Are you looking for a last-minute meaningful gift? Are you looking for a creative Covid-19 diversion? Do you want to learn traditional Oaxaca embroidery techniques? Do you want to support an indigenous family who depends on textile sales for livelihood?
There is no tourism now, so no sales. My friend Susan deLone thought up this great way to learn and help a woman embroiderer in Oaxaca.
If your answer is YES to any of these questions above, please read on …
An Invitation from Susan deLone to Learn Oaxaca Embroidery
I am the director of a Latino tutoring program for families in New Jersey. All of our families come from the pueblos of Oaxaca. We started a Zoom class with craftswomen from Oaxaca to teach our moms and kids.
One talented woman, Rosa, has been teaching embroidery with great success. She is originally from the village of San Bartolome Ayautla, where women make exquisite embroidered blouses and dresses.
I attend these classes given by Rosa as well. The classes are in Spanish. Rosa is the wife of a Oaxaca doctor who was himself, infected with COVID-19 and spent two months in hospital. He had to learn to read and write all over again. He continues to improve.
Rosa is also a housekeeper for a Philadelphia family who now lives in Oaxaca.
I find Rosa to be exceptional…warm and patient, eager to teach, well prepared. She also gives homework! I enjoy her class very much.
I hope you will want to learn from her by Zoom. She will send a Zoom invitation to you once you have registered. We are taking registrations for an introductory set of 4 classes for $50 USD.
How to Register:
Mail a personal check for $50 USD to Susan deLone, 4300 Church Road, Doylestown, PA 18902. Questions: send an email to Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org Susan is looking into creating a Venmo account, too, for those who want to pay online.
More Class Info:
Each class is 40 minutes and there will be a set time depending on Rosa’s availability. There is no translator, however, Rosa’s hands are demonstration enough! It is easy to learn by watching. The figures are not as elaborate as those shown in these examples. They are very simple. Rosa draws a flower or a person and we draw on our own fabric. Rosa recommends that you use cotton. She teaches different stitches by demonstration. You have a week to do these patterns on your own, and then bring your work to the next class for show and tell.
You provide your own cotton, embroidery floss (thread), hoops, needles, scissors. White cotton is recommended.
In embroidery you can chat and have fun…it’s like having coffee with friends and also making something beautiful. This is a wonderful, meaningful gift to yourself or someone who appreciates needlework.
This is our 9th year offering this retreat! We will gather in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, from December 15 to 21, 2020, to reflect and write. Holiday traditions run deep here and it is a perfect place to explore our theme: ‘Tis the season for family, traditions, celebration, gift-giving, holiday expectations and disappointments, wishes fulfilled or not. The Christmas season evokes many memories and this is an opportunity to recreate them in a supportive environment. We are often inspired by our shared voices.
You may even think about staying on in the village or in Oaxaca after the retreat, inviting your family to join you for the traditional posadas, Night of the Radishes, and other events that happen during this magical time of year.
Winter solstice and other seasonal celebrations inspire us to revisit our memories of people and places, to dig in and go deep, and to write in whatever genre speaks to us: memoir, journaling, fiction, personal essay, creative nonfiction, and poetry. You will also participate in the Teotitlan del Valle Christmas posadas. Here you can explore traditional culture, values and celebrations to trigger your own experiences.
New and seasoned writers are welcome. Come to kindle and rekindle the writer’s life.
Cost is $1,369 per person for a shared room, and $1,885 for a private room. A 50% deposit will reserve your space.
Thursday, December 17: Morning yoga (optional), breakfast, independent writing, lunch, afternoon workshop, participate in Teotitlan del Valle posada, dinner on your own, coaching session (B, L)
Friday, December 18: Morning yoga (optional), breakfast, writing workshop, lunch, afternoon independent writing, optional activities/workshop visits or participate in Teotitlan del Valle posada, dinner on your own (B, L)
Saturday, December 19: Morning yoga (optional) breakfast, writing workshop, optional activities/workshop visits or participate in Teotitlan del Valle posada, dinner on your own (B, L)
Sunday, Sunday, December 20: Morning yoga (optional) breakfast, writing workshop, lunch on your own, afternoon independent writing, optional activities/workshop visits, group reading and celebration dinner (B, D)
Monday, December 21: Breakfast and depart (B)
We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.
