January 31 to February 7, 2020, 8 days and 7 nights.
Come with us to explore the Oaxaca we know and love by going deep and personal. We offer you an unparalleled and eclectic cultural immersion travel experience by introducing you to the artisans we believe offer some of the finest examples of folk art and craft the Oaxaca City region has to offer. We know each of them personally and have cultivated their trust and friendship over the years. During our week together we take you into their homes and workshops to investigate and explore why they are makers, who they learned from, the value and importance of continuing their traditions, and the special techniques they have developed to become masters.
- $2,795 per person for a shared room (2 rooms available)
- $3,395 per person for private room (5 Queens and 2 Kings available).
The city of Oaxaca is a travel destination that is on the map. Her artisan craft, fine and unique cuisine, delicious beverages (from fruit waters to mezcal) and UNESCO Colonial Historic Center receive wide acclaim – and justly so! You’ll sample some of this as we also focus on meeting the masters who weave rugs and clothing, make silver filigree jewelry, ceramics, woodcarvings, lead-free ceramics, and more. Many have not yet achieved worldwide fame but they are equally as talented as those who have, and offer what they make at affordable prices.
Most importantly, we offer the opportunity to meet the makers and support them and their families directly. This is an important mission of ours as we travel into the backstreets of villages where not many have the opportunity to go.
This program is for collectors, lovers of Mexican art and folk art, and anyone with curiosity and an open heart who wants to learn more about Oaxaca, Mexico, and her creative traditions. Even if you have been to Oaxaca before, there is still a lot more to discover and we take you on that path.
We will be a small group of travelers — no more than 12 to 14 people — to give you an intimate and in-depth experience.
Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC and Norma Schafer is pleased to tell you that Eric Chavez Santiago and his wife Elsa Sanchez Diaz have joined our organization and will co-lead this tour. They are native Oaxaquenos, possess a broad and deep knowledge of the region and have years of experience working with Oaxaca’s outstanding craftspeople. Both are bilingual. Elsa is an expert teacher and maker of natural dyes. Eric is a Zapotec weaver and dyer who was born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle. Both have deep roots in Oaxaca’s artisan communities, are knowledgeable about artisan made textiles and folk art and know the best of the best.
Elsa, Eric and I developed this itinerary together to present to you for our first Oaxaca Discovery Study Tour.
Day 1, Friday, January 31: Travel day, arrive to Oaxaca City and check in to your hotel. Meet the group for a welcome supper. Please schedule your flights to arrive to our historic center hotel by 5 p.m. Welcome dinner included.
Day 2, Saturday, February 1: We set out after breakfast for a Oaxaca city meander. This day is designed to give you an overview introduction to see the best available of Oaxaca’s textiles and folk art. We have curated visits to some of the finest shops and galleries to discuss, discern and differentiate quality, and understand pricing. You’ll learn about Oaxaca’s back-story – history, cultural appreciation, social and economic forces, craft development and evolution. We will have lunch at a highly rated comedor that serves authentic Oaxaca food. This is a big walking day. Please bring comfortable shoes and all your stamina! Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.
Day 3, Sunday, February 2: After breakfast we travel along the Ocotlan artisan route to explore the Oaxaca State Museum of Folk Art in San Bartolo Coyotepec. We will talk about why this museum is important to Oaxaca craft development. We continue on to meet the maker of amazing carved wood and painted whimsical figures in San Martin Tilcajete. After lunch on the road, we see back strap loom weavers in Santo Tomas Jalieza, and a noted primitive folk art pottery family in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Breakfast and lunch included.
Day 4, Monday, February 3: After breakfast, we head out for an overnight excursion to Teotitlan del Valle, where you will enjoy a market tour and cooking class in a traditional Zapotec kitchen, see weaving and natural dyeing demonstrations with weavers of wool and cotton rugs and clothing. We think it’s important to introduce you to indigenous Zapotec history, so we will loop through their new cultural center. Zapotec civilization was the most sophisticated in Mesoamerica. Bring your overnight bag. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Day 5, Tuesday, February 4: After breakfast we travel along the Pan-American Highway to the apron-making village of San Miguel del Valle, meet families who design and sew, and take a tour of the historic 16th century, fresco-walled church. We continue on to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit a dealer in regional antiquities – jewelry and historic artifacts, detour for a mezcal tasting in Santiago Matalan, and finish off by meeting a flying shuttle loom weaver who works in natural dyes. We return to Oaxaca in time for dinner on your own. Breakfast and lunch included.
