No where is Day of the Dead celebrated with more authenticity than in the villages.
The artisans we visit in Teotitlan del Vallenot only talk about and demonstrate their craft, they will discuss their personal experiences and traditions growing up and honoring their ancestors during Day of the Dead. When you participate with us, you will go deep into a rich Zapotec history and culture that pre-dates the Spanish conquest of Oaxaca in 1522 and the settlement of Oaxaca as a colonial capitol.
We pick you up at 9:00 a.m. at a central location in the Historic District of Oaxaca city and return you there by 6:00 p.m. We will let you know the location two-weeks before the tour.
We welcome you into the Altar Room of each artisan we visit to pay respects to the family and their ancestors. We have arranged for permission for you to take photos and participate in some of the rituals, including tasting Pan de Muertos and Hot Chocolate made locally from toasted cacao beans. All along the way, you will learn more about how this tradition is celebrated, with its deep pre-Hispanic indigenous roots.
Our itinerary includes stops to see
a traditional flying shuttle loom weaver who creates award winning home goods and clothing
a famous rug weaving family that works only in the highest quality wool and natural dyes
a chocolate maker who uses grandmothers’ recipes to make delicious eating chocolate
a Grand Master of Mexican Folk Art beeswax candlemaker
an accomplished women’s cooperative that fashions leather trimmed handbags
lunch at a local restaurant owned by a traditional chef who prepares exquisite food
Registration. Tour cost is $138 per person. This includes transportation in a luxury van, bilingual guide services with translation, cemetery visit and lunch. A $35 non-refundable deposit per person will reserve your space.
Final payment is due in cash (either dollars or equivalent pesos) on the day of the tour.
Deposits can be made with a Zelle transfer (no service fee), or with Venmo or PayPal (with a 3% service fee). Please tell us by email which payment method you prefer along with your intent to participate, how many people will be in your party, and we will send you a request for funds. Thank you.
Get a head start on Day of the Dead and arrive a few days early to enjoy the rich artisan culture and history of our region’s villages. Each artisan we visit along the Ocotlan Highway will not only talk about and demonstrate their craft, they will discuss their personal experiences and traditions growing up and honoring their ancestors during Day of the Dead. When you participate with us, you will go deep into a rich Zapotec history and culture that pre-dates the Spanish conquest of 1521 and the settlement of Oaxaca as a colonial capitol.
It’s Friday! Ocotlan Market Day. Here we will meander the aisles to explore the special foods, flowers and decorations needed for Day of the Dead home altars. This includes special breads, marigolds that help the deceased find their way back to their living families with the aroma, copal incense, sugar cane stalks, candles, hot chocolate and famous Oaxaca mole. Each has a meaning we will explain to you.
Our day together starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. We will pick you up at a central meeting place in the Historic Center of Oaxaca. We will notify you of the location two weeks before the tour.
As we go down the Ocotlan Highway, we stop to visit a famous black pottery maker in San Bartolo Coyotepec. She tells us that working with the clay brings her peace, offers her a voice as a woman, and keeps alive the heritage she is so proud of. Our master potter is also an important volunteer official in village administration, one of the first women in the region to serve in this capacity. After her household chores are completed, she takes refuge in her workshop to give life to mermaids, angels, birds and other creatures of her imagination. Barro negro (black clay) is a craft that was made Oaxaca famous by Doña Rosa, and the tradition continues today.
We continue on to explore the workshop and techniques of one of the best alebrijes makers in Oaxaca. Alebrijes are intricately carved copal wood anthropomorphic figures that are then highly decorated in detail with the finest brush strokes to evoke a sense of a living figure. The village of San Martin Tilcajete is best known for this type of work. After the studio visit, we make our way to ALMU restaurant out in the campo (countryside) where traditional cooks prepare lunch in the ancient style over wood-fired clay comales. You will sample mole negro the way it is made in the villages, an important offering during Day of the Dead during the family meal.
Then, we stop to explore the life-size clay figures of sculptor and Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art Don Jose Garcia and his family. The outdoor patio is filled with completed and works in progress and a walk-in wood-fired kiln to hold the gargantuan pieces. Don Jose is blind but feels his work with his hands. We have known him for over 15 years, before he was invited repeatedly to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
Each family we visit will describe their traditional celebrations for Day of the Dead along with giving us a demonstration of their craft.
