Tag Archives: workshop

2025 Women’s Creative Writing Workshop Retreat: Inspirations for a New Year

January 2-8, 2025, seven days, six nights in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.

It’s the start of 2025, a new year, and we are inspired to revisit the years passed and the one that now begins. What are our hopes, dreams, wishes, aspirations. What are our regrets. What memories come up that bring us gratitude, regrets, joy, or sadness. With published, award-winning author Marcia Meier guiding us, we approach our writing with honesty, openness, emotion and directness, to visit and revisit the people, places that shaped us. We express our yearnings, dig in and go deep, and to write in whatever genre speaks to us: memoir, journaling, fiction, personal essay, creative nonfiction, and poetry. We are here to express our relationship with life, love, loss and mourning. The new year is a launching pad to express ourselves.

New and seasoned writers are welcome. Come to kindle and rekindle the writer’s life.

A $500 deposit will secure your reservation. The cost is $2,395 for a shared room, and $2,995 for a private room. Space is limited to 10 writers.

Our Preliminary Schedule

Wednesday, January 2—Arrive to Oaxaca, travel to and settle into our Teotitlan del Valle retreat center by 4 p.m. Transportation from the airport to the village is at your own expense. Welcome dinner at 6 p.m. Introductions, schedule, and questions. Sign-ups for consultations.

Thursday, January 3—Breakfast is at 8 a.m. Writing workshop (including group feedback) with Marcia from 9 a.m. to noon; lunch from noon to 1:30; free writing time and individual 45-minute consultations 1:30-4:30 p.m. (consultations will be scheduled with Marcia during the welcome dinner on January 2; local artisan visit 4-30-6 p.m.; dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, January 4—Breakfast is at 8 a.m. Workshop from 9 a.m.-noon with Marcia; lunch is noon to 1:30 p.m. Special topic “Crafting Your Project”, from 1:30-2:15 p.m. Free writing time and individual consultations 2:15-5:30. Dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, January 5—Breakfast is at 8 a.m. Workshop from 9 a.m.-noon with Marcia. Lunch is on your own in the village. From noon to 4 p.m. you have free time to either explore the village or to continue to write on your own. We will schedule individual consultations from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m.  

Sunday, January 6— Breakfast at 8 a.m. Special topic, “Getting Published” 9-10 a.m. We will depart by van to the famous outdoor Tlacolula Market to explore local culture. Lunch will be with a traditional cook whose comedor is near the market. Workshop session will be held from 3-6 p.m. Light supper at 7 p.m.

Monday, January 7— Breakfast at 8 a.m. Workshop from 9 a.m.-noon with Marcia. Lunch on your own. Free writing time and individual consultations 1:30-5:30 p.m. 6 p.m. Final reading of work created during the week, followed by a Grand Finale Dinner.

Tuesday, January 8—Breakfast at 8 a.m. Goodbyes and departure. We will help you arrange transportation to the airport or the city by private taxi at your own expense.

We can also recommend lodging where you can extend your stay in Oaxaca City — come a few days early or stay later!

We reserve the right to make itinerary changes and substitutions as necessary.

Marcia Meier is an experienced workshop leader and published author who has led writing workshops for nearly 20 years. A longtime book editor and publisher, she is skilled at helping new and advanced writers find their voice on the page, learn the basics of craft, and giving effective and thoughtful feedback on work.

During each workshop day, we will have a brief craft discussion, share work and get feedback from Marcia and workshop participants. Marcia will also provide prompts for daily writing, with time to begin crafting your daily writing during workshop, if the schedule allows. Please bring a piece of writing (personal narrative, fiction or poetry) of no more than 1,000 words to get started.

What can you take away from this workshop? Deep understanding of how to craft an effective, persuasive and moving piece of writing; camaraderie with other like-minded writers and creatives; learning in a stunningly beautiful environment; and immersion in a friendly and ancient culture steeped in music, art, crafts, and spirituality. You’ll leave with increased skills, new friends, and deep gratitude for new experiences in a different culture.

Meet Marcia Meier

Marcia Meier is an award-winning writer, developmental book editor, writing coach, and publisher of Weeping Willow Books.

Marcia’s latest book, Face, A Memoir, was published in January 2021 by Saddle Road Press. Face was shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer Book Award grand prize and won honorable mention in the memoir category.

Her anthology, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, co-edited with Kathleen A. Barry, Ph.D., was published in 2018. Her other books include Ireland, Place Out of Time (Weeping Willow Books, 2017), Heart on a Fence, (Weeping Willow Books, 2016), Navigating the Rough Waters of Today’s Publishing World, Critical Advice for Writers from Industry Insiders (Quill Driver Books, 2010) and Santa Barbara, Paradise on the Pacific, (Longstreet Press, 1996). Her podcast, “Girl Talk, Women, Aging and Sexuality,” can be heard on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify and many other podcast platforms. Listen and subscribe here.

Marcia’s poems have appeared in Writers Resist, Prime Number Magazine online, the anthology Knocking at the Door, Poems About Approaching the Other, and Sage Trail Literary Magazine. She has studied with Carolyn Forché (Hedgebrook in March 2016) and Kim Addonizio (six-week poetry workshop in fall 2017). A newspaper journalist for nearly 20 years, she has freelanced or written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, The Writer magazine, Santa Barbara Magazine, Pacific Standard Magazine online and The Huffington Post.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MFA in creative writing, and has taught writing workshops and numerous college and university courses.

Marcia is a member of the Author’s Guild and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. She loves to take photographs, walk on the beach, write poetry and read good fiction.

Learn more about Marcia, her books, and other work at www.marciameier.com and www.weepingwillowbooks.com.

Teotitlan del Valle is our base. It is an ancient weaving village about thirty minutes beyond the hubbub of the city where ancient rituals are practiced much as they were hundreds of years ago. Our location provides a source of inspiration and spiritual connection.

There will be optional daily activities in our schedule: afternoon walks, and mini-seminars on writing topics such as writing effective description and dialogue, grammar, or submitting creative work for publication. Each person will have a private coaching session, too.

We will also schedule visits to local artisans to see how they make their work.

What is included?

  • Complete instruction with five workshop sessions
  • 6 dinners
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 3 lunches
  • 6 nights lodging
  • transportation to Tlacolula Market
  • artisan honoraria for demonstrations
  • mini-seminars on writing topics
  • one coaching session

What is a Workshop Session? The group meets daily for about three hours to actively listen to each other’s writing, giving supportive and constructive feedback about what resonates or not. We offer guidelines for the process. Everyone takes a turn to read and everyone participates. Writers may accept or reject suggestions. Workshops offer an important learning tool for writers to gain feedback about how their words are communicated and understood.

How to Register:  Cost is $2395 person for a shared room, and $2995 for a private room. A non-refundable $500 deposit will reserve your space. Send us an email to say you want to attend and if you want a shared or private room. We will send you a request for payment via Zelle transfer (no fees) or Square invoice to use a credit card (3.5% service fee) to secure your space. The balance will be due in two equal payments. The first payment will be due on July 1, 2024. The second and final payment will be due on October 1, 2024.

Note: If you register after July 1, then the first payment will be $500 + half of the workshop fee.

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance with a minimum of $50,000 of medical evacuation coverage. Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure. Unforeseen circumstances happen! Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico!

Plane Tickets, Arrivals/Departures: Please send us your plane schedule at least 45 days before the trip. This includes name of carrier, flight numbers, arrival and departure time to/from our program destination.

Reservations and Cancellations.  We accept payment with Square or Zelle. We will send you an invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After October 1, 2024, refunds are not possible. If you cancel on or before October 1, 2024, 50% of your deposit will be refunded, less the $500 reservation fee. After that, there are no refunds.

To further explain: if we cancel, participants receive a 100% refund. 

Travelers are required to take out international travel insurance. If you are too sick to travel and/or come down with covid, or your flights are cancelled or any other legitimate reason, you would file a claim for reimbursement with the insurance company. 

Covid is still with us. Please confirm that you have had all vaccines. Please bring 3 covid test kits and face masks for protection in densely populated markets.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: The altitude is almost 6,000 feet. Streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, some narrow and uneven. We will do some walking. If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please let me know before you register. 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.

How to Get To Oaxaca: United Airlines operates direct flights from Houston. American Airlines operates direct flights from DFW. Delta Airlines has a codeshare with AeroMexico with a connection to Oaxaca from Mexico City. All other major airlines fly to Mexico City where you can made independent connections on Interjet, and VivaAerobus. Check Skyscanner for schedules and fares before you book.  Note: I always book directly with the carrier for better customer service.

Workshop Details and Travel Tips: Before the workshop begins, we will email you study tour details and documents that includes travel tips and information.