Day 6, Wednesday, February 5: After breakfast, we travel first to visit the workshop of one of the finest ceramic artists in the region. They are among the last workshops crafting high temperature, lead-free ceramics of unusual and fine-art quality, perfect for gifting, adding to home décor, and serving and preparing some of Oaxaca’s finest recipes after you return home. We then meet up with Oaxaca Eats for a concentrated foodie walking tour designed just for us. Your late afternoon is free to explore. Dinner is on your own.
Day 7, Thursday, February 6: After breakfast, we treat you to a curated expoventa (show and sale) at our hotel with some of our favorite artisans who are from outlying areas. Invited artisans include a Mixe grower, spinner, and weaver of silk garments who works in natural dyes, a noted embroiderer from the Papaloapan region that is 12 hours from the city, a tin-maker, and a weaver from San Juan Cotzocon in the Sierra Mixe. Our favorite filigree silversmith will join us, too, to show and tell about the intricacy of traditional Oaxaca jewelry making – a technique brought to Mexico shortly after the conquest by artisans who learned from the Moors of southern Spain. After the expoventa, you’ll have lunch and the afternoon on your own. We meet together for our grand finale gala dinner. Breakfast and dinner included. Lunch on your own.
Day 8, Friday, February 7: This is your departure day. Breakfast is included. We will help you make transportation arrangements to the Oaxaca airport or you may extend your trip (on your own) to explore other parts of Mexico.
We reserve the right to alter the itinerary based on artisan availability and other unexpected circumstances.
What is Included
- 7 nights lodging at top-rated accommodations
- 7 breakfasts
- 5 lunches
- One lunch includes custom Oaxaca Eats food walking tour
- 3 dinners
- museum entry fees
- artisan honoraria for demonstrations
- van transportation as outlined in itinerary
- complete guide services including cultural and language expertise
The program does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation as specified in the itinerary. It does not include taxi or shuttle service to/from airport and to/from hotel.
We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.
Cost to Participate — We offer three options.
- $2,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2). Two rooms available in this category.
- $3,395 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1). We offer a luxury King or Queen option in this category on first come-first served basis. Eight rooms available in this category.
We are staying in a tranquil small boutique hotel in the historic center of Oaxaca City within walking distance of the Zocalo and other attractions.
Send us an email when you are ready to register: email email@example.com
Who Should Attend
- Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers, artisan craft
- Collectors, curators and cultural appreciators
- Textile and fashion designers
- Weavers, embroiderers, spinners and dyers
- Photographers and artists who want inspiration
- Anyone who loves folk art, culture and collaboration
Full Registration Policies, Procedures and Cancellations– Please READ
Reservations and Cancellations. A 40% deposit is required to guarantee your reservation. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 30% of the total is due on or before September 1, 2019. The third 30% payment is due on or before November 25, 2019. We accept payment using online e-commerce that can be paid with a credit card. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 25, 2019, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 25, 2019, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date. After that, there are no refunds.
Notes. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will: Send you a Health Questionnaire to complete and return. We will then send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register.
Health Questionnaire: Oaxaca is at almost 6,000 feet altitude and we will be walking a lot, especially on our first full day together. If you have a heart condition, have trouble breathing, have difficulty walking, or have other conditions that would have a mobility impact, please do not register for this program. The health questionnaire requires that you disclose any issues.
Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. 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 from the date you enter Mexico before it expires!
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 our destination.
All documentation for plane reservations and required travel insurance must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.
Health Questionnaire and Your Well-Being: Oaxaca is at almost 6,000 feet altitude and we will be walking a lot, some on cobblestone streets, especially on our first full day together. Plus, we will be getting in and out of vans. If you have a heart condition, have trouble breathing, have difficulty walking, or have any other condition that would have a mobility impact, please do not register for this program. The health questionnaire requires that you disclose any issues.
Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: We will do some walking and getting in/out of vans. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let us know before you register. 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.
Chiapas Textile Study Tour Snapshot: If It’s Sunday, It Must Be Chamula and Zinacantan
San Juan Chamula was our first stop on Sunday, the big market day in the Tzotzil speaking Maya village located about thirty minutes outside of San Cristobal de Las Casas. This also happened to be a day for baptisms.
