaluate information about COVID and better understand why at times there is so much confusion and lack of clarity.

Disclaimer

You can’t talk about epidemic disease without discussing three things: Biology, numbers, and understanding causation.  All three can be intimidating and/or boring.  We’ll do our best to make them interesting.

Viruses and Bacteria

These are profoundly different – and the differences mean everything.

Bacteria – are alive in every sense of that word.  They need food for energy (usually a sugar) and will reproduce every 20-40 minutes.  They are very genetically complex, with 4,000 – 5,000 genes. They have many hundreds of chemical reactions (“metabolism”).  They are relatively big – very easy to see with an ordinary microscope.  

Most importantly, it’s possible to treat and kill bacteria after they have infected the body because they are killed by antibiotics, which disrupt their chemical pathways.

The simplest example is penicillin, which kills streptococcus (as in strep throat).   Penicillin is taken by the strep and put in its cell wall….but that creates a weak wall structure and the bacterium literally explodes!!!!

Viruses – are not alive at all.  They don’t use food.  They are genetically extremely simple.  SARS-Cov-2 (today’s Covid) has about 31 genes.  Outside the body they are inert, do not duplicate, and have NO active chemical reactions.  They are incredibly tiny – impossible to see with a standard microscope.  They have a very different mechanism of actionfrom bacteria.  Much like magnets, they attach to a cell, squirt their genes into it, and hijack the cell’s chemistry, using very few chemical reactions to make copies of themselves. 

Here is a link to a description of exactly how COVID attaches to and inserts its RNA gets into our cells: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xuc9D4LVJdg or click on the video below

Viruses are literally self-copying xerox machines – so they produce new viral particles incredibly rapidly.   The numbers for viruses are staggering – almost incomprehensible.  If you take a nasal swab of someone with influenza, a single swab can contain 800 million viral particles. One single swab.  

Worse – You can’t “kill” them because they aren’t alive. This means that antibiotics don’t work.  Yes, there are some instances of antiviral agents, but none of them actually kill viruses.  They only inhibit the self-copying process or enable white blood cells to identify and destroy the viruses.  Once a virus infects a person, the main medical goal is to support of the body’s own defenses.  The primary approach to viral infection is immunization: Prevention by priming the immune system to recognize the virus ahead of time.

Next time:  Our immune system – White blood cells, antibodies, and how they work together to eliminate infectious organisms.

Norma’s Note: We don’t have a regular publishing schedule for Ted and Priscilla’s newsletter. We are hoping this short series will inform you over the next few weeks, in between our commentary about Oaxaca life and culture.

Notice: This is not intended to substitute for consultation with a medical professional. We are not providing medical advice or diagnosis. This is for general information purposes only. For all medical questions related to vaccines and COVID-19, please consult your medical professional.

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, we require all travelers with us to be fully vaccinated. This definition as of December 25, 2021, means two vaccines and a booster. Flu vaccines are strongly recommended. We also ask that our travelers bring and wear N95 or KN95 — which are demonstrated to offer maximum protection.

FYI: We have three vacancies for our March 8-16 study tour to Chiapas. Please contact Norma if you are interested.

And, as always, thank you for reading.