Tag Archives: Oaxaca

Tututepec, Oaxaca: Reviving Ancient Mixtec Weaving Traditions

We are in Tututepec, the ancient capital of the Mixtec empire, the second most powerful indigenous group in Oaxaca beside the Zapotecs. Here, atop a mountain overlooking the coastal plain, the Mixtecs, led by 8 Jaguar Claw protected their vast territory.

After a visit to the museum that documents the pre-Hispanic history, we walk across the street to the municipal building where an artist painted murals of village life pre- and post-Conquest, including the Afro-Mexican coastal traditions.

We meet Luis Adan, a 30-year old master backstrap loom weaver who does everything. it’s an immersion experience with insider access. Why? The van drops us at the foot of a dirt trail with steps carved into the steepest part of the hillside we must climb. Luis Adan and his family live in an ancestral home perched at the top.

EVERYTHING? Yes. He makes the drop spindle malacate. He dyes organic native cotton with purple snails he harvests himself along the rocky coast. He grows native cotton, spins it and dyes it. He uses local plant materials, wood bark, flowers, leaves. He keeps an indigo dye vat going continuously. He is weaving posohuancos — native wrap around skirts — with raised figures of stars, snakes, rain, serpents, corn seeds, the four cardinal points, a double headed turkey.

There are four huipiles for sale. Short blouses in indigo and native hand spun cotton. There are several wefts of woven cloth. The one for 12,000 pesos is all natural dyes. It takes four to six months to weave.

We have lunch under an overhang on a dirt floor. We are served homemade tortillas, chicken with mole estofado and mole negro, fresh queso fresco, steamed squash, and watermelon and mandarin juice. This was the most delicious food — and we ate with a view looking down the mountain.

Then we sat down to watch and to learn. A breeze sweeps across to cool us down from the coastal heat and humidity.

Woven belt to hold up skirt
Coyuchi native brown cotton, indigo and caracol púrpura
Cold dye process using fresh muitle leaves
Native cotton handspun yarn

On the Manialtepec Lagoon, Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour

It’s our first full day in Puerto Escondido. First, we explored the village market. Then, in the afternoon through evening, we were with Eve from Lalo Eco-tours to understand the coastal environment at the bioluminescence lagoon a few miles north of town.

We made our way through mangroves and side channels off the lagoon in a small power boat. Eve, who is of African and Mixtec descent, was born and raised here. He knows the waterways intimately and knows all the bird species. Migratory birds from North America come to this brackish water for winter.

We then land on the beach just before sunset, where we participate in a Ridley baby turtle release, followed by a picnic and marshmallow roast!

if that wasn’t enough, some of us took the plunge into the lagoon to experience the feeling of swimming in bioluminescence.

Back to the Hotel Santa Fe for a mezcal and sleep.

we now are making our way north into remote rain villages to meet back strap loom weavers and dyers.

Who wants to go in 2023? Send me an email. norma.schafer@icloud.com

OLL Textile Presentation Features Triqui Weaver Julian Barrios

Many of you know we are making a presentation tomorrow, January 11, 2022, at 5 pm at the Oaxaca Lending Library. It is about Oaxaca textiles and we are calling it Stories in Cloth.

We are introducing a talented young Triqui weaver who works with naturally dyed cotton on the backstrap loom. He will be bringing an array of huipiles and blusas to show.

i believe the presentation is sold out, but if you don’t have a ticket, maybe you could come in at 6:30 for the sale?

At the end of the presentation, we will hold an expoventa and offer what he makes for sale. Bring cash and your credit cards. These rices are spectacular.

2022 Oaxaca Textile Adventure Tour: Sierra Norte Mountains

Tuesday to Sunday, July 25 – 31, 2022 – 7 days and 6 nights

The remote mountains of the Sierra Norte region of Oaxaca are home to some of the finest backstrap loom weaving villages in the state.  Here, ancient weaving traditions are practiced just as they were centuries ago before the Spanish conquest. Moreover, the weavings tell stories of indigenous beliefs that include images in the textiles of local flora, fauna, celebrations, and daily life. This is a textile adventure tour because these villages are not easy to get to, requiring day trips of several hours back and forth from Teotitlan del Valle by van. We think the journey is worth the travel if you want to explore a part of Oaxaca that is definitely “off-the-beaten-path.” This tour is limited to 10 participants. We will have 6 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available. First come, first served for room selection. 

