Tag Archives: weaving

One-Day Tour to Oaxaca Silk Source: San Pedro Cajonos

On Wednesday, July 19, 2023, we will take you into the cloud forest deep into the Sierra Norte Mountains of Oaxaca, to the silk weaving village of San Pedro Cajonos. Cajonos is located at 10,000 feet above sea level and fifty-seven (57) miles northeast of Oaxaca City. This amazing region in Oaxaca is set in the middle of a pine forest and boasts a cooler microclimate — a perfect destination for mid-summer travel.

This is a Zapotec community. Many fled here from the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca (the central valleys) to escape the Spanish conquest in 1521. Deep into the folds of the mountains, they remained out of view and inaccessible to the influences of colonization. Here, we will spend the day with artisan families who specialize in making ixtle (agave fiber) bags and weave amazing silk garments from cultivated worms that become silk cocoons that magically are transformed into fine silk strands. We will have a special homemade traditional lunch in the home of one of the most famous silk weavers in Mexico. His dining room overlooks verdant mountain valleys. Then, we will visit the recently opened Silk Sanctuary, built by federal and state funds to support this important economic development project.

This region of Oaxaca is known throughout Mexico as the mecca of hand made silk production. We will discuss the processes used to make these precious textiles. We meet weaving families who devote their creative energies into raising silk worms, raising mulberry trees to feed them, harvesting and preparing the cocoons, using hand-spinning, natural dyeing and fringe knotting (macrame) techniques to complete these fine textiles.

We invite textile enthusiasts to join us on this textile adventure and spend a full day exploring, learning, and appreciating how silk is made into cloth. You will have plenty of opportunity to shop, if you wish, too. (Credit cards accepted.)

This is a full day of travel in a comfortable van. We will depart at 8:00 a.m. and return by 7:00 pm. from the same location in Oaxaca Centro. We will announce the group meeting location closer to the date of the tour. Group size is limited to 14 people.

Your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Expert is 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 started 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, and has deep personal relationships with indigenous artisans throughout Oaxaca and Mexico.

Climate and what to wear to be comfortable: We go high into the misty mountains where it can be overcast and breezy, with drizzle or rain. Please bring a rain jacket, umbrella, wear comfortable walking boots and a hat.

Cost: This one-day tour includes transportation in a luxury van, lunch, complete guide services with translation, textile and cultural interpretation, and commentary. The cost is $295 per person.

Reservations and Cancellations

We require a non-refundable 25% deposit of $73.75 per person to secure your registration. We offer you three (3) ways to pay the deposit: 1) Zelle transfer with NO SERVICE FEE, 2) PayPal and add a 3% service fee, 3) VENMO and add a 3% service fee. Please tell us which payment method you prefer and we will send a request for funds. The 75% balance of $221.25 per person is due on the day of the tour in cash, either USD or MXN pesos (at the current exchange rate). When we receive funds, we will send you confirmation and details. 

TODAY: The BEST Oaxaca Expoventa in Teotitlan del Valle–Don’t Miss It!

If you are in Oaxaca for 2022 Day of the Dead, be sure to put this on your calendar and show up in Teotitlan del Valle on November 3, 11 am to 4 pm. Map is on the poster. Ride share a taxi from the city with friends. Don’t miss it!

This expoventa showcases the textiles of some of Oaxaca’s most accomplished and famous weavers — personally curated by Eric Chavez Santiago and Norma Schafer.

PLEASE PRINT FOR BEST RESULTS! PLEASE SHARE — THANK YOU!

Can’t read the map? Here are directions: Enter Teotitlan del Valle from MEX 190 and continue on Avenida Benito Juarez to the center of town. Turn left on Hidalgo. Continue until it ends at the unpaved road and bear left. Go for about 1/4 mile. Turn left at the next road — Prolongacion Francisco I. Madero. Go to the first 2-story house on the right. You have arrived!

What is an Expoventa?

It’s like an artisan fair and exhibition that is a cross between a gallery show and sale. A purely Mexican event that has universal appeal.

The expoventa will be held at Taller Tenido a Mano, a new weaving and natural dye studio in Teotitlan. Come enjoy the mountains, fresh air, great country views and browse hand-made clothing, rugs, pottery, chocolate, and more.

Participating artisans come from all corners of Oaxaca State, from the coast to the Mixe to Papoalapan, and include the famous Palafox family from San Mateo del Mar, Dreamweavers Tixinda Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Galeria Fe y Lola naturally-dyed rugs and wall hangings, the family of Hermalinda Isidro from San Felipe Usila, Las Sanjuaneras from San Juan Colorado, Amalia Gue from Coban, Guatemala, Fernando Gutierrez Vasquez from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Francisca Diaz Ortega from San Juan Cotzocon.

Various price ranges. Huipiles, blusas, rebozos, bufandas, cojines. (Dresses, blouses, men’s shirts, shawls, scarves, pillow covers, home goods.) A collector’s delight. Most take credit cards.

Many have been invited to the juried Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and are recognized as Grand Masters of Oaxaca Folk Art.

100% of sales go directly to artisans. We take no commissions.

Eric and Norma, Teotitlan cemetery, 2021

Your producers are Eric Chavez Santiago, co-director and Norma Schafer, founder and co-director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. 

Eric is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexico 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. 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.

Norma founded Oaxaca Cultural Navigator in 2006 while she was a senior staff administrator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, hundreds of people have traveled with Norma to experience the art, culture and textiles of Oaxaca, Chiapas and other parts of Mexico. About 65% of all participants return to take workshops, day tours and extended travel programs, an indication of client loyalty and satisfaction.

The BEST Oaxaca Expoventa is November 3–Mark Your Calendar

If you are in Oaxaca for 2022 Day of the Dead, be sure to put this on your calendar and show up in Teotitlan del Valle on November 3, 11 am to 4 pm. Map is on the poster. Ride share a taxi from the city with friends. Don’t miss it!

This expoventa showcases the textiles of some of Oaxaca’s most accomplished and famous weavers — personally curated by Eric Chavez Santiago and Norma Schafer.

PLEASE PRINT FOR BEST RESULTS! PLEASE SHARE — THANK YOU!

Can’t read the map? Here are directions: Enter Teotitlan del Valle from MEX 190 and continue on Avenida Benito Juarez to the center of town. Turn left on Hidalgo. Continue until it ends at the unpaved road and bear left. Go for about 1/4 mile. Turn left at the next road — Prolongacion Francisco I. Madero. Go to the first 2-story house on the right. You have arrived!

What is an Expoventa?

It’s like an artisan fair and exhibition that is a cross between a gallery show and sale. A purely Mexican event that has universal appeal.

The expoventa will be held at Taller Tenido a Mano, a new weaving and natural dye studio in Teotitlan. Come enjoy the mountains, fresh air, great country views and browse hand-made clothing, rugs, pottery, chocolate, and more.

Participating artisans come from all corners of Oaxaca State, from the coast to the Mixe to Papoalapan, and include the famous Palafox family from San Mateo del Mar, Dreamweavers Tixinda Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Galeria Fe y Lola naturally-dyed rugs and wall hangings, the family of Hermalinda Isidro from San Felipe Usila, Las Sanjuaneras from San Juan Colorado, Amalia Gue from Coban, Guatemala, Fernando Gutierrez Vasquez from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Francisca Diaz Ortega from San Juan Cotzocon.

Various price ranges. Huipiles, blusas, rebozos, bufandas, cojines. (Dresses, blouses, men’s shirts, shawls, scarves, pillow covers, home goods.) A collector’s delight. Most take credit cards.

Many have been invited to the juried Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and are recognized as Grand Masters of Oaxaca Folk Art.

100% of sales go directly to artisans. We take no commissions.

Eric and Norma, Teotitlan cemetery, 2021

Your producers are Eric Chavez Santiago, co-director and Norma Schafer, founder and co-director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. 

Eric is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexico 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. 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.

Norma founded Oaxaca Cultural Navigator in 2006 while she was a senior staff administrator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, hundreds of people have traveled with Norma to experience the art, culture and textiles of Oaxaca, Chiapas and other parts of Mexico. About 65% of all participants return to take workshops, day tours and extended travel programs, an indication of client loyalty and satisfaction.

Mezcal and the Labor Shortage in Oaxaca

One of my first outings after settling into my casita in Teotitlan del Valle upon arrival to Oaxaca was to make a visit to weaver Arturo Hernandez in San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Mitla is one of those ancient Zapotec villages where a spectacular archeological site rises from the landscape of wild agave, cactus and a mountain backdrop. It was originally known at Mictlan (translates to Place of the Dead). The Spanish couldn’t pronounce it, so it became Mitla.) This time of year wild marigold dots the horizon with a sea of yellow flowers that the ancestors used to decorate altars in honor of loved ones — a pre-Hispanic tradition that blended into Dia de los Muertos. Because Zapotec royalty were interred here, the town goes all out for Day of the Dead traditions.

Ceremonial sculpture, Mitla antiques shop

Arturo has been a friend for many, many years. He is one of those few weavers remaining in Mitla who uses the back-strap loom to create wool cloth that becomes ponchos and blankets. (He also works in cotton on the pedal loom.) This loom is wider and heavier than the traditional back-strap loom for cotton, and is used by men in a standing position. They sway back-and-forth to control the tension, one end tied to a post, the other around their waist.

Wild marigold with cochineal over-dye

The traditional pattern woven in Mitla includes symbols of corn, cacao and the plumed serpent — all important in Zapotec mythology and prayers for fertility and food. Arturo has the distinction of also working with natural dyes. His pieces are spectacular examples of textiles colored with cochineal, indigo, wild marigold, zapote negro (a local fruit), and pecan shells. Over-dyes yield purple, pink, and green.

Wild marigold dye pot

The village of Mitla, a Pueblo Magico, is about five miles from Santiago Matatlan that bills itself as the Mezcal Capital of the World. Corn fields have given way to neat rows of espadin agave, the fastest growing of all plants used for mezcal, that are ripe after seven years. Traditional farmers of the milpas: corn, squash, and beans are forgoing these crops to plant agave. As demand rises rapidly, this cash crop has become a favored way of making big, fast money. Who can blame them?

Spent wild marigold at Arturo’s feet

I’m standing in a long line at the airport to buy a shuttle ticket to town. In front of me are two young men, 30-somethings. When I ask, they say they are from Denver. How long will you be here? I say. Four days, they answer. What will you do here for four days? I continue. We plan to drink a lot of mezcal, they say. This is the story of Oaxaca today. Mezcal. The men decided to come to Oaxaca instead of going to Chattanooga for a friend’s wedding. Why? Because the airline cost to Tennessee was too high! Go figure. I ask them if they know anything about the culture? Will they visit Monte Alban or any of the nearby Zapotec artisan villages? Hmmm. They hadn’t thought of that. This is the story of Oaxaca today. Mezcal.

A stunning cochineal shawl

So, Arturo says to me, I don’t have enough weavers. I’m down to one. No one wants to work the traditional looms. They are all going to the agave fields where they can make 400 pesos a day. That’s $20 USD, folks. Considered a good wage here. So, my observation is that labor for traditional craft and artisan work will become more scarce in the Tlacolula Valley. I ask Arturo what he pays his workers. About the same, he says. But, I see this is repetitive work to stand at a flying shuttle pedal loom all day, throwing the shuttle back and forth across the warp threads, manipulating the design with your feet. Whereas in the agave fields, one can move and breathe the fresh air.

