Tag Archives: hand spinning

2025 Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour

Arrive on Saturday, January 11 and depart on Sunday, January 19, 2025 — 8 nights, 9 days in textile heaven!

This tour will not be offered in 2026!

We go deep, and not wide. We give you an intimate, connecting experience. We spend time to know the culture. You will meet artisans in their homes and workshops, enjoy local cuisine, dip your hands in an indigo dye-bath, and travel to remote villages you may never get to on your own. This study tour focuses on revival of ancient textile techniques and Oaxaca’s vast weaving culture that encompasses the use of natural dyes, back-strap loom weaving, drop spindle hand spinning, and glorious, pre-Hispanic native cotton in warm brown called coyuchi, verde (green) and creamy white. We cover vast distances going north on MEX 200 along the Costa Chica, traveling to secluded mountain villages. This tour is for the most adventurous, hardy textile travelers!

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, we aim to give you an unparalleled and in-depth travel experience to participate and delve deeply into indigenous culture, folk art and celebrations. To register, please complete the Registration Form and email it to us. When you tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a request to make your reservation deposit.

Cost is $3,895 per person shared room or $4,795 per person for private room. See details and itinerary below.

Please complete this Registration Form and return to Norma Schafer to participate. Thank you.

Jennie Henderson says …

My husband and I just finished this years tour it was fantastic. This trip is an incredible once in a life time opportunity to go where the tourists never go and learn about native cotton being grown, spun and woven. A real highlight of the trip is dinner on the beach with the turtle release and a swim in the   bioluminescence lagoon. This trip is a true weavers delight.

This entire study tour is focused on exploring the textiles of Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. You arrive to and leave from Puerto Escondido (PXM), connecting through Mexico City or Oaxaca. You might like to read about on the Oaxaca coast, it’s about the cloth, not the cut.

Villages along the coast and neighboring mountains were able to preserve their traditional weaving culture because of their isolation. The Spanish could not get into those villages until the late 18th century. Much now is the same as it was then. Stunning cotton is spun and woven into lengths of cloth connected with intricate needlework to form amazing garments. Beauty and poverty are twin sisters here.

What we do:

  • We visit 7 weaving villages in Oaxaca and Guerrero
  • We meet back-strap loom weavers, natural dyers, spinners
  • We see, touch, smell native Oaxaca cotton — brown, green, natural
  • We participate in a sea turtle release with sunset dinner on the beach
  • We swim in a rare bioluminescence lagoon
  • We visit three local markets to experience daily life
  • We travel to remote regions to discover amazing cloth
  • We learn about Afro-Mestizo identity on the Pacific Coast
  • We support indigenous artisans directly
  • We escape from El Norte WINTER

Take this study tour to learn about:

  • the culture, history, and identity of cloth
  • beating and spinning cotton, and weaving with natural dyes
  • native seed preservation and cultivation
  • clothing design and construction, fashion adaptations
  • symbols and meaning of regional textile designs
  • choice of colors and fibers that show each woman’s aesthetic while keeping with a particular village traje or costume
  • the work of women in pre-Hispanic Mexico and today


  • Saturday, January 11: Fly to Puerto Escondido—overnight in Puerto Escondido, Group Welcome Dinner at 6:00 p.m. Meals included: Dinner
  • Sunday, January 12: Puerto Escondido market meander (optional). Lunch and afternoon on your own. Late afternoon departure for turtle release and Manialtepec bioluminescence lagoon with beach dinner.  Overnight in Puerto Escondido. Meals included: Breakfast and dinner
  • Monday, January 13: Depart after breakfast for Tututepec to visit a young Mixtec weaver who is reviving his village’s textile traditions, visit local museum and murals. We will enjoy a home-cooked meal with a regional mole dish prepared by the family. Travel by van several hours north to Ometepec, Guerrero. Overnight in Ometepec. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.
  • Tuesday, January 14: After breakfast, we go to Zacoalpan, a bygone Amusgo village where Jesus Ignacio and his family weave native coyuchi, green and natural white cotton to make traditional huipiles. They are rescuing designs from fragments of ancient cloth. Then, we have lunch in nearby Xochistlahuaca with an outstanding weaving cooperative that creates glorious, diaphanous textiles embellished with a palette of colorful designs reflecting the flora of the region. Overnight in Ometepec.
  • Wednesday, January 15: After breakfast, we visit downtown Ometepec and the regional market, then make a stop at the Afro-Mexican Museum to learn about the rich cultural history and traditions of the region populated by Mexicans whose roots are from Africa and the slave trade. We continue to Pinotepa Nacional for a late lunch and to check into our hotel. Enjoy an expoventa and demonstration with embroiderers. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.
  • Thursday, January 16:  After breakfast, we explore the Pinotepa Nacional market, the largest in the region, where you may find hand-woven agave fiber tote bags, masks, textiles, and embroidered collars, as well as household goods and food. Then, we travel about an hour to the weaving village of San Juan Colorado for a home cooked lunch and visit two women’s cooperatives working in natural dyes, hand-spinning, and back strap loom weaving. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional.  Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.
  • Friday, January 17: After breakfast, we travel back up the mountain to the village of Pinotepa de Don Luis to meet noted weavers who work with naturally dyed cotton. Here, we will see jicara gourd carvers, too, who make jewelry and serving containers. We have lunch with Tixinda Cooperative members who are licensed to harvest the purple snail dye. In this village, the almost extinct caracol purpura snail is the traditional color accent for many textiles. Overnight in Pinotepa Nacional. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.
  • Saturday, January 18: After breakfast, we begin our return to Puerto Escondido, a two-and-a-half-hour van ride. The rest of the day is on your own to explore, relax and pack. Lunch is on your own. We meet at 6 p.m. for our Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Puerto Escondido. Meals included: Breakfast and dinner.
  • Sunday, January 19: Depart for home. Meals included: None.

Note: You can add days on to the tour — arrive early or stay later to enjoy the beach and two swimming pools — at your own expense. We also suggest you arrive a day early (your own hotel expense) to avoid any unforeseen winter flight delays.

Cost to Participate

  • $3,895 shared double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $4,795 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator: Eric Chavez Santiago

Eric Chavez Santiago is the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator partner with Norma Schafer. He joined us in 2022.  Eric is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican 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 a distinguished weaving family, the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa Sanchez Diaz started 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 the Harp Helu Foundation folk-art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture, and community and personally knows all the artisans we visit on this tour.

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Founder Norma Schafer may participate in all or part of this tour.

We have invited a noted cultural anthropologist to travel with us. She did her thesis in a nearby textile village and has worked in the region for the past 15 years. She knows the textile culture and people intimately, too. Together, we learn about and discuss motifs, lifestyle, endangered species, quality, and value of direct support.

We sell out each year so don’t hesitate to make your registration deposit ASAP if you are interested in participating.

Some Vocabulary and Terms

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers
  • Collectors, curators, and cultural appreciators
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Retailers, wholesalers, buyers
  • Weavers, embroiderers, dyers, and sewists
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture, and collaboration

Full Registration Policies, Procedures and Cancellations– Please READ

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $750 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your place. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before July 1, 2024. The third payment, 50% balance, is due on or before November 1, 2024. We accept payment using a Zelle transfer (no service fee), or with a credit card (4% service fee). For the credit card payment, we will send you a Square invoice. Tell us when you are ready to register.

After November 1, 2024, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 1, 2024, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date (less the $750 non-refundable deposit). After that, there are no refunds UNLESS we cancel for any reason. If we cancel, you will receive a full 100% refund.*

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Check out Forbes Magazine for best travel insurance options. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/travel-insurance/best-travel-insurance/

Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

About COVID. Covid is still with us and new variants continue to arise. We request proof of latest COVID-19 vaccination and all boosters to be sent 45 days before departure. We ask that you bring two test kits with you and several N-95 or KN-95 face masks. Face masks are strongly suggested for van travel, densely populated market visits, and artisan visits that are held indoors. We ask this to keep all travelers safe, and to protect indigenous populations who are at higher risk. If you get sick, we will ask you to withdraw from the tour.

Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico! It’s a Mexico requirement.

Yolande Perez Vasquez, Treasure of San Baltazar de Chichicapam

San Baltazar de Chichicapam is a hill town nestled in the Sierra Madre del Sur about midway between Tlacolula and Ocotlan de Morales and requires the better part of a day to get there.  The village is noted for its fine, hand spun wool created in the traditional method by women using the drop spindle or malacate.  [It is also known for producing some of the finest mezcal in Oaxaca.]  The best of the best traditional spinners is Yolande Perez Vasquez who has been recognized by Mexico as a national treasure.  I met Yolande a couple of weeks ago at the Friday night art opening at La Olla where the wool she spun and dyed with natural plant materials was used in the tapestries woven by Tito Mendoza and designed by Lisa Cicotte.  She was sitting along the wall in the back of the courtyard, a beautiful, regal Zapotec woman.  I didn’t know her or her role in the process then, but her presence drew me to her and I introduced myself and we talked some.  I discovered that her hand was integral to the art I was looking at and essential to the traditional process of weaving.  I asked if I could come to visit her at her home sometime and she agreed.