What and Where is the Sierra Norte? Click Here.

Handwoven Triqui huipil

We are based in the weaver’s village of Teotitlan Del Valle. This will put us a bit closer to our destinations. Each day we will take a van trip to meet textile artisans that specialize in wool, silk, cotton, and natural dyes woven both on back strap and pedal floor looms. The visits will be to family studios or a weaver’s cooperative to learn about their processes and discuss quality and weaving techniques.

Naturally dyed rugs from a master weaver

This seven-day and six-night textile adventure tour includes visits to the two remote mountain villages of San Pedro Cajonos and San Pedro Tlahuitoltepec.  In addition, we will visit specialized weavers in the Tlacolula valley, a doll maker, a pottery village, and enjoy a mezcal tasting. We will host an expoventa on our final morning, inviting weavers representing other remote textile villages in the state, including Triqui, San Pedro Amuzgo, San Mateo del Mar, and San Felipe Usila. 

We have scheduled this tour to be held during the week between the two Guelaguetza performances at the Cerro del Fortin in Oaxaca City. They are held on Monday, July 25 and Monday, August 1, 2022. Perhaps you want to bundle this spectacular folkloric dance extravaganza into your travel plans!

Preliminary Itinerary

July 25, Monday, Day 1.  Arrive in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, by evening and check-in to our comfortable and upscale Bed and Breakfast Inn. Snack box provided for late arrivals. 

July 26, Tuesday, Day 2. We spend this first day visiting four weaving studios in Teotitlan del Valle to orient you to weaving and natural dyeing. You will see demonstrations of pedal loom weaving and dyeing techniques with indigo, cochineal and wild marigold. Here, we will visit a weaver who cultivates silkworms, dyes them with natural plants and insects, another weaver who makes leather and woven wool handbags and totes, a beeswax candle maker who provides the traditional ritual velas for community celebrations. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Overnight in Teotitlan.

Indigo dye vat, Teotitlán del Valle
Natural dyed tote bag, woven wool with leather, sturdy zipper, lined with interior pockets

July 27, Wednesday, Day 3. We rise early to travel two-and-a-half hours to San Pedro Cajonos after breakfast. There, we visit with one of the finest, most distinguished silk weaving cooperatives in Mexico. They created a sanctuary to cultivate and preserve silkworm production, with hand-spinning, natural dyeing and weaving. You will see the entire process and meet these talented people. They will prepare a homemade lunch for us and show us their silk textiles and accessories that are for sale. We return to Teotitlan del Valle in time for dinner.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner included. 

Silkworm parade. Worms become cocoons. Cocoons become fine threads to dye and then weave.
Silk blusa with hand-knotted fringes, indigo dyed, San Pedro Cajonos

July 28, Thursday, Day 4. Today we stay local and take a rest from the road. After breakfast, we venture out to San Marcos Tlapazola to visit a renown red-clay pottery cooperative, then we travel a short distance up the road to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit a weaver who specializes in home goods and clothing dyed with natural plants. We stop to see the work of a sewist-embroiderer who makes dolls. We wrap up our day with an artisanal mezcal tasting in Santiago Matatlan before returning to Teotitlan del Valle.  Includes breakfast, lunch, mezcal tasting and dinner. 

Handmade doll from San Pablo Villa de Mitla
Backstrap loom weaving in Mitla
Kiln at red clay pottery studio, Tlapazola

July 29, Friday, Day 5. Back on the road after breakfast, we travel about two-hours to the mountain village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec to meet weavers and embroiderers who work in cotton and wool.  You will learn about the production of wool ponchos, cotton shawls woven on the backstrap and pedal looms that are locally dyed with Palo de Aguila (alderwood). Here they create distinctive embroidered dresses, shirts and blouses, designs that have been illegally appropriated by international brands. We will discuss the issue of cultural appropriation with the family. After lunch, we will visit a large format potter, famous for his amazing pieces featured In museums and collections around the world. We return to Teotitlan del Valle in time for dinner. Includes breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Indigo-dyed cotton shawl woven in Tlahuitoltepec, hand-knotted fringes called punta
Iconic embroidered blouse from Tlahuitoltepec

July 30, Saturday, Day 6. GRAND FINALE Dinner and Expoventa. 

After breakfast we will arrange for a local laboratory to come to give you a Covid test (at your own expense) 24-hours in advance of your departure to return to the USA. Then, we take you to the workshop studio of Taller Tenido a Mano for a private expoventa featuring outstanding weavers from San Mateo del Mar, San Pedro Amuzgo, San Felipe Usila and Triqui. You get first pick. We will then open up the expoventa to the public. You have the rest of the day free to explore the village or arrange a taxi to visit some of the local archeological sites. We wrap up our time together with a Grand Finale Gala Dinner.  Breakfast and dinner included. 

Gala huipil from San Felipe Usila, Papaolapan

July 31, Sunday, Day 7. Departure.

We will arrange taxi service (at your own expense) to take you to the city to extend your stay, or to take you to the airport for your return home. Breakfast included. 

San Mateo Del Mar collector’s huipil from the Palafox family

About your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Eric Chavez Santiago

Eric Chavez Santiago 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 the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa are founders of Taller Teñido a Mano dye studio where they produce naturally dyed yarn skeins and textiles for worldwide distribution. Eric is a business partner with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, too. 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 folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture and community.

Eric Chavez Santiago explains natural dyes

What is Included:

  • 6 nights lodging
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • 4 dinners
  • Snacks
  • Expert bilingual guide services
  • Luxury van transportation
  • Mezcal tasting
  • An educational experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included:

  • Airplane tickets
  • Required international travel insurance
  • In-country COVID test
  • Required vaccines, PPE and hand-sanitizer
  • Any meals, snacks and taxis not specified in the itinerary
  • All alcoholic beverages, tips and personal purchases

Price for a shared room is $2,895

Price for a single room is $3,495

We have 6 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available to reserve on a first-come, first-served basis.

Quesadillas hot off the comal, stuffed with squash blossoms, quesillo

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before March 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before May 15, 2022. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After May 15, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before May 15, 2022, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. After that, there are no refunds. If we cancel for whatever reason, you will receive a full refund. 

The tour and COVID-19: You are required to be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. Fully vaccinated is defined as all vaccinations required by the CDC including boosters. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before May 15, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and email it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 face masks, use hand-sanitizer and practice social distancing while together. We will sanitize vans and keep the windows open when traveling together. Please note: You MUST also provide proof of international travel insurance including $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage. 

Beeswax candles handmade in Teotitlan

Registration Form

Complete the form and Send an email to Norma Schafer.

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice by email that is due on receipt.

Who Should Attend • Anyone interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into textile practices and traditions, and who appreciates artisan craft — weaving, embroidery, pottery. If you are a collector, come with us to go deep and find the best artisans. If you are a photographer or artist, come with us for inspiration. If you are an online retailer, come with us to buy and find the stories to market what you sell.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received by May 15, 2022 or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Backstrap loom, a weaving in process

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: Oaxaca and surrounding villages are colonial and pre-Hispanic. The altitude can be 7,000 feet or higher in the mountain villages. Many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear study shoes.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments or you are immunocompromised, please consider that 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.

Agave piña ready for roasting to make mezcal

2022 Day of the Dead Culture Tour

October 29 to November 4, 2022—6 nights and 7 days— $2,895 for a shared room and $3,495 for a single room. We have 3 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico, is meaningful and magical.  Celebrations in the villages go deep into Zapotec culture, community, tradition and pre-Hispanic practice. Some say it is the most important annual celebration in Mexico and here in Oaxaca, we know this is true. This tour is limited to 10 participants.

