Tag Archives: travel

Textile Tour in Oaxaca, Mexico, December 2024

Join us in Oaxaca from December 6 to 14, 2024, for a spectacular insider’s view of the textile culture and history of this World Heritage colonial city. We have created this experience in collaboration with Fiber Circle Studio in Petaluma, California, and owner founder Alisha Bright. Lots of touring plus hands-on workshops to keep you excited and engaged in the weaving and textile culture.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit to artisan studios in Teotitlan del Valle including silk and tapestry weavers
  • Participate in a two-day natural dye workshop
  • Learn or enhance your skills in a two-day tapestry weaving workshop
  • Travel to the mountain village of Chichicapam for a one-day spinning workshop
  • Discover key sights – Hierve el Agua, and El Tule, a 3,000 year old cypress tree
  • Visit important museums and shops
  • Wander the Sunday tianguis at the Tlacolula Market, a confluence of art, craft and more
  • Meet a red clay potter in her famous ceramics studio
  • Experience Virgin of Guadalupe parades in downtown Oaxaca
  • Show & tell your work, share your experience with the group
  • Enjoy a grand finale dinner with our group and leaders

Read more details here!

(No prior weaving or dyeing experience is necessary. This is open and valuable to all levels of fiber artists and fiber admirers.)

DAY 1 | Arrive, settle in & welcome! 

Arrive, travel to Teotitlan del Valle on your own, at your own expense. We will provide directions from the airport. Box supper available upon check-in at our upscale bed and breakfast inn. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 2 | Introduction, visit weaving cooperatives, begin dye workshop

Breakfast, introduction to the textile culture of Oaxaca with a presentation. Morning excursion to 3 cooperatives and workshops to meet weavers in Teotitlan del Valle who create tapestries, clothing, and handbags. After lunch, we will meet at the dye studio and begin the process to create naturally dyed skeins of wool. Dinner will be at our bed and breakfast inn. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

About the Natural Dye Workshop: Participants will dye an assortment of colors using various plants and overdyed techniques. Participants will dye 15 wool skeins of 100 grams, with enough colors and materials to weave a small sampler on our weaving day.

DAY 3 | Natural dye workshop – 15 colors; 15 skeins of wool

Breakfast. Visit the Tlacolula market. Lunch at local comedor. We’ll resume the natural dye workshop to dye skeins of wool exploring locally sourced plant materials of indigo, pomegranate, wild marigold, plus cochineal. The workshop will cover chemistry in dye preparation and techniques for over-dyeing. Box supper at dye studio. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 4 | Spinning workshop, dip in the waters of Hierve el Agua

Breakfast. Excursion to Chichicapam to meet a family of spinners who work with only the finest quality Churro sheep wool. We will have an opportunity to spin yarn using the drop-spindle (malacate) and purchase handspun yarn. Visit to Hierve el Agua. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 5 | Weaving workshop, ceramics studio

Breakfast. Morning weaving workshop – we’ll be working on a frame loom that will produce a sampler or wall hanging approximately 10” x 18” using the yarns prepared during the natural dye workshop. Lunch at the weaving studio. Afternoon excursion to ceramics village of San Marcos Tlapazola. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle.

DAY 6 | Weaving workshop, visit El Tule, head to la ciudad de Oaxaca, optional Mezcal tastings!

Breakfast. Morning weaving workshop to continue working on and finishing projects. Lunch at a local comedor. Excursion to El Tule to see the ancient cypress tree and visit flying shuttle loom weaver. Dinner at Oaxaca Te Amo. Overnight in Oaxaca City. We will provide suggestions for anyone who wants to do Mezcal tastings.

DAY 7 | Textile museum and shops, Virgin de Guadalupe parades

Breakfast. Morning guided walking tour of Oaxaca textile museum and important shops. Lunch on your own and opportunity to see Virgin of Guadalupe parades in El Centro. Dinner on your own. Overnight in Oaxaca City.

DAY 8 | Show & tell, wander the city, final dinner

Breakfast. Discussion of community, culture, textiles, show and tell of weaving samplers. Lunch and afternoon on your own. Gala Grand Finale Dinner. Overnight in Oaxaca City.

DAY 9 | Hasta luego!

Breakfast. Depart on flights home from Oaxaca airport. We will help arrange taxi transportation at your own expense.

PRICING

  • $4,295 (per person/double occupancy)
  • $4,995 (per person/single occupancy)

REGISTER

  1. Please download this form, complete it and return it by email to norma.schafer@icloud.com 
  2. A $500 non-refundable deposit will reserve your space – you will receive an invoice after your registration form is received. The remaining balance will be due on August 1, 2024. 
  3. PLEASE TELL US YOU ARE REGISTERING DIRECTLY WITH OAXACA CULTURAL NAVIGATOR

CANCELLATION POLICY

For cancellations made on or before August 1, 2024, we will honor a 50% refund. Any cancellations after August 1, 2024, will not qualify for a refund. Details of the cancellation policy can be found here.

Read more details here!

Traveling in Chiapas: Charmed, I’m Sure

My friend Chris Clark writes a blog called Color in the Streets, and just reported on her recent trip to Chiapas with us in February 2024. Chris lives in Ajijic, on Lake Chapala, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. She talks about how this was a dream come true trip that she had wanted to go on with us since moving to Mexico almost six years ago.

I met Chris when we were both living in North Carolina and we became instant friends. She is selling her home in Ajijic and returning there to be with family and friends since her partner Ben died almost two years ago. Anyone want a beautiful home with lake view, casita and pool?

Chris offers us an in-depth, deep dive into San Cristobal de las Casas, a Spanish colonial Pueblo Magico that is in the highlands and our base during our exploration of textile villages and markets. Chris covers it all: restaurants and delicious food, recommended books that explore the weaving culture and techniques, and the mish-mash Santo Domingo market where you can find anything from high quality amber and textiles to imported schlock from China.

The tour is really an educational immersion for every traveler to be able to identify quality work and fair prices, as well as to meet makers where they live and work. What Chris does is give us her personal impressions of the experience. This includes a discussion about cultural appropriation and contrasting this with what it means to wear indigenous made clothing that we call cultural appreciation.

I hope you have a chance to read Chris’ blog and look at her exceptional photos. If you want to come with us to Chiapas in 2026, please sent us an email expressing your interest. We are building a list of people to give first notice.

Click here for Color in the Streets Blog

Choco-Cafe

One of the sublime pleasures of living in Mexico is being able to savor her homemade chocolate. Chocolate, the word, comes from the Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. In its original tongue, it is spelled Xocolatl, pronounced show-koh-lah-tel. In reality, the t and the l in the final syllable are slammed together, but for our purposes, this transliteration will do. T

To keep Mexico with me while I am in the USA, I like to prepare hot chocolate with brewed coffee — a mix of about 1/4 to 1/3 hot chocolate and the rest coffee that, of course, I bring back from Oaxaca’s Mixteca Alta or from the Chiapas highlands. Chiapas is known for her coffee plantations and her chocolate beans, which are exported all over Mexico and sometimes beyond. The Spanish brought coffee beans to Mexico in the 1700’s and started cultivating it in Veracruz, likely with slaves from Africa who also worked the sugar cane fields.

Every family all over the country has their own recipe for making chocolate. Usual ingredients are vanilla, cinnamon, sugar or panela. Maybe one family might add a bit of chile for throat tickler. Sometimes, they will add almonds, too. But, the primary ingredients are toasted cacao beans, native to Mexico and used as money or barter in pre-Hispanic times. The chocolate maker will buy the raw cacao beans in the market, take them home and toast them on the comal over an open fire, stirring with a brush so they toast evenly. Then, she will take all of these ingredients to the molina in the proportions preferred by each family.

Ibarra and Abuelita and Mayordomo brands just don’t do it, but if you are hard-pressed to find Mexican chocolate and these are the only available, then go for it. Your local Mexican market might have other options.

The chocolate I’m using today was made in Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero. I bought it from the family who prepared a delicious homemade lunch for our group during our visit to Tejadoras Flores de la Llanura weaving cooperative. What I love about this chocolate is that it has very little (or no) sugar. Each piece of chocolate, formed like an oblong ball or bola, is wrapped in a hierba buena leaf. The presentation is beautiful. The chocolate delicious. I add sugar to taste.

Of course, chocolate is super healthy, with anti-inflammatory properties, especially good for those of us as we age, and it is excellent as a cup of hot chocolate on its own. Remember: In Mexico, we drink hot chocolate with water, never adding milk! In Oaxaca, we dunk a concha into hot chocolate for breakfast or for a pre-bedtime snack.

Come with us in January 2025 on the Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour, and buy your own authentically made Mexican chocolate!

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!

In the Triqui Village of Chicahuaxtla, Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca

Our friend Shuko Clouse captures the essential emotion and experience of being in the Triqui village of San Andres Chicahuaxtla in the Mixteca Alta as she traveled with us this past weekend on a textile exploration seven hours beyond the city of Oaxaca. She writes a blog called Our Universe that is part of her Mano del Sur folk art site.

I encourage you to read it. It is a heartfelt expression for the Mixtec people, the textiles they make and the meaning in the cloth.

https://manodelsur.com/blog/our-universe/

The Mixteca Alta is characterized by eight thousand foot mountain ranges, pine forests, winding roads, and remote villages where women create traditional textiles on back strap looms. Here subsistence farming — raising corn, squash and beans — is the work of men, who have difficulty making enough money to sustain their families. This region has one of the highest rates of people in Mexico who migrate to the United States in search of employment. Many women are left to carve out a living to support their children alone in dire economic conditions.

Yet, the textiles they create are stunning examples of cultural heritage, pride, and commitment to their people. It takes as long as one year to weave this complex huipil that is symbolic of the Triqui people.

Here are a few photos to tempt you to come with us March 12-18, 2025. Write to tell us you are interested in participating.

Note: We are educators who guide you into villages to introduce you to the people with whom we have relationships. We give you cultural context and insights into not only the meaning behind the textiles, but identity, language, economics and way of life. Come with us to go deep, not wide.

The original Triqui huipil design was white and blue and dates back to 1875-1890. The red and white and multi-colors came after the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of synthetic dyes. The counting of threads today is exactly like they were then, made with hand-spun cotton.

We visit with Otelia and Yatali in their home and weaving workshop high up the mountain in a remote region where tourists rarely go. They have researched ancient designs and incorporate them into their cloth. Yatali went to Mexico City to study for a masters degree in textile engineering. She came back to her village because she has a deep attachment to her culture, is an innovator, and has continued the family tradition of being a textile activist. They have a small cooperative that is making marketable pieces like shawls, napkins, tablecloths, and throws for collectors and appreciators of their cloth.

They are also experimenting with natural dyes and are using Brazil wood, indigo, wood bark, and wild marigold to create a softer color palette.