Tag Archives: Oaxaca

Day of the Dead 2024 Photo Workshop Instructor Featured in Elle Magazine

Elle Magazine Mexico features an interview with photographer Luvia Lazo from Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca. Luvia is leading a photography workshop here in October 2024, just before Day of the Dead.

The interview is in Spanish, but you can use Google translate or just get the gist of it by looking at her extraordinary photographs.

Luvia speaks English and the workshop will be taught in English.

The workshop is a combination of street and portrait photography. You’ll meander the village to capture ancient archeological sites, open air markets, shops, studios and galleries. We will also be setting up formal portrait sessions with some of the people here we know and love focusing on multi-generational images.

Together, we will review our work, offer supportive feedback, share meals and mezcal, take a step back in time by exploring this 8,000 year old Zapotec village located about forty-minutes outside of Oaxaca city.

Hone your photography skills and get an insider’s view of the culture.

Day of the Dead Photography Workshop. Register today!

Deep Into the Mixteca Alta: Oaxaca Textile + Folk Art Study Tour 2025

5 nights, 6 days, March 12-17, 2025 — Starting and ending in Oaxaca City

We go deep into the Mixteca Alta, a mountainous region of the Sierra Madre del Sur in the north of Oaxaca state that is situated between the capital city and the Oaxaca coast. This area is home to Mixtec-speaking and Triqui speaking peoples. Here, we will explore these pueblos located about six hours northwest of the city. We will meet the makers of amazing handcrafts including textiles, ceramics, and palm weaving. This destination is far off-the-beaten-path where tourists don’t usually travel. Nestled in the folds of the mountain range are villages that are still making utilitarian and beautiful objects just as they have for centuries.

Wintering in Oaxaca? Wrap up your stay with this adventure into the Mixteca Alta!

We are going to an important Oaxaca source for basket weaving, back-strap loom weaving, silk cultivation, and pottery. We invite you to round out your knowledge of Oaxaca beyond the central valleys of the Zapotec capital to learn more about two of the 16 diverse indigenous groups that inhabit the state: Mixteco and Triqui.

Our road into the mountains will be winding and there are distances to travel. Some days, we may be in the van for several hours. We will walk towns and markets, traverse some hilly areas by foot, and ask that you be travel-ready with stamina for a road trip and an unparalleled adventure.

The Preliminary Daily Schedule

Day 1, Wednesday, March 12: Arrive in Oaxaca city, lodging in the city for one night. Overnight: Oaxaca City.  Meals included: none.

Day 2, Thursday, March 13: Today, we get on the road to visit Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan and learn about its history. This imposing structure was built by Indigenous slave labor just 20 years after the conquest in the 16th Century by the Dominican order atop an important Mixtec temple site – trading center, religious and cultural hub for the region to establish control. Then we make a stop to visit an innovative potter nearby who participates in the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Next, we meet a local Tonaltepec guide Tomasa Bautista who is an expert in the region’s geology. She explains the research importance of the Mixteca Alta Geopark, considered to be the most geologically complex region of Mexico, to conserve and protect the environment. This community project is part of the UNESCO Global Geopark system and showcases the biodiversity and amazing landscape formed by erosion and layers of million-year-old rocks caused by the interaction between nature and society. We lunch with a local family who shows us the pottery the town is famous for.

Here, amid this beautiful landscape we find a workshop of traditional potters in the town of Tonaltepec that use natural fermentation inks from barks of the local trees to create a special decoration on the pottery pieces made here. Lunch with the family. Overnight in Tlaxiaco. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch.

Day 3, Friday, March 14: Come with us to San Pablo Tijaltepec to meet a collective of embroiderers who we met at the national expoventa ORIGINAL. They specialize in the technique of smocking — pepenado — that produces whimsical figures depicting wildlife and barnyard animals on the bodice design. After lunch with this group, we travel on to San Mateo Peñasco, where we will learn about the silk production. The town traditionally supplies cultivated silk to the coastal weavers of the Mixteca Baja. Silk, a protein-based fiber, absorbs cochineal, caracol purpura and indigo like none other! Overnight in Tlaxiaco. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch.

Day 4: Saturday, March 15: This is market day in Tlaxiaco and we will get there early, right after breakfast. This is the largest market of the region, where artisans come to sell palm weavings, textiles, leather work and ceramics. After wandering the market and lunch, we travel to the Triqui village of San Andres Chicahuaxtla, where we will meet a cooperative of weavers who specialize in supplementary weft and very fine gauze weaving techniques on a back strap loom. On our way back to Tlaxiaco, we stop in Santa Maria Cuquila to meet a cooperative of Mixtec weavers who specialize in creating traditional huipiles on back strap looms. Overnight: Tlaxiaco. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.

Day 5, Sunday, March 16: After breakfast, we briefly visit the Tlaxiaco town market, make a stop in Nochixtlan for lunch, then return to Oaxaca city where you will have the afternoon on your own. Gather in the evening for a Gala Grand Finale Dinner at one of the city’s most outstanding restaurants. Overnight: Oaxaca City. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Day 6. Monday, March 17: Return to your home countries or extend your trip in Oaxaca on your own. Travel Day. Meals included: None

Note: Schedule is preliminary and is subject to change throughout our tour, depending on artisan availability, etc.

For more detailed reading about the experience, please read:

What Is Included

  • 5 nights lodging
  • 4 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • Grand Finale Gala Dinner in Oaxaca City
  • Museum and park entry fees
  • Luxury van transportation
  • Complete guide and translation services

The tour 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 artisans, guides, and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $2,995 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us and tell us which payment method you want to use to make your deposit: Zelle (no fee) or credit card (4% fee). See below.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

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 September 15, 2024. The third 50% payment of the balance is due on or before December 1, 2025. We accept payment using a Zelle transfer (no fees) or a credit card (4% service fee). When you complete the registration form and send it to us, we will send you a request for deposit. After December 1, 2024, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 1, 2024 we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable reservation deposit. After that, there are no refunds.

If we cancel for whatever reason, we will offer a 100% refund of all amounts received to date, less the non-refundable deposit.

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.

NOTE:  If you have walking impediments or you rely on other travelers for personal assistance, then this is not the trip for you. Oaxaca city is close to 6,000 feet altitude. We travel to villages that are 7,500 feet altitude. For altitude or motion sickness, please consult your doctor and come prepared with adequate medications. All travelers must provide proof of vaccination for COVID-19 and bring two antigen testing kits to test along the way.

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us. We will then send you a request to make your reservation deposit.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: The Mixteca Alta is 7,500 feet high. To get there, one must ascend secondary roads that are paved yet winding. We will do some walking in the villages. If you have motion sickness, please bring medication and ginger chews. We rotate seating on the van to give everyone a chance to sit up front! We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear sturdy shoes.

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 plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Surprises in the Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca: Handwoven Palm Baskets

OMG. Shuko and I went a little crazy in the Tlaxiaco (Tla-hee-ah-koh) market that happens once a week on Saturday, starting at 7:30 a.m. in the Mixteca Alta This is a tianguis similar to the one we find on Sundays in Tlacolula, but much more rustic. Recently, it was held in the town zocalo across the street from our hotel, but was moved to an open field on the outskirts about eight long blocks from the city center. Some of us got up at 6 a.m. to get there early on a quest for handwoven palm baskets, the kind farmers have used for ages to carry feed to their animals out in the fields, as well as other artisan wares.

We want to use the baskets for home decor and storage! They come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the woven material now is plastic, but there are still some made in the traditional way using palm fronds. These have softer sides and are light weight, distinguished by a woven carrying strap. Some are plain weave. Others incorporate black dyed palm woven into the basket body in geometric patterns. We hunted and hunted and found these hidden among piles of plastic ones. We also found some beautiful heavier duty baskets suitable for holding weaving and knitting supplies, toiletries, kitchen utensils, napkins, and more. The applications are limitless!

By the time we were done, we probably had ten baskets each! Now to ship them to the USA. Hahaha!

Come with us March 12-17, 2025, for your own basket shopping adventure. Send us an email to say you are interested!

Pilgrimage to San Pablo Tijaltepec, Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca

The map says it’s just under five hours from Oaxaca City to the remote Mixtec village of San Pablo Tijaltepec. For those of us who traveled there last Sunday on our Mixteca Alta textile study tour, it seemed more like many more hours and a world far, far away. We were based in Tlaxiaco (Tla-hee-ah-koh), the administrative district headquarters for the Mixtec nation, which extends from the highlands to the Pacific coast. To get from there to Tijaltepec, we traveled more than two hours going up, down, across and through spectacular countryside dotted with pine forests along winding mountain roads where we climbed to 7,425 feet to reach the town of 2,750 people where 91% speak Mixtec, one of Oaxaca’s sixteen different language groups.

The village was an important one for us to visit on our textile and cultural tour because of the amazing smocking (called pepenado) that adorns blouses and dresses made there. I have been enamored of and collected these textiles for years because of their whimsical iconic designs of deer and rabbits that are featured on the bodices.

On this visit we also saw images of birds, ducks, turkeys, jaguars, and people. The smocking is all done by hand and it takes women artisans months to create one blouse. The work is apportioned by interest and skill. One person will make the smocked bodice designs. Another will make the smocked sleeves. Another will add very detailed embroidery around the neckline. Finally, one will assemble and will sew the garment together.

We will offer this Mixteca Alta Textile Study Tour, March 12-17, 2025. Send us an email to find out more!

We discovered Kintex Gonzalez Garcia in November 2023 when we attended Original in Mexico City. Original is an expoventa organized by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to promote indigenous makers throughout the country. Over 1,000 artisans were invited to participate and were supported by the federal government. Over sixty-percent were textile makers. We identified Kintex Gonzalez Garcia by their quality, originality, and complexity. Since we knew were were traveling to Tijaltepec, we reached out to them to arrange to bring our group of fifteen travelers there. This is the first time they welcomed a large group!

They know this is not an easy journey to make and they are isolated. They so appreciated that we came to visit.

Their story is remarkable. Twenty-three years ago Natividad Garcia Silva, head of the cooperative, who learned to weave from her mother at eight, and her husband Geronimo Gonzalez, traveled to Santa Maria, California to live the American Dream. One of eighteen children, she was age 16 at the time. Natividad harvested grapes, strawberries and oranges. They stayed for ten years, cooking, cleaning, gardening, working construction. Their eldest daughter Maria de Jesus, now age twenty-two, was born there. What they found was struggle and difficulty making ends meet.

Thirteen years ago they decided to return to their home town and make a go of designing and sewing the smocked blouses the village has become so well known for. They named their cooperative Kintex, the name of Geronimo’s great grandmother.

One of their daughters went to university in Mexico City and graduated as a civil engineer. She began making contact with the Ministry of Culture and this is how Kintex was invited to participate in Original. Since this is a Usos y Costumbres village, they had to get approval from their community’s president to travel to Mexico City to participate. In traditional villages like this, most do not want to share their weaving and embroidery with outsiders.

Finding markets has been tough. Only lately, have they been able to sell beyond local consumption. Natividad and Germonimo both say there is a lot of need. Single moms and widows survive by selling their textiles and have an income. They both say, We like it that others wear what we make and it says that they value our work. Now, people know where these designs come from!

Social media is their main outlet for selling. They have both a Facebook and Instagram page that Geronimo manages and that their son-in-law, Maria de Jesus’ husband, takes videos for.

The women in the cooperative joined together to prepare lunch for us — pozole (hominy) with locally raised guajalote (turkey), accompanied by homemade tortillas and agua de jamaica (hibiscus drink). We all said it was the best we had ever tasted, anywhere! Natividad insisted on gifting us with this meal because we had traveled so far to visit them. After everyone had left the dining room, I asked her to sit next to me, to look at me, woman to woman, face to face. I explained that it was only fair and just to thank her with a payment for the food they prepared. That it took time, effort, and resources. I took her hand and put a wad of pesos in her palm. She began to cry, confessing this had been a difficult year for them, and we cried together and then hugged.

This is why we do what we do, this is why travelers appreciate coming with us. Because we care about the people who do so much for us, and we in turn, have an opportunity to do for them. This is not about giving a hand-out. It is about cultural appreciation on the most intimate, personal level.

And, of course, we all supported the cooperative with our purchases. It was an amazing day.

We will offer this Mixteca Alta Textile Study Tour, March 12-17, 2025. Send us an email to find out more!

Thanks to Donna Davis, Charlie Dell, Emily Behzadi, Joyce Howell, and Federico Chavez Sosa for providing some of the photos for this blog post!

Drought Hits Mexico Hard, Including Oaxaca

I’m reposting this from The Mezcalistas team and Susan Coss, who is a mezcal educator and runs Mezcal in a Bottle throughout the USA. She operates out of the Bay Area of Northern California. There is water urgency here in Oaxaca, where many of us buy water for drinking and household use. We are alarmed and concerned for locals and foreigners alike. The cost of water has tripled as the aquafer has dried up and wells are no longer providing for our basic needs. I’m showering no more than twice a week and wash my hair maybe once a week. When I do, it’s a dribble. I conserve water at the sink by running the water at a trickle. Visitors need to heed all precautions for water conservation!

It rained last night in Teotitlan del Valle. I sat under the corridor, the sheltered part of my patio, in celebration of the forty-minute downpour. But it’s a drop in the bucket.

Please read to understand what is going on here!

From The Mezcalistas

If we needed a reminder about how serious the drought is in Mexico, we got a strong one in the form of the forest fires that have impacted the state of Oaxaca. While the one that came dangerously close to Santiago Matatlan has been fully contained, five lives were lost fighting the fire. About 75% of Mexico is suffering from a drought. The past two rainy seasons have been lackluster and communities are running out of water – even Mexico City is not immune. While droughts are not uncommon, the frequency and severity of them is only increasing with global climate change. There are the short term solutions of providing immediate support and relief, but clearly longer term solutions are required. We cannot be reliant on a good rainy season to replenish rivers, wells and aquifers and must take a long range view to help mitigate times when there are droughts, which fuel devastating forest fires.

We in the mezcal community must ask ourselves and others what we can do. Like everything mezcal related, this is a complicated and layered question. On average it takes 10 liters of water to make one liter of mezcal. Almost  72.3 million liters of water were used to make the amount of mezcal exported to the US in 2023. What can be done to use less water in the production? And what can be done with the 72.3 million liters of viñaza that were created from that same production – what solutions can be implemented to safely return that dirty water to the rivers and aquifers?

But it isn’t just about water usage. It’s also about forest management (and deforestation) and how agave is cultivated and how it could be grown differently to capture more water for the ground. It’s about the responsibility both brands and producers have to the communities where they do business. It’s about the government policies that encourage mezcal production but don’t mitigate its impacts.  

And finally it’s about the decisions we make as consumers when we buy mezcal. We all can and should do better and we are planning continued coverage on these important issues. Be sure to check out the stories below. We have a terrific profile on Chacolo from new contributor Felisa Rogers. The Partida family has been making “vino de mezcal” in southern Jalisco, which some consider the birthplace of mezcal, for five generations. In this profile, Felisa shows not only the tradition of the family, but also how their sustainability measures could be a path forward for the category. Also be sure to check out a perfect pairing with the new Legendario Domingo expression from San Luis Potosi, new tasting notes, a new mezcal math post and links to various mezcal events happening in the coming months.

Saludos, Susan and the Mezcalistas Team