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, we hope to give you an unparalleled and in-depth travel experience to participate and delve deeply into indigenous culture, folk art and celebrations.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MuertosMitaAltar-724x479.jpg
Day of the Dead Altar

Beyond the city, in the Tlacolula Valley, many smaller villages are still able to retain their traditional practices.  Here they build altars at home, light copal incense, make offerings of homemade chocolate, bread and atole, prepare a special meal of tamales, and visit the homes of relatives to greet deceased ancestors who have returned for this 24-hour period.  Then, at the designated hour, the living go to the cemeteries to be with their loved ones  — either to welcome them back into the world or put them to rest after their visit here – the practice depends on each village.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 13_PanteonJungle-724x526.jpg

You will learn about this and more as you come with us to meet artisans in three different villages beyond Oaxaca city who welcome us into their homes and their lives during this sacred festival. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC_0181_Mask_2-724x485.jpg

Study Tour Highlights:

  • Visit homes, altars and cemeteries in three Zapotec villages: Teotitlan del Valle, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, and San Marcos Tlapazola
  • Participate in presenting altar offerings at each home we visit
  • As a group, build a traditional altar to remember and honor your own loved ones
  • Learn to make homemade chocolate with the Mexican cacao bean
  • See a tamale-making demonstration and taste what is prepared
  • Shop for altar décor at the largest Teotitlan del Valle market of the year
  • Learn how mezcal is an integral part of festival culture and tradition
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Best-91-Muertos-9-479x724.jpg

We created this study tour to take you out of the city, beyond the hubbub of party revelry and glitz of a Halloween-like experience that has morphed into a Hollywood-style extravaganza in downtown Oaxaca.  We will compare how city celebrations complete with costumes and face painting differ from those in villages even as outside influences impact change. Our desire is to give you a full immersion experience that evokes what Day of the Dead may have been like 20 or 30 years ago–mystical,  magical, transcendent and spiritual.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Best51Muertos-47-724x518.jpg

Even so, cultural tourism has found its way into the back roads of Oaxaca.  We do our best to be respectful by limiting the size of our group to 10 participants, to give you an orientation about to what to expect and do during our visits, and to offer you an intimate, personal experience.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MuertosCatrinasBest38-35-479x724.jpg

We give you an insider’s view. You have the guidance of local expert Eric Chavez Santiago who will lead this cultural tour. Eric is a partner in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican folk art with a special interest in artisan economic development.  He is a weaver and natural dyer by training, a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola rug weaving family, who was born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions and customs, speaks the indigenous Zapotec language, and serves as your cultural navigator. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b-724x482.jpg

Eric is a graduate of the Anahuac University, and speaks English and Spanish. He can translate language, culture and traditions, tell you about practices in his extended family and how they have experienced the changes over time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is NormaBest11Xoxo10312013-6-724x479.jpg

Moreover, he is deeply connected and will introduce you to some of the finest artisans in the region, where you will meet weavers, natural dyers, ceramic artists, and traditional cooks. You will have an opportunity to see artisan craft demonstrations and to shop for your own collection or for gifts, as you wish.

We will be based in a comfortable Bed and Breakfast establishment one block from the market in Teotitlan del Valle for our time together. (You might decide to arrive early and stay a few nights in the city or extend your trip to be in the city afterward.)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0169-724x486.jpg
Angel in Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread)

Preliminary Itinerary

Saturday, October 29: Arrive in Oaxaca and travel to Teotitlan del Valle. Check in to a highly-rated, locally owned bed and breakfast inn. Snack box available for arrivals after 8 p.m.

Sunday, October 30: During our breakfast orientation, we discuss how Day of the Dead is celebrated in the villages and then go on a walking tour that includes the village market, church, archeological site, and cultural center. Today you will also visit the homes and studios of rug weavers, candle makers, and silk weavers talking with them about their own family observances. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle. (Includes breakfast and welcome dinner)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tamales-e1498503964227-543x724.jpg
Teotitlan del Valle tamales with mole amarillo, made by Ernestina