For everything that ails you, mezcal will cure it. For everything good, also mezcal. — old Oaxaca saying

There’s another factor at play here that has a huge impact on the environment and sustainability. Arturo says that herbicides and pesticides are now widely used in the agave fields. He says this is no longer artisanal, even though the marketing people claim otherwise. He sees men carrying the tanks on their backs, spraying the earth to eradicate the weeds that come up between the rows. The edible wild plants eaten by the ancestors, like quelites, are supressed. The insects and animals that aerate the earth are wiped clean. The plants will grow faster and bring a larger yield.

Natural dyes, Arturo’s studio

I think a lot about the rise of mezcal as a favored distilled beverage. Of course, I love it! Especially the wild agaves like tepeztate, madrecuishe, and arroqueño. It takes a longer time for these varieties to mature, some as much as twenty-five years, which makes the cost so much higher. As the wild varieties are used up, the mezcaleros (mezcal makers) are now reproducing them as cultivars. So, technically, they may no longer be wild, absorbing the flavors of the earth from a specific rocky outcropping of land. Mezcal making is a complex art much like wine making. It is NOT tequila!

The devil made me do it!

So, what will happen to Arturo and his weaving studio if there is no one who wants to work the looms? Is our Oaxaca artisan craft on the verge of extinction, much like the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica.

What will you do and what will you learn when you come to Oaxaca? Isn’t the story of Oaxaca more than mezcal?

Arturo and his wife Marta grow their own organic corn

The BEST Oaxaca Expoventa is November 3

If you are in Oaxaca for 2022 Day of the Dead, be sure to put this on your calendar and show up in Teotitlan del Valle on November 3, 11 am to 4 pm. Map is on the poster. Ride share a taxi from the city with friends. Don’t miss it!

This expoventa showcases the textiles of some of Oaxaca’s most accomplished and famous weavers — personally curated by Eric Chavez Santiago and Norma Schafer.

PLEASE PRINT FOR BEST RESULTS! PLEASE SHARE — THANK YOU!

Can’t read the map? Here are directions: Enter Teotitlan del Valle from MEX 190 and continue on Avenida Benito Juarez to the center of town. Turn left on Hidalgo. Continue until it ends at the unpaved road and bear left. Go for about 1/4 mile. Turn left at the next road — Prolongacion Francisco I. Madero. Go to the first 2-story house on the right. You have arrived!

What is an Expoventa?

It’s like an artisan fair and exhibition that is a cross between a gallery show and sale. A purely Mexican event that has universal appeal.

The expoventa will be held at Taller Tenido a Mano, a new weaving and natural dye studio in Teotitlan. Come enjoy the mountains, fresh air, great country views and browse hand-made clothing, rugs, pottery, chocolate, and more.

Participating artisans come from all corners of Oaxaca State, from the coast to the Mixe to Papoalapan, and include the famous Palafox family from San Mateo del Mar, Dreamweavers Tixinda Cooperative from Pinotepa de Don Luis, Galeria Fe y Lola naturally-dyed rugs and wall hangings, the family of Hermalinda Isidro from San Felipe Usila, Las Sanjuaneras from San Juan Colorado, Amalia Gue from Coban, Guatemala, Fernando Gutierrez Vasquez from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Francisca Diaz Ortega from San Juan Cotzocon.

Various price ranges. Huipiles, blusas, rebozos, bufandas, cojines. (Dresses, blouses, men’s shirts, shawls, scarves, pillow covers, home goods.) A collector’s delight. Most take credit cards.

Many have been invited to the juried Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, and are recognized as Grand Masters of Oaxaca Folk Art.

100% of sales go directly to artisans. We take no commissions.

Eric and Norma, Teotitlan cemetery, 2021

Your producers are Eric Chavez Santiago, co-director and Norma Schafer, founder and co-director of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. 

Eric is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexico 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. 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.

Norma founded Oaxaca Cultural Navigator in 2006 while she was a senior staff administrator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, hundreds of people have traveled with Norma to experience the art, culture and textiles of Oaxaca, Chiapas and other parts of Mexico. About 65% of all participants return to take workshops, day tours and extended travel programs, an indication of client loyalty and satisfaction.