A visit down the Ocotlan Highway also necessitates a stop at the county administrative building that houses some amazing frescoes — murals painted by famous artist Rodolfo Morales. He restored the adjacent church and a museum is established next to it in honor of his contributions. In fact, the town was renamed Ocotlan de Morales to honor him. Ocotlan is known for woven baskets, leather work, and a hat maker who fashions sombreros out of beaver and rabbit fur.
Join us to learn about cultural customs around Day of the Dead as you prepare for your own celebrations in Oaxaca.
Tour cost is $138 per person. This includes transportation in a luxury van, bilingual guide services with translation, and lunch. A $35 non-refundable deposit per person will reserve your space.
Final payment is due in cash (either dollars or equivalent pesos) on the day of the tour.
Deposits can be made with a Zelle transfer (no service fee), or with Venmo or PayPal (with a 3% service fee). Please tell us by email which payment method you prefer along with your intent to participate, how many people will be in your party, and we will send you a request for funds. We will confirm once we receive your deposit. Thank you.
We are doing a cultural textile tour from July 25-31, 2022 where extraordinary garments are made by very talented weavers. This includes two days up into the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. We want to fill our van! So, we are offering one-day travel opportunities to Oaxaca residents, collectors and visitors. Join our travel group for one or both days! We have space for 4 more travelers on each day.
Day 1–July 27: San Pedro Cajonos Silk Weaving Village
On July 27 we depart Teotitlan del Valle at 8 a.m. for a two and-a-half hour luxury van ride up the mountain to San Pedro Cajonos. If you haven’t been there, this is your opportunity! We visit one of the finest, most distinguished silk weaving cooperatives in all of Mexico. Here, high in the Sierra Madre del Sur, Moises Martinez and his group created a sanctuary to cultivate and preserve silkworm production, with hand-spinning, natural dyeing and weaving. Yes! They grow the mulberry trees to feed the silkworms before they spin their cocoons. The cocoons are silk! You will see the entire process — growing, spinning, dyeing and weaving — and meet these talented weavers. They will prepare a homemade lunch for us and show us their silk textiles and accessories that are for sale. Garments include blouses, dresses, shawls, scarves and jewelry. We return to Teotitlan del Valle before suppertime.
Day 2–July 29: Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec
On July 29, we depart Teotitlan del Valle at 8 a.m. to travel two hours on our luxury van to the mountain village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec. Many of you may have heard of the village when several years ago a French designer appropriated the cultural heritage design of the blouses that are made here and marketed them as her own. Here you will meet weavers and embroiderers who work on the back-strap and pedal looms in wool and cotton. They use locally dyed alderwood tree bark called Palo de Aguila in Spanish to yield soft, creamy brown, beige and orange colors that are distinctive and beautiful. We will discuss with the family the issues of cultural appropriation and copyright, and what we as buyers can do to support their cultural patrimony. They also use banana tree bark, indigo, cochineal and wild marigold to dye the threads before weaving. After lunch, we will visit a large format potter famous for his amazing pieces featured in museums and private collections around the world. We return to Teotitlan del Valle before suppertime.
Cost: $395 each day. Or, register for both days at $735. Cost includes luxury transportation originating from and returning to Teotitlan del Valle, lunch, snacks and water, cultural commentary and textile expertise, bilingual English-Spanish translation services with a native Spanish speaker, and an adventure into remote mountain villages that you may never be able to do on your own.
Send us an email to register. Payment can be made in full with a Zelle transfer (no service fee) or with PayPal or Venmo (with a 3% service fee). Let us know which payment method you prefer.
Your knowledgeable guides are Eric Chavez Santiago, co-director and Norma Schafer, founder and co-director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.
Eric is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexico 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. 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.
Norma founded Oaxaca Cultural Navigator in 2006 while she was a senior staff administrator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, hundreds of people have traveled with Norma to experience the art, culture and textiles of Oaxaca, Chiapas and other parts of Mexico. About 65% of all participants return to take workshops, day tours and extended travel programs, an indication of client loyalty and satisfaction.
