We are based in the historic Chiapas mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, the center of the Maya world in Mexico. Here we will explore the textile traditions of ancient people who weave on back strap looms. Women made cloth on simple looms here long before the Spanish conquest in 1521 and their techniques translate into stunning garments admired and collected throughout the world today. Colorful. Vibrant. Warm. Exotic. Connecting. Words that hardly describe the experience that awaits you.
Tuesday, February 14 to Wednesday, February 23, 2017, 9 nights and 10 days in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
Small group! Registration limited to 12 people.
I am committed to give you a rich cultural immersion experience that goes deep rather than broad. We cover a lot of territory, but it’s not physical! That is why we are spending nine nights in this amazing Pueblo Magico — Magic Town — to focus on Maya textiles and weaving traditions. Our day trips will take us into villages, homes and workshops to meet the people who keep their traditions vibrant. This is an interpersonal experience to better know and appreciate Mexico’s amazing artisans.
Take this study tour to learn about:
- the culture, history and identity of cloth
- spinning wool and weaving with natural dyes
- clothing design and construction
- symbols and meaning of textile designs
- choice of colors and fibers that reflect each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
- mystical folk medicine practices that blend Maya ritual and Spanish Catholicism
- Chiapas folk art and handcrafts
- Chiapas amber — rare and affordable gemstone
- market days and village mercantile economy
- local cuisine, coffee and chocolate
- how to determine the best textile quality and value
I have invited textile collector Sheri Brautigam to join me to give you a special, in-depth experience. Sheri writes the blog Living Textiles of Mexico and is recognized for her particular knowledge of Chiapas Maya textiles. She is author of the Thrums soon-to-be-published Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping. (I’ve contributed two chapters with photos, one for Tenancingo de Degollado and the other for Teotitlan del Valle!)
I have also engaged one of San Cristobal’s most well-informed local guides who will travel with us to provide bi-lingual services for understanding the nuances in translation. We will travel in a luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van as we go deep into the Maya world.
Tuesday, February 14: Meet me at the Mexico City Airport. We will fly together from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez and transfer to San Cristobal de las Casas (SCDLC) by pre-arranged van service together. I will let you know which airline/flight to book and meet you at the Mexico City airport as soon as you register. If you prefer to not coordinate air travel, please make your own arrangements to get from Tuxtla to SCDLC. Arrive in time for group dinner at 7 pm. (D)
Wednesday, February 15: Our first day in San Cristobal de las Casas orients you to the Textiles in the Maya World. You will learn about weaving and embroidery traditions, patterns and symbols, women and villages, history and culture. After a breakfast discussion we will visit Centro Textiles Mundo Maya museum, Sna Jolobil for the finest regional textiles made, and meander the Santo Domingo outdoor market that takes over the plaza in front of the church. We will then guide you along the walking streets to get your bearings. (B, L) Dinner on your own.
Thursday, February 16: Tenejapa is about an hour and a world away from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Today is market day when villagers line the streets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and often textiles. We’ll meander the market to see what’s there. In years past, I’ve found some stunning shawls, huipils and bags here. Then, we will visit the outstanding textile cooperative founded by Doña Maria Meza Giron who founded the Sna Jolobil cooperative. We’ll also stop in Romerillo to see the larger than life pine-bough covered Maya blue and green crosses. Return to San Cristobal de Las Casas in time for dinner on your own. (B, L)
Friday, February 17: Today is a walking day, devoted to visiting textile cooperatives in San Cristobal de las Casas. You will learn about international collaborations and textile design that conserves traditions while meeting marketplace needs for exquisite and utilitarian cloth. In the early evening, we visit Museo de Trajes Regionales and humanitarian Sergio Castro, who has a large private collection of Maya indigenous daily and ceremonial dress representing each Chiapas region. (B, D)
Saturday: February 18: Amantenango del Valle and Aguacatenango to see the whimsical and functional wood and dung fired pottery – the way its been done for centuries. Wonderful roosters, spotted jaguar sculptures and ornamental dishes. This is a textile village, too, where women embroider garments with designs that look like graphic art. We’ll travel to neighboring Aguacatenango, to visit a well-known embroiderer who has won many awards. (B, L) Dinner on your own.
Sunday, February 19: This is a big day! First we go to San Lorenzo Zinacantan, where greenhouses cover the hillsides. Here, indigenous dress is embellished in exquisite floral designs, mimicking the flowers they grow. First we visit the church, bedecked in fresh flowers. Then we’ll meet weavers and embroiderers in their home workshops. Next stop is magical, mystical San Juan Chamula where the once-Catholic church is given over to a pre-Hispanic pagan religious practice that involves chickens, eggs and coca-cola. We’ll roam Chamula’s abundant textile market, compare and contrast fabrics and designs, then visit the home workshop of a Chamula woman in her village outside of town who will give us a full demonstration that includes spinning, back strap loom weaving, dyeing, and the unique Chamula process for making the long-haired tunics. (B, L) Dinner on your own.
Monday, February 20: We will set out by foot after breakfast for a full morning at Na Balom, Jaguar House, the home/of anthropologist Franz Blom and his photographer wife, Gertrude Duby Blom. The house is now a museum filled with pre-Hispanic and jewelry collections. We walk the gardens and learn about Trudy’s work with the Lacandon tribe and relationship with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. After lunch at Na Balom, you will have the afternoon and evening on your own. (B, L)
Tuesday, February 21: Today, we want to give you enough time to know and discover San Cristobal de Las Casas. We will suggest destinations to explore on your own: the Maya Medicine Museum, Jade Museum, Chocolate Museum, and Coffee Museum. We can also recommend an optional cooking class with one of the city’s top chefs and make those arrangements for you in advance for an added cost. You may want to use your time to explore the town’s wonderful churches, learn about the Zapatista movement, revisit textile shops or just stroll the lively walking streets stopping for a great cup of Chiapas coffee and people watching. A surprise artisan demonstration, show and sale may pop-up sometime during the day, too. (B)
Wednesday, February 22: Men from Magdalena Aldama who weave bags made from ixtle, agave cactus leaf fiber, join us at our hotel after breakfast. Accompanying them are the women who make flashy beaded necklace strings and beautiful hand-woven huipils. Afternoon is on your own to do last minute shopping and packing in preparation for your trip home. We end our study tour with a gala group goodbye dinner. (B, D)
Thursday, February 23: Depart. We will coordinate departures with included van service from San Cristobal de las Casas to the Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. You will connect from Tuxtla to Mexico City and then on to your home country. Please wait to make you airplane reservations until you hear from us about van departure time.
What Is Included
- 9 nights lodging at a top-rated San Cristobal de las Casas hotel within easy walking distance of the historic center
- 9 breakfasts
- 6 lunches
- 3 dinners
- museum and church entry fees
- luxury van transportation
- outstanding and complete guide services
- transfers to/from Tuxtla Gutierrez airport
The workshop 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.
- $2,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
- $2,795 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)
There will be a sign-up in advance for a cooking class on Tuesday, February 21. Please let me know if you are interested in this option. Cost to be announced.
Who Should Attend
- Textile and fashion designers
- Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
- Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
- Photographers and artists who want inspiration
- Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration
In years past, I have purchased lengths of used hand-woven ikat Maya skirt fabric to repurpose into clothing and upholstery.
Reservations and Cancellations. A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The first 30% payment is due on or before October 15, 2016. The second 30% payment is due on or before December 31, 2016. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 31, 2016, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before December 31, 2016, we will refund 50% of your deposit.
Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 30 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 30 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen!
Workshop Details and Travel Tips. Before the workshop begins, we will email you study tour details and documents that includes extensive 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. We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.
Khadi Oaxaca Clothing Now Comes in Yardage, Too
Khadi Oaxaca makes hand-spun organic cotton. Over 100 indigenous women participate in this cooperative located in the Oaxaca mountains halfway between the Oaxaca city and the coast. It takes about three hours to get there.
Dress with rolled sleeves and patch pockets.
At the winter Museo Textil de Oaxaca expoventa (show and sale), Khadi Oaxaca presented an extensive selection of beautiful clothing — mostly ponchos, quechquemitls, huipils and men’s shirts. Some of the textiles are woven on the back strap loom and others on the counterbalance pedal loom also called a flying shuttle loom.
There was lots to choose from, including bolts of beautiful handwoven material. The cotton is dyed with indigo, pericone (wild marigold) and Khadi Oaxaca also harvests and spins coyuchi, a caramel-colored, very soft wild cotton indigenous to Oaxaca and becoming very rare.
Khadi Oaxaca fabric close up, with neckline detail. Organic handspun cotton: indigo, coyuchi, pericone.
I was beside myself and had this urge to sew up a dress using a paper pattern I made from a favorite dress. I have made this dress design several times and the Khadi Oaxaca yardage was calling me. Especially the piece woven with coyuchi, indigo and pericone.
Yardage? Not exactly.
We are in Mexico and fabric length is measured in meters, not yards. We measured the dress I was wearing (one of the favorites) and decided I needed four meters, compensating for the fact that the cloth is 15-1/4″ wide. There are 0.914 meters to the yard or 1.093 yards to the meter. Never mind that after cutting out the pattern, I was substantially short! Could I make this dress sleeveless? I think not.
The Museo Textile de Oaxaca has Khadi Oaxaca textile lengths for sale. When I sent a message to Khadi Oaxaca, they told me they would bring the meters I needed to museum! Thank you and hallelujah for great customer service. Price: 350 pesos per meter.
Patch pockets. French seams! Love the slubs and irregularities of the weave.
After the intensity of our Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat last week that I fully participated in, writing about mother, father, family and home, I loved the down-time that this project gave me. I’ll be writing about the retreat in days to come.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Textiles, Tapestries & Weaving, Travel & Tourism
Tagged cotton, coyuchi, dress design, fabric, indigo, Khadi Oaxaca, Mexico, Oaxaca, pericone, Sewing, textiles, wild marigold, yardage