Monday, October 31: After breakfast, walk to the Teotitlan del Valle market to shop for altar decorations to later build a group altar. Bring photos of those you want to remember! Then, we will venture out into the countryside to visit the Zapotec village of San Marcos Tlapazola to meet artisans and discuss their family Dia de los Muertos traditions. You will see demonstrations of red clay pottery and have a chance to buy if you wish. We will come prepared with altar gifts of chocolate and bread to present to the difuntos. On the road, we will stop at a traditional comedor for lunch (at your own expense). We finish the day with a mezcal tour and tasting in Santiago Matatlan, mezcal capital of the world. Mezcal is an integral part of Zapotec celebrations and we will see why. (B, D)  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 6_Zapotecs-7-724x479.jpg

Monday, November 1: After breakfast, travel to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to meet a noted weaver artisan who will take us to their family gravesite at the village cemetery and talk about history and traditions. Visit a home where a traditional altar tells the story of ancient Zapotec culture. Our hosts will explain the ancient, pre-Hispanic altar offerings and go deep into the meaning of Muertos here in Oaxaca. You will bring your offering of chocolate and bread to put on their altar to honor our host’s ancestors. We will spend the day with this family and enjoy a very special lunch that they have prepared in our honor. – Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, tambien.  (B, D)  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is NormaBenchDSC_0153-724x485.jpg

Tuesday, November 2: After breakfast, we will visit the Teotitlan del Valle cemetery to see preparations being made to honor dead loved ones: cleaning and decorating the graves. Then we will spend the afternoon in the courtyard of a traditional cook, who shows us how to make hot chocolate and tamales with mole amarillo. We’ll have late lunch there and then accompany her to the cemetery while she sits with her loved ones as they return to the underworld. After the cemetery, you will enjoy a before bedtime snack and discuss how participating in Day of the Dead has had an impact on you. Compare and contrast this experience with USA and Canadian experiences with death and dying.  (B, L, D)

Wednesday, November 3: After breakfast, we will arrange for any laboratory tests (at your own expense) required to re-enter the USA. Then, we will hold an EXPOVENTA to showcase the work of outstanding weavers representing various villages throughout Oaxaca state, including San Juan Colorado, Triqui, and San Mateo del Mar, and San Pedro Cajones. The rest of the afternoon is on your own. You can arrange a taxi to take you to the city, to neighboring villages or archeological sites. We will enjoy a final goodbye supper before you depart. (B, D)

Thursday, November 4: Departure. We will help you arrange a taxi (at your own expense) to the airport or you may choose to stay on in Oaxaca or visit another part of Mexico.  (B) Hasta la proxima!

Itinerary subject to change based on scheduling and availability.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is i-482x724.jpg

What Is Included

  • 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
  • 6 nights lodging at a charming B&B hotel in Teotitlan del Valle
  • museum and church entry fees
  • luxury van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services
  • multi-lingual translation
  • the cultural experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included

The program 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.

Cost • $2,895 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,495 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0100-724x486.jpg
Natural dyes have strong color, beautiful and more complex than synthetic dyes

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before June 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before September 1, 2022. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After September 1, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before September 1, 2022, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. After that, there are no refunds. If we cancel for whatever reason, you will receive a full refund. 

The tour and COVID-19: You are required to be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before June 15, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and forward it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 face masks, use hand-sanitizer and practice social distancing while together. We will sanitize vans and keep the windows open when traveling together. Please note: You MUST also provide proof of international travel insurance including $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage. 

Registration Form

Complete the form and Send an email to Norma Schafer.

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room. We will send you an e-commerce invoice by email that is due on receipt.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is San-Marcos-Tlapazola2-494x724.jpg
Red clay pottery, San Marcos Tlapazola

Who Should Attend • Anyone interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into Day of the Dead practices and traditions, and who appreciates artisan craft — weaving, embroidery, pottery. If you are a collector, come with us to go deep and find the best artisans. If you are a photographer or artist, come with us for inspiration. If you are an online retailer, come with us to find the stories to market what you sell.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: Oaxaca and surrounding villages are colonial and pre-Hispanic. The altitude is close to 6,000 feet. Many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear study shoes.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments or you are immunocompromised, please consider that 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DSC_0292_Abuela_2-724x485.jpg
Sitting vigil in the village cemetery, Dia de los Muertos