You can add-on days in Teotitlan del Valle or Oaxaca before or after the retreat at your own expense. To get to Teotitlan del Valle, please buy a ticket at the airport for secure taxi service.
There will be optional daily activities in our schedule: gentle yoga, afternoon walks, and mini-seminars on writing topics such as writing effective description and dialogue, grammar, or submitting creative work for publication. Each person will have a private coaching session, too. We will also arrange visits to the home workshops of local artisans so you can delve more deeply into the culture.
What is included?
Complete instruction with 5 workshop sessions
6 nights lodging
transportation to local artisan studios
daily gentle yoga and meditation (optional, but included in fee)
mini-seminars on writing topics
one coaching session
Meet Robin Greene, Writer-Editor-Professor
We are pleased that Robin Greene is returning to lead this intensive writer’s retreat. This will be her ninth year teaching with us to rave reviews.
Novelist and Poet Robin Greene in Oaxaca, Mexico
Robin Greene is Professor of English and Writing and Director of the Writing Center at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC, where she held the McLean Endowed Chair in English from 2013-2016. Robin has published two collections of poetry (Memories of Light and Lateral Drift), two editions of a nonfiction book (Real Birth: Women Share Their Stories), and a novel (Augustus: Narrative of a Slave Woman). Robin’s second novel, The Shelf Life of Fire, is published by Light Messages Publishing, 2019, and Robin is currently working on a sequel.
Robin is a past recipient of a North Carolina-National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Writing, and has published over ninety pieces of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in literary journals. She has received two teaching awards, the latest of which, the Cleveland Award, received in 2017, is the most prestigious award offered by her university. Robin has given over a hundred academic presentations, literary readings, and writing workshops in a variety of venues throughout the US.
In addition, Robin is a registered yoga teacher (RYT200), cofounder and editor of Longleaf Press, and cofounder of Sandhills Dharma Group for Buddhist meditation. She holds a M.A. in English from Binghamton University and a M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Art at Norwich University.
What is a Workshop Session? The group meets daily for three hours to actively listen to each other’s writing, giving supportive and constructive feedback about what resonates or not. We offer guidelines for the process. Everyone takes a turn to read and everyone participates. Writers may accept or reject suggestions. Workshops offer an important learning tool for writers to gain feedback about how their words are communicated and understood.
How to Register: Cost is $1,369 per person for a shared room, and $1,885 for a private room. A 50% deposit will reserve your space. Send us an email to say you want to attend and if you want a shared or private room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice to secure your space.
Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance with a minimum of $50,000 of medical evacuation coverage. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure. In addition, we will send you by email a PDF of a witnessed waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We ask that you return this to us by email 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen! Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico!
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/from our program destination.
Reservations and Cancellations. We accept payment by credit card with an e-commerce service. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After October 1, 2020, refunds are not possible. If there is a cancelation on or before October 1, 50% of your deposit 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: The altitude is almost 6,000 feet. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, mostly narrow and have uneven paths. The stones can be a bit slippery, especially when walking across driveways that slant across the sidewalk to the street. We will do some walking. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let me know before you register. This may not be the workshop/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 plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.
How to Get To Oaxaca: United Airlines operates direct flights from Houston. American Airlines operates direct flights from DFW. Delta Airlines has a codeshare with AeroMexico with a connection to Oaxaca from Mexico City. All other major airlines fly to Mexico City where you can made independent connections on Interjet, Aeromar (code share with United), Volaris and VivaAerobus. Check Skyscanner for schedules and fares before you book. Note: I always book directly with the carrier for better customer service.
Workshop Details and Travel Tips: Before the workshop begins, we will email you study tour details and documents that includes travel tips and information.
To get your questions answered and to register, contact Norma Schafer. This retreat is produced by Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.
This is our 8th year to offer the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Gentle Yoga Retreat from June 22-29, 2018. We want a full-house and are offering a 10% discount off the already high-value, low price of $895 for a shared room and $1195 for a single room. It’s not too late to get on board and join us.
Who is this for? Beginning and experienced writers, those who believe they can do it and need inspiration and coaching, note-jotters and margin-scribblers. Do you have an idea for a novel, a memoir, a prose poem, a travel piece or family history? This is the place for you.
The on-going discussion endures about whether one bargains in Mexico with vendors for a lower price. Is it a cultural norm or expectation? Many say, Yes.
Colorful Oaxaca armadillo now tops my bookcase. I paid the ask price.
Others resist for obvious reasons. Why? The exchange rate is in favor of Europeans, Estadounidenses (those from USA) and Canadienses (those from Canada). Mexicans have always been undervalued for their labor.
Chiapas potter/clay sculptor. Small jaguars are 150 pesos.
They say the average daily Mexican wage is 150-200 pesos. I’ve also heard 88 pesos a day and 100 pesos a day. At today’s exchange rate of 18.2 pesos to the USD, 200 pesos is about $11 USD per day. In Chiapas, where I just returned from, skilled women weavers on the back-strap loom, creating garments with intricate supplemental weft, earn about 30 pesos per hour.
Here’s what my friend and colleague Sheri Brautigam, in her book Textile Fiestas of Mexico, says about shopping and bargaining:
“I know everyone likes to get a deal, but I feel this attitude takes advantage of the position of the artisan who made the item; it’s an exploitation model of the past.
For the most part, artisans are quite humble when they present their work, and they possibly have in mind the price they would like to get for their item. Often, almost immediately, they will bring the price down if they see you hesitate more than a few seconds. They want you to buy it. This is because local Mexicans are ruthless when they bargain, and the artisan — if she really is in need of making a sale for her survival — can be reduced to selling the item for barely the cost of the materials.”
hand-woven huipil takes three months to make.
There is more, of course. I suggest you get this valuable Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets and Smart Shopping.
The same applies to all artisan craft throughout Mexico, not just textiles. Pottery. Carved and painted wood figures. Masks. Guitars. Silver jewelry. Handcrafted food.
Organic pumpkin pie with corn meal crust, $3 USD, from Jorge Daniel Bautista, Union Zapata
Think about your position when you ask for a discount. You are the person NOT making 200 pesos per day. If an item costs 500 pesos and you want it for 400, in all likelihood it is priced fairly and the extra 100 pesos represents almost a full day of work to the maker. To you, it is a $5 difference. A cup of coffee at Starbucks.
We have this discussion among expats and visitors in Oaxaca all the time — to bargain or not? There is a private Facebook group, Clandestine Oaxaca Appreciation Society, where members address the question repeatedly.
Intricately embroidered blouse, San Bartolome Ayautla, 8 months to make
Many who are proponents of bargaining are like Accidental Tourists, armchair travelers who occasionally get out of their seats, embark on a vacation and think that bargaining is part of the entertainment. Anne Tyler’s protagonist in her novel hates traveling, and does so only “with his eyes shut and holding his breath and hanging on for dear life.” Yet, he enjoys “the virtuous delights of organizing a disorganized country” while pretending he never left home. Does this sound like anyone you know?
Why do artisans lower their prices?
The season is slow and sales haven’t been good
They need money for food, to pay rent, to buy gasoline, to buy raw materials, to pay for school books and bus fare — in other words, cash flow
There’s a family emergency, and since this is a cash economy, they need cash
They may have lower self-esteem because they are the underclass, treated to believe that what they make has little or no value
What do you think?
Why do tourists bargain?
I think about this question in terms of cultural, political and socio-economic disparities. It might include being unconscious about where we are and our relationship to the people around us. We might conjure up the stereotypical image of Mexico thirty or forty years ago and apply it today. Perhaps, we are totally unaware of the daily or artisan wage. We might say, Oh, it’s cheaper to live here, they don’t need as much. We assume that the government takes care of its poor. (There is no social security in Mexico.) We like the power that the exchange rate gives us and the ability to strike a deal.