We approached Chichicapam from Ocotlan because we had gone to Oaxaca first to pick up my friend Eric Chavez Santiago, the director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  His father, Federico was driving, and Sam and Tom Robbins, my photographer friends from Columbus, Ohio, were with us.  Federico has been buying his handspun wool in Chichicapam for as long as he has been weaving (at least 40 years) and knows how to get there.  The road from Ocotlan to Chichi is 22 km and is not well marked at the source.  There is some winding around city streets to find the route, so this is not an adventure you want to take lightly.  We climb into the rolling hills, passing the village of Santa Catarina Minas.  Farmers are carrying huge bundles of dried cornstalks on their shoulders, the last of the harvest.  A man pushes a wheelbarrow along the road filled with plastic tubing.  King sized cloud pillows float in the clear blue sky.  Sheep graze along the base of a mountain peak.  Bamboo pillar fences border a dirt side road.

As the road climbs, the terrain shifts to mesquite, organ pipe cactus, white flowering yucca, agave and herds of goats.  We pass over Puente Rio Lodo.  Trees give forth lavender and violet flowers.  Burros carry firewood.  A turbaned cow herder stands by the side of the road with long pole in hand.  Her cows are grazing on a hillock nibbling on dry grasses.  She is sucking on sunflower seeds and spits husks as we pass.  The landscape is vast, dry, endless.  We are in the bosom of the Sierra Madre del Sur.

Yolande Perez is age 65.  She learned from her grandmother when she was 8 years old.  Her grandmother spun and wove ponchos which she sold in the Ocotlan and Tlacolula markets and used in the early Guelaguetzas.  In 1970 Yolande formed a group of 400 spinners from the village who sold their wool to Teotitlan weavers.  Those were the prosperous years.  She and others were invited to national contests and to show their work in Mexico City, invited by the president, along with other noted pottery, weaving, and textile artisans.  Yolande and her son San Juan say that not much financial benefit came from these showcases and they have felt exploited.  Today, much of the wool that most weavers purchase is commercially spun because the price is less.  Weavers are using chemical (aniline) dyes because the tourist market demands lower priced goods.  The dye plant materials that Yolande grows in her garden or picks from the campo and the process to make tintas naturales to color the handspun wool is not appreciated or valued by most consumers.  There is little if any recognition for her role or the role of other traditional spinners or even the citing of the Chichicapam pueblo as being part of the process of creating a fine wool tapestry.  Most weavers in Teotitlan claim that they do all the production steps.

We are invited into the adobe complex.  The kitchen walls are lined with turquoise enamel cook and dye pots.  The floor is soft, spongy adobe.  A large wood work table is centered in the room.  There is the remnants of a wood fire under the comal in the corner.  Yolande, a daughter tells us, does not want to upgrade the kitchen.  She likes the traditional way of life.  We move to the courtyard under the arbor.  A dump truck filled with dried corn husks backs in almost on top of us and begins to spill its load, an avalanche of corn is deposited at our feet.  The family will husk each cob and pick off the dried kernels, basket them and take them to market for extra income over the winter months.  The husks are pale yellow tinged with purple.

Yolande’s garden is filled with plants and flowers, a shady arbor, and a pen in the back that holds two sheep and a newborn lamb.  The goats have been shorn for their fleece which is piled and ready for spinning.  Yolande lays out a handwoven grass mat, pulls out her handmade wood malacate (drop spindle), and demonstrates for us the technique of handspinning coyuche (natural brown) cotton, locally cultivated silk, cotton, and wool.  She cards white and black wool together to show us how she achieves a soft grey color.  She spins the malacate and gently pulls and coaxes the thread out with her other hand and the thread is consistently even and pliable.  Hers is the first essential step in the weaving process.  Without fine handspun wool there can be no rebozo, poncho, or tapete, and her work is that of an artist.

The women’s spinning cooperative is no longer in existence since commerically spun wool is what most weavers are buying.  Now, Yolande tells us, there are a few young women in the village who are learning to use the malacate.  I wonder how long this tradition will continue.  Some of the weavers say they don’t like the colors of naturally dyed handspun yarn because they are softer and more subtle.  The marketplace drives demand, I remind myself.  If people know about and appreciate the craft and artisanry that goes into creating a fine woven textile, perhaps there will be a resurgence and compensation for people like Yolande Perez Vasquez and my weaver friend Federico Chavez Sosa or the 200 weavers commissioned by Remigio Mestas to create authentic, naturally dyed textiles.  The cost is double, but the handwork is extraordinary.

There is a possibility that Yolande will come to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca to teach and demonstrate.  She has participated in so many programs over her lifetime with little recognition or compensation that she wants to know more before she will make a commitment.  Eric understands this and because he comes from a family dedicated to preserving the traditions, he will do his best to give Yolande the visibility, recognition and compensation she deserves.  After toasting each other and the future with shots of mezcal in the coolness of the family altar room, we leave and head back to Ocotlan.  The visit was over two hours but definitely worthwhile.

If anyone is interested in purchasing handspun wool that is a natural color of the sheep or dyed with natural dyes made by Yolande Perez Vazquez, please contact Eric Chavez Santiago at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, educacion@museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx