Tag Archives: Mexico

Gratitude and Introducing Eric Chavez Santiago

Every day that I wake up here on the mesa overlooking the Rio Grande Gorge in Taos, New Mexico, I give thanks. It’s that time of year for giving thanks, for renewal of spirit and reaffirmation of life, for expressing gratitude to family and friends for all they have contributed to my well-being and for helping me get to this place I now call home. In traditional cultures, this is the harvest season and we give thanks for the abundance, a perfect closure to the annual growing cycle. It is also a time to start anew, take stock, make amends, assess our way of being. My thanks giving includes you. So many of you have read this blog since I started writing it in 2007, have taken tours and workshops with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, and have purchased many beautiful textiles. You have my thanks and sincerest gratitude. You have helped so many artisans improve their lives and livelihood. My gratitude is on their behalf, too.

Sunset, my backyard on the Rio Grande Gorge

It takes a combination of fear and courage to make change. I have a sticker on my sewing box that says, Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone, and I believe that. It’s a testimony to all of us who have recognized what we are afraid of, what it takes to overcome it and how to push through to get to a place of tranquility and well-being. Sometimes, change is stressful and doesn’t offer the kind of outcome we had hoped for. Change is learning. Without change, we are frozen. For me, this move has been a miracle. Covid brought me to New Mexico from North Carolina, to the infinite and amazing skies filled with light and the blaze of red, yellow and purple, to the high plateau of the southern Rockies, where the Spanish conquerors named these mountains the Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) because of the blood red reflection of sunset on the escarpment. My son and daughter-in-law moved to Albuquerque last year, too. It all fell into place. It snowed up there yesterday and it’s getting chilly here now. The seasons are changing.

Wildflowers and latilla fence, up the road in Taos, NM

Why am I here? As I age, I realize that being in the embrace of the miracle of nature is even more important to me than ever before. I needed the expansiveness of an infinite vista of mountains and plains with little to interrupt the eye. I came here at age 75 and built a house. Not something many 75-year-olds do. Now, I am close to turning age 77. In the past two years, I have thought about life, its terminus, health, changes in energy level, and how I want to be living in the next ten years. I am healthy, and yet, aging has a huge impact on how vitality plays out. I realize that my pace is slower and at some point (who knows when), it will be more difficult for me to get to Oaxaca regularly. Recently, I realized I needed a Oaxaca Cultural Navigator partner, someone who knows me, who I trust, who knows the culture.

Eric and Norma, Dia de los Muertos 2021

I have been living with the Chavez Santiago family in Teotitlan del Valle since 2005. It has been one of those life-changing experiences to live with a Zapotec family in their village, on their land, and to be part of and participate in life-cycle events. It was back then that I met the 20-year old Eric Chavez Santiago in the village rug market. He was a weaver, natural dyer, and university student unsure of who or what he would become. I helped get him his first 10-year visa to the USA, and sponsored Eric and his dad Federico to come to Chapel Hill to teach and mount an expoventa in 2006. They invited me to build a house and live with them. Our relationship is based on trust and there is no contract. Then, I coached Eric to apply to the not yet opened Museo Textil de Oaxaca, where he became the founding director of education and made his mark establishing programs to recognize the talents of indigenous Oaxaca artisans. After eight years there, he was invited to open the folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular, owned by Alfred Harp Helu whose foundation has added much to the cultural excitement of Oaxaca.

My host family, Dolores Santiago Arrellanas and Federico Chavez Sosa, Eric’s mom and dad

As I contemplated my own next steps, it was a natural evolution to invite Eric to become a partner in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. It is my honor to gift him this opportunity in gratitude and thanks for all that he and his family has given me. Now, we are in a transition period and I am involved as Eric and his wife Elsa participate more and more in leading our groups, organizing the infrastructure, handling the administration, and assuming more of an ownership role. This makes the best sense to me to keep Oaxaca Cultural Navigator alive and well far into the future. For the foreseeable future, I will continue to participate in our tours as founder.

Eric’s wife Elsa, son Santiago, and sister Janet at Jacob and Shelley’s wedding, San Clemente, March 2022

Many of you who know Eric, know how capable and engaging he is. He is a fluent English speaker, in addition to communicating in his native Zapotec and Spanish languages. All the artisans he has worked with over the years admire and respect him, and know that he has their best interests at hand. For those of you who have traveled with us recently, where Eric has been the leader, have seen what an extraordinarily knowledgeable and gracious human being he is. I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to him.

If you want to comment about this, please send me an email.

What travelers say about Eric:

I am so very grateful to have had Eric as our leader on the Oaxaca Mountain Textile Tour. Promoting and sustaining artisans is clearly his life work and passion. Eric’s professional and personal experience has given him a seemingly inexhaustible appreciation and knowledge of indigenous cultures, textile origins, weaving methods, motifs and dyeing processes which he shared so eloquently. The artisans we visited, often in quite remote villages, opened their homes, studios and hearts to us due to the mutual respect and friendship Eric has with each of them. Thank you, Eric, for guiding us to expertly and helping us discover the heart and soul behind all the beauty we were lucky to behold. Being with you was such a rich experience! -Connie Michal, Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

I thought Eric did great! His knowledge of the ara and artisans is outstanding, he provided an excellent educational experience with professional translation. He also made sure everyone was well-cared for, offering assistance to any of us who needed help getting up the hillside. He knowledge and professionalism is so appreciated. -Marsha Betancourt, Brownsville, TX

The Oaxaca textile trip was wonderful in every way. I am grateful that our home base was in Teotitlan del Valle, as it was restful and calm. I also appreciated the way the trip progressed beginning with Eric, his studio and his family. Both you and Eric are so knowledgeable about everything but with a great Socratic approach to learning — giving us enough information and letting our curiosity lead the way to deeper knowledge and understanding. I particularly enjoyed the philosophical conversations about indigenous people and culture, and how we impact that. I also felt a sense of safety and calmness, and acceptance for everyone in the group. Eric is a wonderfully patient, caring, and insightful man. His ability to connect and communicate with trip members was equal to his obvious connection and camaraderie with the indigenous artists and craftspeople we met! I would not hesitate to book a trip with Eric as a solo leader. Thanks for everything! -Pam Cleland-Broyles, San Diego, California

I am excited to be able to express an appreciation of Eric’s skills as a true leader; his communication style is very engaging, open, and soft-spoken. He is bilingual to the strongest expertise or extent. His history of the local culture, social life and craft evolution is encyclopedic. He was very comfortable letting me be as independent as I needed based on my physical strengths and limitations. I would highly recommend him as a tour guide. -Barbara Cabral, San Francisco

Eric is a world-class gentleman. A Mexican weaving and textile expert extraordinaire. Kind, considerate, respectful and patient. He speaks fluent English and can thoroughly explain his expertise and techniques to those of us with no knowledge of the field! -Charlie Dell, Phoenix, AZ

Parade of the Canastas, Teotitlan del Valle

Quick Sale: Greca Rug + 2 Pillows

SOLD #1 Muy Suavecita Grecas Rug or Blanket—$187

This textile was woven by 90+ year old Secundino in the old Teotitlan Zapotec style. He washed the yarn in the river with amole, a root used for soap. He weaves on the treadle loom. This is two matching pieces sewn together just like the old days. It’s much softer and lighter weight than a rug. More suited, I think for the foot of the bed, back of a chair or sofa. All natural sheep wool. Very, very soft. A few small moth holes, but they don’t detract from the overall beauty or functionality. 61×64” Hand twisted fringes. BTW, for years Secundino led all the village parades, playing the ancient Zapotec flute.

#2. Pillow Pair from Chiapas, $195

These pillows are handwoven on the backstrap loom of the finest cotton in a village outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. The pattern is grey on white using the supplementary weft technique, which means it is part of the weaving. This is NOT embroidered. From the premiere cooperative Jolom Mayaetik. New, never used. Does not include pillow forms. Price is for the pair. Two tassle tie closures on back; measures 12” x19”

HOW TO BUY Send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com and tell me the item(s) you want to purchase by number, your email, your mailing address and which payment method you prefer: 1) Zelle bank transfer with no service fee; 2) Venmo or 3) PayPal each with a 3% service fee. I will then add on a flat rate $14 mailing fee for the pillows and $23 for the throw Happy to combine shipping. Thank you.

Joyas: Jewelry for Sale from Oaxaca and Chiapas

Joyas is the Spanish word for jewels. We often hear the word joyeria, which means jewelry. Today the selection includes vintage and contemporary jewelry made from pompoms, shells and seeds, fine Italian beads, sterling silver, and copper —necklaces and bangles. I’m also starting off with two great Oaxaca market baskets in dramatic black and white.

How to Buy: send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com and tell me the item(s) you want to purchase by number, your email, your mailing address and which payment method you prefer: 1) Zelle bank transfer with no service fee; 2) Venmo or 3) PayPal each with a 3% service fee. I will then add on a flat rate $14 mailing fee. Happy to combine shipping. Thank you.

#1 on left is Super Grande tote bag, sturdy woven plastic, $73, 17×17” and SOLD #2 Medio on right is $58, 17” wide x 13” tall.
#3. Coconut shell and coffee bean necklace, adjustable length. $39
#4. Red Dazzle Pom Pom Necklace, adjustable length. From the best maker in Chiapas! $54
#5. Sterling Silver Vintage Beads necklace. Handmade beads.These have to be 8-10 mm in diameter! Made in Mexico. 24” long. $166
#6. handwoven natural palm fiber earrings, 3-1/2” long $44
#7. Confetti necklace, Italian glass beads, adjustable length. $76
#8. Black clay pearl necklace from San Bartolo Coyotepec with carved bauble drop. Asymmetry adds stylish statement. 21” long. $82
#9. Star power! 2-1/2 x 2-1/2” hand painted earrings by Aureliano Lorenzo. $43

#10. Set of 3 bangles, 2 are copper and one is sterling silver, from Taxco. Interior circumference is 7-1/2” — I have not polished these so you can see the beautiful patina of age. Mix and match and rearrange. $165 for all three.

#11. Vintage Mexican sterling silver bead necklace, 16” long. I estimate the bead size at 4mm. $67
#12. Red Italian Glass Beads, multi-strand, necklace if choice in the villages around San Cristobal de Las Casas. A statement piece, adjustable length with pom pom ties. $88
#13. Warm olive green pom pom necklace with 3-strands, very elaborate, light and comfy, adjustable length. $67
#14. Seed pods or nut shells? lightweight and BoHo style. Slip over head. Easy. 26” long. $19
#15. Handmade copper bead necklace, 20” long from Michoacan. $34

Zapotec Oaxaca and Oriental Rugs for Sale

I am offering several rugs from my collection for sale! Why? They don’t fit into my Taos house. The sizes and colors are not adapting well to my new environment. Some are new. All are in excellent condition.

How to Buy: send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.com and tell me the rug you want to purchase by number, your email, your mailing address and which payment method you prefer: 1) Zelle bank transfer with no service fee; 2) Venmo or 3) PayPal each with a 3% service fee. I will then send you a request for funds.

Shipping cost is based on weight and destination, and is additional. I will need to know your address and determine weight to calculate mailing costs.

SOLD. #1. 6 ft x 8-1/2 ft. 100% churra sheep wool in all natural shades of gray, Caracol design.

This new, never used rug is made by a master weaver in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca who is a personal friend. It took him two months to create this masterpiece. The colors are a mix of gray on a cream background. The edges where it was cut from the loom are finished with an intricate braiding technique. No fringes to get stuck in your vacuum cleaner. The Caracol design is the most difficult to achieve because of the curves. It is symbolic of communication and the frets have deep meaning regarding the continuity of life, interpreted from nearby Mitla archeological site. Tapestry woven rugs of this size and quality are retailing for between $2,800 and $3,200. I’m selling it for $1,800 plus shipping. I calculate shipping cost to be around $60 but I will let you know if you wish to purchase this.

SOLD#2. Mitla Grecas are designs found on the archeol site temples rug measures 2.5 ft x 5 ft

This is woven at the Fe y Lola studio in Teotitlan del Valle of churra sheep wool colored with natural dyes the yellow comes from wild marigold a d it is paired with a warm natural gray wool the warp is sturdy cotton. The design is an innovative version of a traditional style. this rug usually sells for $510. You can buy it for $425.

SOLD #3. From the studio of Francisco Martinez Ruiz, This is a stunner, perfect as a wall-hanging with hand-knotted macrame fringes.

This tapestry is made with all natural dyes and measures 2-1/3 ft x 3 ft. the wool is dyed with cochineal, moss, and wild marigold. It is very fine and dense weaving using 10 warp threads per inch. Retails for $450. Will sell for $325.

SOLD #4. Runner measures 2.5 ft x 9.5 ft Gorgeous, natural dyes in wild marigold, indigo overdyes, and cochineal.
Another caracol masterpiece from Fe y Lola studio. The green is achieved by dipping a wild marigold skein of wool into an indigo dye bath. Original cost $1,300. Selling for $750.
#5. Hand-knotted wool pile rug in the Persian style, made in India. Measures 4’ x 6’ and in excellent condition.

This rug has no wear and will surely provide pleasure and comfort for another two or three generations. Thick wool pile. Vintage. Outstanding. Last photo is reverse side of rug. Valued at between $600-800. Will sell for $385. This rug is heavy and I estimate shipping could be $75-100.

Thank you VERY much for looking. Let me know if you have any questions. Thank

Oaxaca Photographer Luvia Lazo Captures Guelaguetza Style for Vogue

I first met Luvia more than ten years ago in Teotitlan del Valle, where she was born and raised and where I have lived since 2005. She was a budding young photographer then who had heart, soul, an artistic eye, creative energy and poor equipment. I invited her to participate at no cost in our 2013 Day of the Dead Photography Workshop in exchange for helping me arrange personal visits into the homes of local artisans. We were focusing on portrait and street photography, so having Luvia’s help was invaluable. Our participants loved Luvia and we raised funds among us to buy her a good Nikon DSLR camera. From there, it was only a matter of time!

In the last week, Vogue magazine published an article about the traje or indigenous garments of the villages represented in the folkloric extravaganza of Oaxaca called Guelaguetza. Luvia did the photography! It is a beautiful rendering of indigenous textiles and their meaning.

And, in March 2022, The New Yorker magazine published a feature about Luvia and her work, highlighting her innovative camera style in a photo essay about the elderly in Teotitlan del Valle — a tribute to her grandmother whom I knew and who helped raise her.

I’m in awe of who she has become and the trajectory of her accomplishments. I met her grandmother, who was frail and elderly, just before she passed. I know and admire her parents who operate a butcher shop in our village and sell at the daily market. They are warm, generous and hard-working people who are supportive of their daughter’s talents.

I took these photos in 2013 and at the time used my wasband’s name, which I changed to Schafer in 2016.

To demonstrate Luvia’s talent and her potential, these are the photos she took in 2013, too.

Note: We have a few spaces open for 2022 Day of the Dead Culture Tour. A perfect time to photography this pre-Hispanic Oaxaca ritual of honoring loved ones who have transitioned to the beyond.