What is the value of a natural dye wool rug, 8 weeks in the making?
What about the foreign community from the USA and Canada who live in Oaxaca full-time or for many months of the year? We might say:
Tourism drives up local prices, from artisanry to rents
We learn to identify higher prices and walk away from them
We understand that if we buy five or 10 items, we can ask if there is a discount
We know that if we use a credit card, the merchant/vendor is paying 16% tax at a minimum
We ask if there is a discount for cash
We want to buy local and direct from the artisan, so we don’t pay overhead
We want the price to be in pesos, not US dollars
We are careful because we are retired, on a fixed income, and while we love the art, we can’t usually afford it
Art is subjective, and the price is based on what the seller and buyer agree to
What do you think?
I’ve been thinking about bargaining in today’s Mexico consumer environment where class and race drives business and success. Is it institutional racism to bargain and drive a hard bargain with an indigenous person who has few resources, little or no education, and limited health care access?
Juana and her granddaughter, Luz Angelica. Her future?
Only each of us can answer this for ourselves. Are we willing to look at our own buying behavior and make adjustments? What is our personal view of cultural sensitivity?
Wandering around San Cristobal de Las Casas last week I discovered Punto y Trama, on Belisario Dominguez #13b, just two blocks off the Andador Real de Guadalupe walking street. What drew me in was the sign on the door that announced PomPom workshops.
Lazaro Ramirez trimming a PomPom to perfection
Then, once inside I immediately noticed the furry wool Chamula woven shawls adorned with PomPoms. A new fashion trend, I noted.
First, you wrap 6 threads of yarn around a tube 150 times.
Slide the yarn off the tube.
PomPoms are big here in San Cristobal. They dangle from everything: necks, ears, wrists, shoulder and handbags, woven string shopping bags, and garments. They serve as functional ties and outrageous adornment. Sometimes they are combined with hearts, beads, Frida portraits, tassels.
Tie the yarn tight with waxed linen
I decided to take a PomPom making workshop, fascinated by another way to work with fiber as part of textile and clothing design.
Cut all the loops open
Cut, cut, cut, holding the yarn ball at the poles
This is a three-hour one-day workshop OR six-hour two-day workshop taught by Lazaro Ramirez, whose family is originally from Magdalenas Aldama. The cost is 350 pesos per session. That translates to about $18 USD at the current exchange rate.
Keep cutting around the equator, turning the ball constantly
Use a sharp scissor. You’ll be cutting bits at a time, like shaving
At the end of three hours I had made three PomPoms. I decided to order the quantity I wanted from Lazaro instead of making them myself. The class exercise gave me a great appreciation for the time needed to craft one PomPom, which he sells at 15 pesos each. And, each one is perfect.
The green one is almost done but still ragged. Yellow is perfect.
Fifteen pesos each equals about eight cents. That’s eight cents an hour, including labor and materials.
Here is the PomPom and tassel I made. Lazaro made the heart.
Lazaro says you can use wool to make the PomPoms, but synthetic polyester yarn is finer and gives a tight, compact product with glorious colors — electric, like the people here prefer.
Included in the class are heart making and embroidery techniques
I learned all the wrapping, tying and cutting techniques. The most time consuming is to hold the PomPom at the “north and south poles” and to cut along the “equator,” constantly turning until a perfect ball forms. Not an easy task, I learned.
Choose your style of PomPom and heart, examples to make
Inspired, Juanita takes the class tonight.
I intend to use the PomPoms to decorate the checked wool shawls I bought in Chamula last week. They make great pillows, bed throws, or a shoulder covering on a chilly night — with pizzazz.
PomPom adorned wool shawl hand-woven in Chamula, back strap loom
Punto y Trama owner Manuela Trevini Bellini supports #fashionrevolution
#fashrev: It’s estimated that 80 billion pieces of clothing are shipped from factories and distributed around the world.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
Click image to order yours!
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Our Clients Include
*Penland School of Crafts
*North Carolina State University
*WARP Weave a Real Peace
We send printable map via email PDF usually within 48-hours after order received. 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
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle