San Juan Colorado is up the mountain about an hour-and-half from Pinotepa Nacional along the Costa Chica. It’s at the end of the road, so secluded that the Spanish Conquest and proselytizing priests didn’t reach here until much later. It’s why traditional backstrap loom weaving and natural dyeing have survived over the years.
Mostly women weave here, but some men are also learning. Girls start when they are around ten years old. Native wild preHispanic cotton grows here, too — caramel colored brown, mint green, creamy white make up the palette. White thread can also be dyed red with cochineal, blue with indigo, yellow with wild marigold, brown with nuts and bark. Brazilwood turns white cotton to a fucsia hot pink. Cooking cotton in an iron pot dulls the color. White becomes a soft grey.
We visit one of the oldest cooperatives, Jini Nuu. We gather in the courtyard under the shade of an almond tree The bark is also a dye material. Yuridia and Verónica welcome us. The older women are sitting on the ground, legs tucked under them, bare toes peeking out from their posahuanco wrap-around skirts, spinning cotton with the drop spindle, picking seeds from the cotton to get ready to spin it, and weaving on the backstrap loom.
Our group sits down for lunch. We are served tamales stuff with a local specialty of mangrove mussels and another type stuffed with chicken. There is a spicy beef broth soup, tasty fruit waters, avocado, Oaxaca queso fresco, and plenty of made in the comal tortillas. We are in foodie heaven. Our desert is a shot of Piedra de Alma mezcal.
Mid-afternoon we cross the village to visit Camerina and the Las Sanjuaneras cooperative where they weave beautiful gauze fabric and work only in natural dyes. Their oldest member is age 81 and their youngest is in her 30’s. Cooperatives are important social and economic organizations, offering ways to marketi and also provide mutual support.
Designs woven into the cloth are selected by each weaver. They I clise the flora and fauna of the region. Since we are near the coast, this includes crab, turtles, ducks, birds, stars, rainbows, mountains, scorpions, pine trees, corn plants, chickens. The row of women figures holding hands depicts solidarity. Shoulder decorations of zigzag depict the Feathers of Quetzalcoatl — the serpent god. The double-headed eagle has special significance: the duality of life, ting-hangs, man-woman, fertility.
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.
This morning at 7 am we boarded the 35-minute AeroTucan flight from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido. This is the launching site for our 8-day textile adventure through the Costa Chica, the Pacific Coastal area between Acapulco and Puerto Escondido.
The coastal mountains are riddled with villages where indigenous women dye home-grown, pre-Hispanic cotton and weave on backstrap looms. We go off the beaten path to see how they live and create, mindful of public health and cultural sensitivity.
We have eight women traveling with us. Cultural anthropologist Denise and I are the Oaxaca Cultural Navigators. For now, we are relaxing at the Hotel Santa Fe. Today is our travel day. Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner. I’ll be keeping you posted as we progress north up MEX 200 and the Oaxaca coast.
Tuesday to Sunday, July 25 – 31, 2022 – 7 daysand 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is Included:
6 nights lodging
Expert bilingual guide services
Luxury van transportation
An educational experience of a lifetime
What is NOT Included:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oaxaca, Mexico, is known for her textile diversity. Cotton and silk threads, and wool yarn are woven into amazing fabrics that become clothing, home goods, and rugs. Many pieces are unique and tell a story of family, community, beliefs and spirituality. In the city and throughout remote mountain villages, women and men weave using ancient technologies – back strap loom, pedal loom and flying shuttle loom. Each technique yields a different type of cloth. Some threads are even dyed using natural plant materials such as wild marigold, pecan nuts and shells, tree bark and leaves, and with the nopal cactus parasitic insect that yields carminic acid. You may have heard of it: cochineal. This was the most valuable export from Mexico during the Spanish conquest next to gold and silver.
Our walking tour is four hours starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 1:30 p.m. It is designed to introduce you to the textile traditions of Oaxaca. During our time together, we explain the processes, and show you a range of textiles offered at various price points. We will visit four venues, including market vendors and boutique galleries to discuss, evaluate and compare quality, workmanship, design, materials, and weaving types and styles.
This is an ADULTS ONLY walking tour. It is not suitable for children under the age of 14. We limit this tour to 6 adults.
By participating, you will gain a better understanding for what is produced for tourist consumption and what is made for personal use, the stories that are woven into the cloth by indigenous people, the difference between commercial or handwoven cloth, and how to determine value and cost.
This is an essential foundation tour to discover how textiles are an integral part of Oaxaca’s rich culture and traditions. We meet at a central Oaxaca historic district location and cover about 12 city blocks. Be prepared to walk! Wear comfy shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen and water.
Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator is Eric Chavez Santiago, a weaver and natural dye expert who was the founding director of education at the Museo Textile de Oaxaca, and former managing director of folk-art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. Eric speaks Zapotec, Spanish and English. He is a partner in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC with founder Norma Schafer and part of the Casa Fe y Lola family textile organization.
Book Your Experience with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC
$275 USD for one or two persons.
Each additional person for a group of three or more is $95 per person up to six people. Children over 14 years old are welcome. Note: This tour does NOT include lunch. It is a curated educational experience that includes translations and in-depth explanations.
To register, send us an email to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC Norma Schafer to tell us the dates you prefer. Please give us a choice of two or three dates to reserve your tour. A 25% non-refundable deposit will confirm your reservation. We will send you an invoice for the deposit to be paid in advance online using an e-commerce platform. The balance is due on the day of the tour in cash – payable in either US dollars or MXN pesos.
We also create customized textile tours of one- to several days in length for collectors, designers, makers, retailers and wholesalers.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
Click image to order yours!
Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
Programs can be scheduled to meet your travel plans. Send us your available dates.
Designers, retailers, wholesalers, universities and other organizations come to us to develop customized itineraries, study abroad programs, meetings and conferences. It's our pleasure to make arrangements.
Our Clients Include
*Penland School of Crafts
*North Carolina State University
*WARP Weave a Real Peace
NEW: Oaxaca Textile Walking Tour. One-day Oaxaca walkabout, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Explore select textile market stalls, galleries to learn about Oaxaca’s rich and diverse textiles. Compare quality and cost. Contact us to schedule yours.
Hands-on Dye Workshops + Textile Experiences
We offer textile experiences in our studio where we weave and work only in natural dyes.You can see the process during our textile tours, dye workshops or customized weaving experiences. Ask us for more information about these experiences, customized scheduling, and prices.
1-Day Oaxaca Textile Walking Tour When you visit Oaxaca immerse yourself in our textile culture, how is indigenous clothing made, what is the best value, most economical, finest available. Suitable for adults only. Set your own dates.
Coming Soon!One-Day OaxacaCollectors Textile Tour. You are interested in those special pieces not easily found in galleries, shops or on the street. You want to buy direct from the maker. We take you to meet artisan makers who live on the outskirts of Oaxaca, and who represent their families and cooperatives who live in remote regions of the state.
Stay Healthy. Stay Safe. In Oaxaca, wear your mask. Questions? Want more info or to register? Send an email email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Maps: Teotitlan + Tlacolula Market
We require 48-hour advance notice for map orders to be processed. We send a printable map via email PDF after order received. Please be sure to send your email address. Where to see natural dyed rugs in Teotitlan del Valle and layout of the Sunday Tlacolula Market, with favorite eating, shopping, ATMs. Click Here to Buy Map
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle