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Norma Writes for Selvedge Magazine Issues #89 + #109
Creating Connection and 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
We Contribute Two Chapters!
Meet Makers. Make a DifferenceOaxaca 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 *MINNA *University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Tell us how we can put a program together for you! Send an email email@example.com
- WEAVE Podcast: Oaxaca Coast Textiles & Tour
- NY Times, Weavers Embrace Natural Dye Alternatives
- NY Times, Open Thread–Style News
- NY Times, 36-Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico
- Cooking Classes–El Sabor Zapoteco
- Currency Converter
- Fe y Lola Rugs by Chavez Santiago Family
- Friends of Oaxaca Folk Art
- Hoofing It In Oaxaca Hikes
- Living Textiles of Mexico
- Mexican Indigenous Textiles Project
- Museo Textil de Oaxaca
- Oaxaca Lending Library
- Oaxaca Weather
- Taller Teñido a Mano Natural Dyes
San Juan Chamula, Chiapas: No Photographs, Please
It’s impossible to take a photograph inside the once-Catholic church of San Juan Chamula. It is a Sunday haven of pre-Hispanic mysticism, with folk practices that go way back in indigenous history. Tourists are warned to tread lightly.
My body aches to take a photograph of the family crouched on pine needles in front of a sainted altar surrounded by a pile of eggs, a live chicken, and dozens of burning candles affixed to the tiled floor where the pine needles have been swept aside.
Taking photos in the church is verboten. Forbidden. In years past I have seen village officials who mind the church protocol confiscate the cameras and memory cards of those who sneak a pic. Impossible to be sneaky here. Sometimes, if a tourist resists, s/he is put in the local jail.
Our group from Penland School of Crafts is compliant. We tuck camera’s away into shoulder bags and backpacks. We are not going to tempt the fates or the village fathers.
A woman kneels in prayer singing in an ancient tongue, a melody pitched so that the gods will hear her. Another keens. Another weeps. A shaman makes a blessing with an offering of coca-cola and mezcal. Burping the fizzy drink is believed to cleanse the soul. Sunlight streams through the high side window and beneath the glow the people are bathed in shadow and light. The space is illuminated. Smells like piney forest, smokey candles, the burst of lilies and roses.
Feet are bare and worn. Feet are brown and calloused. Women’s furry black sheep wool skirts are tied at the waist with glittery cummerbunds. Their blouses, silky polyester, are embroidered with intricate diamonds, birds, flowers, zig-zags and snap at the throat. It’s cold at 7,000 feet elevation.
This is sacred space, like being in a cave. Here the human and divine spirit are one and belief is powerful. I guess no photographs are necessary to remember.
Beyond the church courtyard is a lively market place to buy hand spun and embroidered wool from the town, strange fruit, clothing from surrounding villages, meat, poultry, vegetables tortillas and bread. Amber and jade vendors hawk their wares. Little old ladies whose garments are beyond wearing, peddle purses, bracelets and keychains.
Today, the plaza is lined with indigenous women and children from outlying hamlets, hundreds of them. They sit on the edge waiting. What are you waiting for? I ask one of them. She replies, we wait to receive an every-two-month stipend of 850 pesos. Soon, they form a line and hurry to the back of the government building. Their support is equivalent to $45USD per month. Of course, she doesn’t want her picture taken.
We organize arts workshop study tours with an educational focus. Contact us to bring a group!
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Health Care, Travel & Tourism
Tagged Catholic, Chiapas, church, indigenous, markets, Mexico, mystical, photography, religion, San Juan Chamula, spirituality, syncretism