Tag Archives: Mexico City

Mexico City, Puebla, Tlaxcala Discovery Tour: Textiles+Art History+Archeology


We do a full-circle over ten days, starting in Mexico City to explore the art of the Mexican Muralists https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_muralism concentrating on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Then, we move on to Puebla, where Talavera tile was introduced by Moorish artisans to build this new Spanish city at the strategic crossroad between CDMX and Veracruz. Here, pottery, antiques, innovative cuisine, and compelling museums await us. In Tlaxcala, an independent city-state before the conquest, we find the artisan weaving studio of Netzahualcoyotl where traditional serapes made with natural dyes are rediscovered from ancient murals. For inspiration, the studio studies the frescoes of two nearby archeological sites which we visit, too. We return you to the Mexico City airport for home or to go on to discover more of Mexico.

Wednesday, January 31: Travel to CDMX, check in to our hotel in Mexico City’s historic center, meet for a no-host dinner at 6:00 p.m. in hotel lobby with those who have arrived by late afternoon.

Overnight in Mexico City. Meals included: None

Thursday, February 1: In Mexico City, we concentrate on the art history of Mexican Muralism movement and the beginnings of the new Republic in the era following the 10-year Mexican Revolution of 1910.  Here, we focus on the work of Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, plus the surrealist paintings and life of Frida Kahlo.

After breakfast, we begin the day with a private tour of Rivera’s earliest Mexico City murals at the Secretariat de Educacion Publica (SEP), move on to the murals at Colegio San Ildefonso where student Frida Kahlo first met Rivera, and then walk to the nearby Abelardo Rodriguez Market where US and European acolytes of Diego Rivera made their own mark with some extraordinary murals, including Pablo O’Higgins.

Overnight in Mexico City. Meals included: Breakfast and gala group welcome lunch

Friday, February 2: Today, after breakfast, we see Rivera’s outstanding murals at Palacio Bellas Artes, Palacio Nacional, and the Museo Mural de Diego Rivera. These murals, painted in the 1930’s and 1940’s, reflect Rivera’s maturity and development as a political activist. He depicts the history of the Conquest and the emergence of Mexico City as a vibrant center for artistic expression. After lunch, you may want to explore on your own Tenochtitlan, the ancient Aztec capital, which is now an outstanding archeological site two blocks from our hotel.

Overnight in Mexico City. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch

Saturday, February 3: We go first to the Bazaar Sabado in San Angel to explore a once-a-week contemporary art market that features designer clothing, folk and fine art, craft paintings.  Then, we move to Coyoacan to have lunch before visiting Casa Azul, the home that Frida Kahlo shared with Diego Rivera, and where Leon Trotsky first stayed when he fled Russia.  Frida Kahlo now claims more notoriety around the world than her famous husband, to whom she was married twice! We understand her life and art by visiting this outstanding property.

Overnight in Mexico City. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.

Sunday, February 4: Spend the day on your own in Mexico City. You may want to go to Tenochtitlan, Teotihuacan, or the archeological museum. You may want to see the Franz Mayer Museum or go to the Mercado San Juan. We meet together in late afternoon for a presentation of fine Mexican textiles by noted cultural anthropologist Marta Turok, and then gather for an early group dinner at one of the city’s most outstanding restaurants.

Overnight in Mexico City. Meals included: Breakfast and dinner.


Monday, February 5: After a leisurely breakfast, we travel by van to the colonial city of Puebla. Here the Spanish built a new town at the crossroads between Veracruz and the now Pan-American Highway. We spend the afternoon on foot orienting you to Puebla. Stunning tile roofs and facades decorate colonial buildings, a technique brought to New Spain by the Moors. This is a foodie town, the birthplace of Chiles en Nogada, created by nuns to celebrate Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821. It is also the source of Mole Poblano, a mild, sweet chili sauce that pairs so well with any meat, fish, and vegetables. We will focus on the ceramics, textiles, and colonial influences in Puebla.

Overnight in Puebla. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.

Tuesday, February 6: Today, we set out to Cholula, an original pueblo and archeological site with an amazing, gilded church built atop the pre-Hispanic temple created by the local indigenous people to honor the god Quetzalcoatl. This site is still recognized as the largest pyramid in the entire world by total volume in cubic meters. Climb to the top to experience stunning views of the surrounding area. Then, wander Cholula to explore boutiques and ancient churches. On our return to Puebla, we make a stop at Talavera de la Reina workshop.

Overnight in Puebla. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.


Wednesday, February 7: After breakfast, we continue our explorations with artisan and Talavera ceramic tile visits, then enjoy a Goodbye Puebla gala lunch at an outstanding, award-winning restaurant. In the afternoon, we travel by van to Tlaxcala and check-in to our hotel. Evening free to wander the historic city. Overnight in Tlaxcala. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.

Thursday, February 8: After breakfast, we go to two very important Tlaxcala archeological sites that provide inspiration to the weavers we visit later today – Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl. Frescoes painted on ancient walls in natural pigments depict life and ceremonies before the Conquest. Tlaxcala was a pre-Hispanic city-state led by Chief Xicotencatl who wanted to retain independence from the Aztecs, so they sided with the Spanish to overturn the empire. They were handsomely rewarded as a result and lived peaceably for generations.

After lunch, we meet with Netzahualcoyotl design and weaving studio. This studio, in operation since the late 1800’s, has revived the Mexican serape with innovate designs using all natural dyes. They have exhibited at Original and are recognized by the Mexican government as an important contributor to indigenous culture. In addition, Norma wrote an article for Selvedge Magazine, an international textile publication, that was featured in the November 2022 issue

Overnight in Tlaxcala.  Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, gala final dinner

Friday, February 9: After breakfast, We will explore historic Tlaxcala together in the morning; the afternoon is on your own. Time to do some packing and shipping. We’ll have a late afternoon Regrets Sale, followed by the Grand Finale dinner.

Overnight in Tlaxcala. Meals included: Breakfast grand gala final dinner

Saturday, February 10: Depart. we return you by van to Benito Juarez International Airport in CDMX for your flights home.  Please do not schedule flights to depart before 3:00 p.m. or you may choose to spend the night at the Camino Real Hotel at the airport.

Departure day. Meals included: Breakfast

Cost to Participate

  • $3,395 shared double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $4,195 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator: Eric Chavez Santiago

Eric Chavez Santiago is a 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.

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 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 August 15, 2023. The third payment, 50% balance, is due on or before November 15, 2023. We accept payment using Zelle, Venmo, PayPal or Square. For a Zelle transfer, there is no service fee.  We add a 3% service fee to use Venmo, PayPal or Square. We will send you a request for funds to make your deposit when you tell us you are ready to register.

After November 15, 2023, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before November 15, 2023, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date (less the $500 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 lastest COVID-19 vaccination and all boosters to be sent 45 days before departure. We ask that you test two days before traveling to the tour, and that you send us the results. During the tour, we ask that you do a self-test 48 hours after arrival and then periodically thereafter if you feel you have been exposed. Facemasks 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. Many Mexicans have not had access to vaccine or boosters, and the only available vaccines widely used here are from China, which do not provide adequate protection.

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.

Virgin of Guadalupe Textiles Show in Mexico City

Created and curated by Oaxaca folk art collector Linda Hanna, this is a not-to-be-missed exhibition of hand-woven and embroidered textiles — an Homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe and who she is. The textiles — huipiles, rebozos, and other unique pieces — feature the image of our revered Mexican Mother, La Virgen de Guadalupe.

This is a testimony to the artistry and skill of Mexican artisans.

This is the first time the textiles will be exhibited in Mexico City. If you are visiting or live nearby, please see the exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares in Coyoacan (near Casa Azul). The exhibition opens December 4, 2019, and is spectacular and memorable.

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera: Mexico City Art History Tour, October 2019

Arrive October 17 and depart October 21, 2019

We have not offered this program since 2017. Now is your chance to register and explore the lives of Frida and Diego through their art. One space open. Click on this link and then contact me: norma.schafer@icloud.com

Looking for Frida Kahlo + Diego Rivera 2019

Sunday Afternoon on the Last Aztec Lagoon: Xochimilco

We packed it in. After a Sunday morning at Casa Azul followed by seeing the largest private collection of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paintings at the Museo Dolores Olmedo, we took an UBER (safe, easy, the only way to get around in Mexico City, despite USA negatives) to the Embarcadero de Nativitas in Xochimilco for a boat ride on the last Aztec canals in Mexico City.

Colorful fun. Fake flower crown vendors, Xochimilco.

Sunday is definitely the day to go. You get the full experience of what it is like to party on the trajineras — the flat bottom boat that can hold huge families,

How about some lively mariachi music? A Mexican tradition.

plus an entourage of mariachis playing guitars, trumpets, accordions and violins.

Sunday is the best day to be on the Xochimilco lagoons for people-watching.

It’s almost like riding a gondola in Venice, Italy. Maybe better. Much more colorful.

Dancing the afternoon away, Xochimilco

Sometimes families bring their own cook and the smell and smoke of grilling meats pervades the waterways. Sometimes families bring their own beer and the bottles pile up for the longer rides through the canals.

You can buy a pig en route, just transfer from their boat to yours.

It is festive, relaxing and the quintessential Mexican experience.  Is it touristy? Yes. But, it’s also real because locals do this as part of birthdays, anniversaries, and any other excuse to have a celebration.

Expand the party and tie two boats together

Sometimes, you see two trajineras tethered together, so groups of forty or more can jump between boats, dance, sing and generally carouse. Children find their entertainment, too, relaxing in the sun, playing games, and dancing along with the adults. Just being together.

It’s a perfect way to enjoy the family, just 45 minutes from city center

The rate is fixed per boat: 350 pesos per hour. We went out for two hours and the next time, I think being out on a four-hour excursion would be better.

Doll island. Some say its haunted.

Then, we could get into the more remote areas where birds and flowers are more prevalent than people.

I had fresh roasted native corn on the cob. Valeria chose esquites.

Hungry? A small boat will pull up and entrepreneurial vendors will sell you grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, chili and lime juice. Thirsty? Beer and soft drinks are delivered the same way.

How about a pulque? Fermented agave sap for Aztec power.

Want a souvenir? Buy a fake flower crown in any color of the rainbow. Need a pit stop? Clean facilities offer service for five pesos.

Buy a synthetic shawl or a plastic doll. Cheap fun.

On the return trip to the docking area, we had a traffic jam.  Boats jammed up against each other, unable to move.

Moving the boat along. You can even buy plants from passing gondolas.

The gondoliers doing a ballet of pushing the long stick into the muck and against the next boat to jockey into a clear passageway.

Straining to move the boats on the last leg of our voyage.

Sometimes, they jumped boats to help each other out.  Muscles straining, taut. Bodies at forty-five degree angles to the water.

The push-pull of getting out of the traffic jam.

I never heard a curse, only the sound of laughter and music from the party-goers, only too happy to spend extra time on the water as the boatmen sorted it out.

A jumble of color at the docking station.

Xochimilco is the last remaining vestige of what the lake region looked like during the Aztec period, pre-Conquest 1521.

Local emptying, then anchoring his launch.

This is how people got around from one island to the next. The people who live here still do. They are gardeners, growers of fruits and vegetables. It used to be that not too long ago the boats were covered in fresh flowers. Today, they are adorned with painted wood.

A remote waterway off-the-beaten path, like a jungle.

The next time you are in Mexico City, allow yourself at least a half-day to enjoy this respite from city life. Perhaps I’ll spend my next birthday here, hire a mariachi band and dance the afternoon away.

A serenade from shore on an island by the lagoon

For now, I’m at my other home in North Carolina, enjoying August heat and humidity, and the comfort of friends.

Norma Lupita, followed by Mexico Lindo. Porsupuesto.


Details, Another View of Frida Kahlo at Casa Azul

In the last three years, I’ve probably visited Casa Azul, where Frida Kahlo was born and lived with Diego Rivera, over ten times. I come because I organize the art history study tour, Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Frida Kahlo Calderon, daughter of Jewish Hungarian father and Oaxaquena mother

Can you get to Mexico City next weekend?

On this latest visit last Friday with a group from Australia and New Zealand, I served as a consultant for their leader who wanted a one-day quick immersion into Frida’s life for her group.

Frida’s father and mother, her portrait of them

I wondered: How do I continue to take photos of the same iconographic details of Frida and Diego’s life?  The paint brushes. The photographs. The furniture. The folk art collection.

Detail of studio paint brushes, her strokes became weaker at the end

The pre-Hispanic ceramics and lava rock sculpture. The clothing. The frog urn that contains her ashes. The paintings she created out of pain. Reverence. Disappointment. Courage. Commitment to love and family. Passion.

Watermelons. Celebration of Life. Finished just before death.

Go to the details, I told myself. Captures the parts, not the whole. Focus on the brush strokes. The lace. The color. The shadows and reflections. The images of the men and women she loved.

Colored oil crayons, still neatly boxed, waiting. Ready.

Go to the details. Find the ribbons. Find the ribs of the plant leaves. The shape of flowers. The accoutrements of the corsets and built-up shoes to hide her deformities. The textures and reflections.

Palm ribs in the expansive garden, Casa Azul

She put such a strong, uplifting face to the world despite her injuries — physical and emotional.

She called Diego “Toad” and “Panza” — ashes contained within the frog jug.

This trip to Casa Azul was different for me and I used the experience to examine the infinite, small parts of life that we often scan over to take in the big picture.

Visceral, the insides of a gourd, like a fertile womb ready to give seed. But she couldn’t.

If you want to join me in Mexico City, Thursday, July 29, for a July 30 morning start to a three-day immersion into the murals, paintings and lives of Friday and Diego, there is a space for you. It’s so easy to fly in and out!

Lover, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, in Mexico

Why is Frida Kahlo an icon? Perhaps you would like to help me answer this question.

Supported by a frame, a corset, exposed, bare and barren.

What does she represent for women who aspire to be independent, strong, feminine and vulnerable?

Painting from a wheel chair, Casa Azul

She hid her misshapen body beneath glorious hand-woven and embroidered dresses, put her best foot and face forward. Persevered and thrived.

Loved by photographer Nicolas Murry. She was devoted to Diego.

Today, she is more famous, more revered than Diego Rivera because she exposed herself and revealed the internal, damaged self.

Frida refused to let her polio define her, though she wore a brace, sturdy shoes.

Andre Breton called her Mexico’s surrealist painter. She is more than that. Surrealism conjures up Salvador Dali and the distortions he saw in life. Frida reflected on her own distortions and created beauty from them.

Saludos, Norma

On the bus, a fateful day of destruction and a lifetime of reconstruction

Would Frida have become the painter she did without having suffered the trolley car accident that sent a metal spear through her uterus?

Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954

Self-portrait, through Frida Kahlo’s looking glass

Sometimes courage requires that we each put one foot in front of the other to move forward, despite set-backs. We love Frida Kahlo because through her story she teaches us that life requires risk, innovation, and that being afraid is part of our existence.

Painted gourd adorns kitchen table in Casa Azul

When Frida died, Diego Rivera wanted to establish a museum to honor her. She was not yet recognized. He convinced his friend, Dolores Olmedo, to invest in purchasing Frida’s paintings and Casa Azul.

Closet where Frida’s belongings were sealed for 50 years

But, he made her promise not to open the green closet door, where clothing, diaries and photos remained secreted for fifty years.

In 2006, the closet was opened and art history was rewritten.

The garden at Casa Azul