Tag Archives: Pinotepa de Don Luis

In Pinotepa de Don Luis, Home to Purple Snail Dye: Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour

Did I mention that the Oaxaca coast is HOT! At 90 degrees Fahrenheit and close to equal humidity, the Costa Chica, the area between Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, and Acapulco, Guerrero, is sultry, even in winter. Women here in recent memory, wore wrap-around skirts called posohuancos, and were bare-breasted. In the 1960’s, the Church (ie. Catholic church), evangelizing missionaries and tour guides who began to penetrate the area, urged the women to cover-up. So, they designed a top that is a combo between an apron and a bra to go with their traditional wrapped skirt. And, this is how culture changes! Now, the younger women dress in Western-style clothing and save their traje (traditional festival dress) for special occasions — engagement parties, weddings, Saint’s Day festivities, and other ceremonies.

Our Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour is for the adventuresome who can ride in a van and travel long distances to get into the remote villages that we visit along the north coast of Oaxaca and southern Guerrero. Before decent roads and vehicles, the intrepid went into these areas on horseback or riding mules. We are lucky for a two-hour ride, not a day-long endurance trail up the mountainside.

In Pinotepa de Don Luis, we visit the Tixinda Cooperative whose leader is famed Don Habacuc Avedaño, the 81-year old who has been harvesting the rare purple snail dye on the Oaxaca coast since boyhood. In years past, he would travel by donkey or on foot from the village tucked into the folds of the coastal mountains to the sea. The caracol purpura proliferated along the Costa Chica then. They are smaller and harder to find now and it takes a day or two to journey to where they can be found, often as far as Huatulco, which is two-days from Pinotepa de Don Luis by vehicle. In the old days, it would take several weeks to get there. Don Habacuc and his compadres would find work along the way to finance their journey.

He is now one of only a few snail dyers left in the village. A rare commodity any way you look at it.

Today, he still climbs the rocks, a treacherous ordeal, with his adult son Rafael (who we call Rafa), to pick the snail from the rocky crevices, often prying them loose with a stick. He has skeins of hand-spun, pre-Hispanic locally grown white cotton draped around his left forearm. With his right hand, he squeezes the snail to activate the protection gland Slot Gacor Hari Ini to release the rare purple dye, careful not to kill the crustacean. He then returns it to the rocks. It takes 50 snails and one hour to dye one skein of cotton yarn that weighs 20 grams. That’s not even 1/2 an ounce. Not long ago, they could harvest and dye 15 skeins in an hour. No longer.

The threads are now used sparingly, as embellishment along collars with embroidery stitches depicting sea life, flowers and birds. Or, they are used as a narrow accent stripe or for the intricate, fine designs woven into the cloth using the supplementary weft technique. Experts are saying this beautiful purple thread may become a way of the past as the snail is endangered and difficult to find.

Our group sits on plastic patio chairs (of the Walmart variety) in a semi-circle on the packed dirt patio of the family compound. Chickens and roosters run underfoot, dipping beaks into buckets filled with water, wings flapping as they run between chair legs and human legs. We are surrounded by the finest back-strap loom woven huipiles and blusas suspended from clothing lines strung criss-cross across the courtyard. Rafa explains the snail harvesting and dyeing process. Don Habacuc is upstairs on a conference call with Mexico City officials about how to put more teeth into the federal laws written to protect the endangered species. This is their livelihood.

We put the brakes on our desire to riffle through the clothes and sit down to a fine, home-cooked meal of chicken or squash tamales and fresh fruit water made with hibiscus flowers — called Agua de Jamaica. Then, we plunge in to shop.

This is only the beginning of our day. We also visit the cooperative that hand-paints Converse tennis shoes that sell for over $250 USD in Oaxaca and Mexico City (if you can find them). This group are also graphic artists who hand-carve gourds and make print art. Then, we are off to visit Sebastiana, an amazing weaver in the same village. It is here that I find the perfect dress to wear to my son’s Southern California wedding in late March!

We are back to our base in Pinotepa Nacional by sunset, ready for dinner, a Margarita, and some chill time in our air-conditioned room!

We are taking registrations soon for the 2023 trip. Write Norma Schafer to get on the list! Mailto:Norma.schafer@icloud.com

Sebastiana explains the dyes and symbols in the cloth
Purple snail dye embellishes this indigo dyed huipil
16-year old weaver Viridiana shows me her exceptional work

The beauty of being on this trip is to meet and support the makers directly. Our group came for cultural appreciation and left with some stunning examples of traditional work.

Guest Post: Thanksgiving Sale for Oaxaca Coast Textile Artisans

Most of us have made the difficult choice to NOT travel to Oaxaca at least until the pandemic is under control and a vaccine is readily available. I have heard from many people asking what we can do, absent of travel, to support indigenous artisans who have been VERY hard hit by the tourist economy free-fall. Bottom line: People are suffering and we can help directly by purchasing something beautiful they have made.

We are getting a jump on Black Friday by making this opportunity available to you today!

Happy Thanksgiving — Special Dreamweavers Sale for You — 10% Discount. Sale starts TODAY

That’s why I invited Patrice Perillie, founder of Dreamweavers /Tixinda Textiles from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca, to write a guest blog. Together, we are offering a select group of hand-woven, naturally-dyed textiles for sale at 10% off.

Patrice says: Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to re-think how we shop and who we support.  Please consider giving a gift that will sustain indigenous weavers while delighting your loved ones! If indigenous artisans are going to survive this pandemic they need your help. 

How to Buy and Get 10% Discount:

  1. Go to Mexican Dreamweavers Facebook Page and find the textiles for sale.
  2. Choose which piece(s) you wish to purchase. Please fully describe.
  3. You tell Patrice which piece you want and that you were referred by Oaxaca Cultural Navigator: Norma Schafer
  4. When you say we referred you, you will receive a 10% discount on your purchase. You will NOT receive the discount unless you say we referred you.
  5. You send Patrice your name, address, zip code, telephone number, item(s) description and cost
  6. Patrice will send you an invoice and add on the cost of shipping to the USA from Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca (estimated at about $65, depending on weight — note: higher shipping costs to Canada)
  7. You will receive your purchase in about 7-10 days via either FedEx or Estafeta

Email for Patrice Perillie

You might ask: What is tixinda? This is the rare purple dye that is extracted from the caracol purpura sea snail. Tixinda is what the snail is called in the Mixtec language.

Below are some examples of what is available to purchase:

$400 USD. Indigo, rare purple tixinda and white cotton.
42″ long x 28″ wide

What Patrice Perillie, Immigrant Rights Attorney, Says …

I write to you from beautiful Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, where I have called home for the past 32 years. Here we all try to keep ourselves COVID-safe by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and sanitizing, and not depending on government restrictions which are in earnest but rarely enforced. It has been a difficult time especially for the indigenous artisans of our world.

For the past 12 years, it has been my privilege to work with Tixinda, a cooperative of Mixtec women weavers from Pinotepa de Don Luis. We don’t see each other much now and we have had to adapt to the new COVID world.  Many of the events we sell at have been canceled, including the prestigious International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Our all-volunteer, non-profit organization Mexican Dreamweavers*, has also been forced to cancel what would have been our 12th Annual Dreamweavers Exhibition and Sale, which normally takes place the fourth Sunday in January. Norma’s celebrated Oaxaca Coast Textile Tour to participate in this event is also canceled. We need to stay home to protect ourselves and our indigenous friends.

$200 USD. Use as shawl or table runner. Coyuchi and native cream colored cotton.

The Mixtec weavers of the Tixinda weaving cooperative are among the last of weavers in Mexico who grow their own cotton — white, green and native brown coyuchi. They spin it with the ancient drop spindle, color the fiber with natural dyes and weave it on back strap looms. An average of 400 hours of women’s work goes into each weaving!

Natural Colors from Local Plants and the Sea

Textiles feature the blues and blacks of indigo, red cochineal, and the sacred Mixtec purple dye tixinda that is extracted from a rare, nearly extinct sea snail. The color represents the divine feminine and fertility, a harvest is guided by the Moon!  Pinotepa de Don Luis is the last place on earth where only 15 men, most over the age of 60, risk their lives and brave powerful waves along Oaxaca’s rocky coastline to lovingly extract the purple tixinda dye without killing the snail.  

Wearables: Face-Masks, Huipiles, Shawls and More

Our beautiful, three-ply face masks make great stocking stuffers! A lovely shawl or table runner can dress up the holidays. Waist-length cropped blusas and longer huipiles add pizzazz to daily or special occasion wear. Even during the pandemic, we can create beauty in our lives by wearing something handmade.

$600 USD. Indigo, cochineal, coyuchi and rare purple tixinda. Woven by 48-year-old Lula. 30″ wide by 43″ long

As we celebrate the holidays in small bubbles of family and friends, we can express our love for Oaxaca by supporting her talented weavers. Our purchases give indigenous women the opportunity to stay in their villages and work from their homes, for themselves, instead of migrating without documentation to become cleaning and service industry help.

As an immigrant rights attorney, the reverse migration aspects of this work are what draws me to it, not to mention that I am an unabashed cross-cultural cross-dresser! Since the pandemic hit, I have received more and more requests to help indigenous artisans go to the US to make a living. Instead, let’s join together this Holiday Season and help them stay home and stay safe!

$300 USD. Woven on back-strap loom this tunic can be worn with pants or skirts. It has an indigo background and the Mixtec designs are in the rare purple tixinda dye and the brown coyuchi cotton. 100% cotton.

*Mexican Dreamweavers is a reverse migration project of La Abogada del Pueblo,Inc.,  a registered 501(c)(3). All donations are tax deductible!

To help ensure that these artisans and their textile traditions survive this pandemic, Dreamweavers has adapted to changing times and we invite you all to visit our

$700 USD. Hand-spun native brown coyuchi cotton with cochineal. 40″ wide x 47″ long

Oaxaca Mourns Mexico Dreamweavers Cooperative Founder and President Margarita Avedano Lopez

Oh, where to start … or continue.

As if it weren’t enough to lose El Maestro Francisco Toledo this week, news comes this morning from dear friend Patrice Perillie that Margarita Avedano Lopez, founder and president of Tixinda Mexican Dreamweavers Cooperative, has died.

The cooperative, one of the most famous on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica, is in the Mixtec weaving and dyeing village of Pinotepa de Don Luis, about an hour up the mountain from the Pacific Ocean.

Margarita’s brother, Don Habacuc Avedano, is one of the few remaining men who harvest the rare caracol purpura snail for its incredible purple dye, which Margarita used in her weavings.

We know this village intimately because we visit it as part of our Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour. We know Margarita for her outstanding collection of regional textiles that she sold in the village market, and for her extraordinary prowess as a back-strap loom weaver and dyer.

True, there are others to carry on. Yet, recognizing women in this region who preserve culture and tradition through artisan craft is essential. The work of Margarita, known as Tia Tere, deserves special acknowledgement because of her dedication to traditional methods: weaving the posahuanco (wrap-around skirt) using natural dyes such as indigo, caracol purpura and cochineal, and carding and hand-spinning (with the drop spindle) native coyuchi and white cotton into the finest threads.

Tixinda Dreamweavers Cooperative — Margarita, comadres and family

As the generations age and pass from us, how do we keep their memory and their talent alive, going forward? To honor Margarita, it is imperative that our appreciation for Oaxaca traditions carry forward. It is essential that we continue to support handcraft. I feel privileged to have known her and to have acquired cloth that she wove and fashioned into fine garments.

Descanse bien, Margarita Avedano Lopez. We will miss you immensely.

My treasured fuchsine dress from Margarita’s market puesto

Oaxaca Artisans in Santa Fe, New Mexico 2019 IFAM

Thursday parade features Mexican delegation with Teotitlan weaver Isaac Vasquez

The 2019 International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has come to an end. The three-day extravaganza is a chaotic mix of tribal, ethnic, indigenous creativity from around the world. It brings together many talented artisans who have no other paths to reach international markets.

Santa Fe is a destination for many reasons. This is where friends from all over the country converge to volunteer, too. A group of us planned a reunion around being here. We coordinated our volunteer time. We stayed at the same, small, old Route 66 motel that has been in service since the 1950’s. I imagine my dad may have stayed there as he pulled a trailer with all our family household belongings behind our 1953 Plymouth station wagon on the journey west from Detroit to resettle in Los Angeles.

Don Jose Garcia Antonio is blind, feels his way to sculpt Oaxaca life

The market officially begins on Friday night with a special opening night preview at $250 per person admission. I always volunteer, so I get to watch the passing parade of Texas and Oklahoma oil and gas heiresses and collectors dressed in their finest attire. It’s a cocktail party that goes from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. The ticket gives one first pick. I volunteered with Santa Fe de Laguna, Patzcuaro, potter Nicolas Fabian Fermin, and I packed up lots of beautiful pots that night.

Weaver Pedro Mendoza, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, at Banamex Foundation booth

The frenzy continued on Saturday morning when the Early Birders got in at 7:30 a.m. After the late night on Friday of bubble-wrapping ceramics, I just couldn’t get going to get there before 10 a.m. when the event opened to general admission. With hundreds of artisans and thousands of people, it was a crush to get through the aisles to see all that was offered at this huge bazaar.

Yesenia Yadira Salgado Tellez, Oaxaca filigree silversmith

That didn’t give me much time to cover more than a fraction of the aisles, since I was meeting friends Jennifer and Mark Brinitzer, Ann Brinitzer and Katie and Don Laughland for an early lunch in the cafe. The women came with me on our 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour (a few places open for 2020) and we became fast friends.

Remigio Mestas is noted conservator of finest Oaxaca textiles, at Banamex Foundation

It was thrilling and heartfelt to see so many artisans I know from Oaxaca represented at this outstanding exposition. It takes years of making highest quality work to gain this level of recognition, plus it takes entrepreneurship and some luck to gain entry to this juried show.

Amada Sanchez, Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca, master weaver and dyer

It’s very expensive for artisans to participate, too. They must cover their own shipping, travel, lodging and food expenses and they give 20% of their sales to the IFAM organization for the opportunity to sell.

Weaver Porfirio Gutierrez Contreras and dye-master sister Juana, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
Client wears fuschine-dyed huipil, Dreamweavers Cooperative, Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca

If they are part of a cooperative with many makers, the profits must be divided. As with the case of Dreamweavers Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis, there were three representatives at the Folk Art Market — Amada, Teofila and Patrice. Patrice did a fundraiser and collected over $4,000 USD to cover some of the expenses. And, they had excellent sales. However, the net gets divided among 30 weavers and dyers, so each person might earn only a few hundred dollars.

Selvedge Magazine Latin Issue co-editor Marcella Echeverria, Mexico City

For individual artisans and families, the profits are much better but ONLY IF there are sales. If it is a slow year, there is an opportunity to sell at a discount (the artisan names the percentage) on Sunday afternoon, the last day of the show. Brisk sales one year does not guarantee success for the next. The risk is entirely on the shoulders of the artisan.

Odilon Merino Morales shows an exquisite hand-woven San Pedro Amuzgo, Oaxaca huipil,

Odilon Merino Morales from San Pedro Amuzgo on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca, Mexico, consigns what he doesn’t sell with Sheri Brautigam who runs the online Etsy shop, Living Textiles of Mexico. If you didn’t get to the show and want one of these incredible textiles, please contact Sheri. She also has pieces from Pinotepa de Don Luis’ Dreamweavers Cooperative.

Master weaver Isaac Vasquez, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

The benefit of doing this is that the artisans do not need to pay the return shipping for unsold goods and it leaves the beautiful pieces in the USA for better access to those of you who missed the show and want to make a purchase.

Patrice Perillie, Amada Sanchez and Norma Schafer in our huipiles

I volunteered on Saturday afternoon from noon to 6:00 p.m. with the Dreamweavers Cooperative. I know these women well since I lead study tours to their remote village on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica.

The IFAM show is a destination and an adventure. Since I know many of the artisans, it is a special and heart-throbbing experience to meet them outside their humble homes and villages in the world of commerce. For some, this is their first visit to the USA. Their first flight on an airplane. Their first success at getting a visa to enter the USA and overcome the fears of border crossing and disrespect.

Hand-woven native green Oaxaca cotton, purple snail dye, indigo, cochineal

This is the moment to applaud what Oaxaca artisans have accomplished. There are so many more talented people whose work goes unrecognized and unrewarded. For those of us who love Mexico and appreciate the talent, history, culture and art, the process of bringing accomplished artisans to the world marketplace is an on-going effort.

Thanks to all who support and applaud what they do.

My pal Winn, volunteer extraordinaire, writing up a sales slip

In the vast New Mexico landscape, one can disappear, rediscover Georgia O’Keefe, experience Nuevo Mexico, land of enchantment, understand the history and artisanry of nearby Native Americans who live along the Rio Grand River. It is hot, dry, high desert with the kind of beauty that brings the romance of the Old West into one’s spirit.

View from Abiquiu, New Mexico

Look at the rain over purple hills, fields of sage and lavender, the dry withered look of dehydration — plants and people, wrinkles in the earth and on weathered faces. I imagine what it would be like to be an indigenous person here, too. I know the Oaxaca story well. There are many similarities — both experienced the Conquest, the attempt at culture annihilation, and the resurgence of identity amidst the face of adversity and hardship.

Again, let’s applaud the talent of our First Peoples.

Santo Domingo jewelry maker Warren Nieto

Purple Snail Dye, Pinotepa de Don Luis and Identity Markers

The caracol purpura is losing ground and so are the tintoreros, the dyers who milk them, applying the dye directly to the cotton cloth on the rocky Oaxaca coast to give up its extraordinary purple color, keeping the mollusk alive. The dyers, led by 78 year-old Don Habacuc Avedano, come from the Mixtec town of Pinotepa de Don Luis, high in the mountains on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. It’s the women of the village, the wives and daughters, who spin and weave this cloth into some of the most coveted textiles in Oaxaca.

Nancy examines purple snail dye skein with Don Habacuc

The snail is close to extinction.

One of 4 skeins dyed in 2018. Before, 40+ skeins.

We visited this village during our recent Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour, an 11-day investigation into the growing, spinning, dyeing and weaving textile culture of Oaxaca. I will ONLY offer this trip again in January 2020 IF I have six people committed to go by April 1, 2019, with a $500 deposit. Contact me.

We arrived on Don Habacuc’s 78th Birthday with a Mañanitas song

We visited this village during our recent Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour, an 11-day investigation into the growing, spinning, dyeing and weaving textile culture of Oaxaca’s Pacific Coast. I will ONLY offer this trip again in January 2020 IF I have six people committed to go by April 1, 2019, with a $500 deposit. Contact me.

Mexico’s cultural anthropologist Martha Turok Wallace has worked tirelessly over her career to help preserve the natural dye culture here, support villagers, and suggest ways they could adapt their work to reach new markets. Without sales to visitors, the textile culture will be lost. Without conservation and public education, the snail will become extinct.

Gauze-weave huipil from Pinotepa de Don Luis

As recently as the 1970’s, the traditional dress for Pinotepa de Don Luis women was a posahuanco (wrap-around skirt), woven in three-lengths of cloth on the back-strap loom, the lengths hand-stitched, and the cloth dyed with caracol purpura, indigo and cochineal. That’s what the purple snail dye was used for. Topless for this hot, humid climate, they wore a finely hand-woven, transparent white huipil that draped from head to shoulders. The cloth was held in place by an inverted dried gourd, worn much like a crown with a veil.

Hand-carved gourd (jicara) with sea life

Martha suggested that the gourd could be carved and used as a container. It is now finely carved with intricate figures of birds, flowers, sea life and used as wall decor and lamp-bases, too.

I’ve heard Martha speak at conferences about how important it is to innovate and adapt in order to keep the traditions of a culture vibrant. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing people to blue jeans and polyester. But for me the question always remains, What is authentic and does this mean we behave as colonials to keep people fixed in their place? Progress means change. Progress means better education, health care, access to economic prosperity.

Posahuanco with apron cover-up

Today, women in the village cover themselves with bra-type aprons that drape over the posahuanco. The posahuanco has also changed. It can include native coyuchi brown and white cotton. I’ve seen it worn as a mini-skirt with a zipper by younger women.

The skirt is the main identity marker of the village along with the purple shell dye.

Bitty looks over the vintage posahuanco and intricate weave

What is an identity marker?

An identity marker is how one defines self in relationship to the group(s) we belong to. It is cultural and distinctive, based on a common language, values, ethnicity, religion, social class, age group, where we live, or the type of dress we choose to wear. Walk into the regional market in Pinotepa Nacional and you know immediately that the woman wearing the posahuanco with the apron top is from Pinotepa de Don Luis.

Linda is thrilled with this indigo dyed blusa

What about the hand-woven long dresses (huipiles) and tops (blusas) from Pinotepa de Don Luis?

Gretchen’s Blusa: Fertility figures, double-headed turkeys, flowers on supplemental weft

These are designed and made for foreigners — those who live outside the village. Sometimes, you will see a local woman wearing this huipil at shows or special tourist sales events, but it is rare. This is another form of adaptation to use the native hand-spun cotton produced in the village, woven on the back-strap loom, the threads often dyed with indigo or touches of the shell dyed cotton or silk.

Purple snail dye on the coast of Oaxaca
Rafael, Don Habacuc’s son, the next and perhaps last generation of dyers

I’ll be writing more about this region in days to come. So stay tuned. On Wednesday, I’m off to Michoacan to lead another folk art study tour.