Note: To travel with us, you must be Covid vaccinated. Everyone over age 50 is required to have two boosters. Please send us a copy of your vaccine card upon registration. In addition, N95 and KN95 face masks are required for all indoor activities. We observe US CDC guidelines regarding same. We do this out of respect for each other and for native peoples who have not had access to the quality of vaccines that we enjoy. We will ventilate the van and most of our activities will take place outdoors.
We also strongly recommend for these two day tours that you have travel insurance for accident protection.
Travel to/from Teotitlan del Valle is on your own. Please make your own arrangements to arrive by the departing time. When you register, we will send details of where to meet and recommendations for Teotitlan taxi drivers who can pick you up in the city and return you there at the end of our day.
Thank you very much! Let us know if you have any questions.
This one-day customized study tour takes you beyond Oaxaca City and into the villages along the highway to Ocotlan de Morelos, the home of famed Mexican painter and muralist Rodolfo Morales (1925-2001). We schedule this excursion based on your travel plans and our availability.
You can choose to visit four (4) of the following options from this menu of mixed media experiences:
Black pottery making in San Bartolo Coyotepec
A back-strap loom weaving workshop in Santo Tomas Jalieza
A fine copal wood carver and painter (alebrijes) in San Martin Tilcajete
A family of clay sculptors in San Antonino Castillo Velasco
A group of embroiderers in San Antonino Castillo Velasco
A visit to the Morelos murals, museum and market meander in the Ocotlan municipal center
We don’t go on Fridays, the frenzied day of the Ocotlan Market, when there is a crush of people and visitors and it’s too difficult to savor the experience.
What is included?
Transportation to/from Oaxaca City Historic Center
Expert explanations of art and craft
Curated visits to meet some of the best artisans we know
$325 per day for one or two people. $165 per person additional. Does not include lunch or beverages. You will cover the cost of lunch for those in your party and the cost of lunch for your tour leader.
Schedule your dates directly with Norma Schafer. You reserve for the dates you prefer. Please send us a couple of options. You are welcome to organize your own small group. We match your travel schedule with our availability.
This is for a full day, starting at 9 a.m. when we pick you up and ending at about 6 p.m. when we return you to your Oaxaca lodging. Please provide us with hotel/lodging address and phone number.
Reservations and Cancellations
We require a non-refundable 50% deposit via an e-commerce payment service. We will send you an invoice when you tell us you are ready to register and we confirm dates. The 50% balance is due on the day of the tour in cash, either USD or MXN pesos (at the current exchange rate). When we receive funds, we will send you confirmation and details. Be sure to send us the name and address for where you are staying.
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 Toursd 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 weaving relationships, customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
*Selvedge Magazine-London, UK
*Esprit Travel and Tours
*Penland School of Crafts
*North Carolina State University
*WARP Weave a Real Peace
We offer textile experiences in our studio where we weave and work only in natural dyes.You can see the process during our textile tours, dye workshops or customized weaving experiences. Ask us for more information about these experiences, customized scheduling, and prices.
One-Day Custom Tours: Tell Us When You Want to Go!
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.
1-Day OaxacaCity Collectors Textile Tour.Exclusive Access! We take you into the homes and workshops of Oaxaca State's prize-winning weavers. They come from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Mixteca, Mixe, Amuzgos and Triqui areas and represent their weaving families and cooperatives here. For collectors, retailers, buyers, wholesalers, fashionistas.
February 5-13, 2023: Bucket List Tour: Monarch Butterflies + Michoacan. Spiritual, mystical connection to nature. Go deep into weaving, pottery, mask-making and more! We haven't offered this tour since 2019 and we anticipate it will sell out quickly.
October 27, 2023: Day of the Dead Ocotlan Highway Tour, One Day. 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).
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.
Go on all 3 Day of the Dead Tours -- Get a 10% Discount
Go with Us in 2024: Get on the Interested List
January 2024--Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour
February 2024--Mexico City, Puebla + Tlaxcala
Late February 2024--Textile Study Tour to Chiapas
Stay Healthy. Stay Safe. In Oaxaca, wear your mask. Questions? Want TO REGISTER or more info? Send an email to Norma Schafer.
Maps: Teotitlan + Tlacolula Market
We require 48-hour advance notice for map orders to be processed. We send a printable map via email PDF after order 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