The Maya church at San Juan Chamula, no longer Catholic
As we arrived at the Chamula church, extended families were emerging. Children of all ages were dressed in white. A Catholic priest comes once a month to perform the rites, but other than this observance there is little resemblance to traditional Catholicism.
Family outside the church poses for post-baptism photo
Chamulans practice a pre-Hispanic mysticism inside the church. No photos are allowed. The space magical. It is dark inside. Votive candles that sit atop at least twenty wooden tables illuminate the space. On the tile floor fresh pine needles replicate the sacred forest. There are no pews.
Join us for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour
In the Chamula market, how women transport babies
Areas of needles are swept away. Worshipers light red, green, white and yellow candles and affix them with dripping wax to the floor. The colors represent the four cardinal points. They kneel and pray, singing in ancient Tzotzil.
Women wait for weekly government food stipend
Cynthia and Gail shopping for agave fiber woven bags, called ixtle
Sometimes a Shaman will go with the families, holding a live chicken. The Shaman will hold the fowl by its legs, wings outspread, then wring the chicken’s neck. In this way, the ill that is disturbing a family member will pass to the chicken. Then, the chicken is buried and the ailment will go away.
The cemetery is another spiritual center for Maya families
This stuffed fox may be someone’s spirit animal, used in ritual cleansings
Ancient beliefs run deep here. We tiptoe across the pine needles. The officials watch carefully to make sure we take no photographs. We are respectful and don’t try. Stories of confiscated cameras are rampant.
Post-Baptism celebration in the church courtyard
Ducks and a turkey for sale along a hidden market side street
Out on the church patio, the families who celebrated baptism gather along the periphery for a meal, music and refreshment. Cases of beer sit atop tables. Visitors are here from all over the world. I hear German, French and Dutch.
Vendors sell fresh fruit and vegetables
Beyond the church is the vast market where vendors sell everything from fresh fruit, vegetables and handcrafts.
Chickens for sale along a side alley — food or sacrifice?
Join us for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour
Village mayordomos are distinguished by furry white tunics
After a walkabout, we set out for neighboring San Lorenzo Zinacantan. This is a flower growing village. Once allies of the Aztecs, whose empire extended as far south as Nicaragua, Zinacantan enjoyed special privileges as an embassy. Mayas married with Nahuatl speakers and adopted the Aztec practice of incorporating feathers into wedding dresses.
Zinacantan women doing business in a doorway
After the September 2017 earthquake that destroyed the church roof and bell tower, it seems like tourism has dropped here. We hoped for a more robust market, but only a few vendors line the street surrounding the church. We were able to find textiles in a local shop that deals in new and vintage blouses, dresses and skirts.
Zinacantan embroidered chals, a floral display on cloth, photo by Carol Estes
Visitors from Mexico City model the local costume that they bought
Earthquake destroyed church roof, bell tower, walls crumbled
Hundreds of historic churches in southern Mexico were damaged in the 2017 earthquake. Under the purview of INAH, it’s not likely church repairs will take place any time soon. Fear is that neglect will destroy them.
Saints inside corregated metal make-shift church — oops, no photos!
Now, for a brief fresh-off-the-comal tortillas stop to stave off hunger. We entered a smoke-filled room where a young woman prepared masa, patted it, pressed it and cooked it on the comal. We filled the hot, steaming tortilla with fresh beans, ground pepitas (pumpkin seeds), tangy Chiapas cheese, avocado and smoked sausage.
Another view of the traditional kitchen.
Sausages hang over the smokey area to cure and take on flavor.
Preparing fresh, organic tortillas on the comal
Cynthia and Lanita sit back after our hearty snack
We returned to San Cristobal de Las Casas late in the afternoon where we enjoyed lunch at Tierra Adentro, the Zapatista cafe on Real Guadalupe. Another culturally stimulating day!
Pattern on black fabric for embroidering
On the way out of town, San Lorenzo Zinacantan — waddle and daub, tile
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Travel & Tourism, Workshops and Retreats
Tagged Chiapas, Embroidery, fiber arts, religion, San Juan Chamula, San Lorenzo Zinacantan, study tour, textiles, travel