To get your questions answered and to register, contact Norma Schafer. This retreat is produced by Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

Day of the Dead in Five Parts

I wrote the draft of this last year during Day of the Dead during our Women’s Creative Writing Workshop, and recently rewrote and edited it to read at SOMOS The Taos Literary Society last night. It was well-received and I want to share it with you. Creative writing is an important aspect of my life — in Oaxaca and in Taos. That’s why we continue to offer creative writing workshop retreats. We all have something to say, and it’s important to express ourselves in whatever way seems most meaningful. To get on the mailing list for the next workshop retreat in January 2025, please send me an email.

Day of the Dead in Five Parts by Norma Schafer

1. A mirror of my mother

I am adorned in a crown of flowers. Silver skeletons dangle from my ears. My black velvet blusa, Frida Kahlo style, is heavily embroidered with white orchids and doves.  All appears as it should be, still I look in the mirror trying to find myself. Trying to find the woman I used to be. Instead, I have become my mother. Perhaps a reinterpretation of reincarnation. My body has morphed from hourglass to square. My hips have narrowed; my belly expanded. The once imperceptible lines are now etched deeper across my brow. The best night cream does not smooth them. In this reflection I talk to her, mostly at night as I prepare for sleep, as I wash my face, brush my teeth, examine the shape of my nose that more and more resembles hers, elongated with broad nostrils, shaped by stoicism.  I see the silver hair, complexion the color of chamomile, skin like an iguana. This is how she was when I thought she was old. Today is Day of the Dead, and I remember her.

  2.  Death and the ego

Day of the Dead is a celebration of life. Yet, tonight as I lie in bed, I think about what it will feel like to die. I cross my hands over my chest, take a deep breath, and sink into nothingness. For the moment I will sleep, and wonder, Will I awake in the morning? I envision being surrounded by loved ones, saying I love you, saying goodbye. Will they sit at my gravesite, sing and dance, dine on memories? Then, I cannot imagine it and pull back and tell myself, Stop thinking about it. Death will come soon enough. Or maybe I will live forever?  Though no one does, not even the most brilliant, the most beautiful, the wealthy and notorious. All this becomes too overwhelming to imagine, and this is when I begin to question my ego.

Who I am and what I do is valuable and important. But who am I kidding? All organisms die. I am having an intellectual discussion with myself, and I am afraid. Fear grips me. I cry for the loss of self. For the body that is not working as it once did, for what hurts, what needs correction. Is it time to say, I am and beyond is nothingness? They say people with high self-esteem do not fear death. I don’t believe it.

3. I count time by medicine

Every three weeks, I pull out the three plastic dispensers to apportion the medicine into each cubicle, labeled Monday through Sunday. The clock ticks. The cubicle empties. I refill it. I count time by medicine. Mostly, these are vitamins:  Magnesium, D3, a multivitamin designed for women of a certain age. Each Saturday I give myself a Vitamin B12 injection for more endurance.  

I need to fix my aching back, the right knee that’s getting close to replacement time.  These days, I worry more about the tremor in my hand as I grasp a cup of coffee, the cramps and numbness in my feet that set me off-balance, the small pockets of skin collapsing on my face. Sunken cheeks and deeply etched lines are not glamorous for seventy-somethings. We used to talk about our children. Then, about our work. Now it’s about medications, doctors, and appointments. Some of us join book clubs, play dominoes, struggle with Wordle. We may even think we have something to say and write.

4. This is all preparation

At two in the morning, I awaken and think, this is all preparation. I go outside my mind and observe my body from a distance. Is this container all of me? As I yield to insomnia, I walk outside to embrace the stars sparkling clear in the Oaxaca sky. This is a perfect moment to take note of the changes. Yes, my body deteriorates, I am increasingly aware of how imperfect it is and will be.  I tell myself I must make a shift in vocabulary. Stop saying, I’m old. Maybe I’m older will do.  I say, I’m old, forgive me when I forget an important date.  I’m old, I excuse myself when my feet go numb and I land on the kitchen floor, grateful I didn’t break a hip. How do I change the narrative when this is happening to me? If I ignore it, will it go away? They say those who have a positive outlook about aging will live another seven years.

How do I describe myself now, a once-energetic woman with limitless stamina and a capacity to wander, explore, discover, reach, inquire, and connect. The days, months, years go by now all too quickly. I look back at the intersections, the choices I made. I have regrets. Yet now I understand contentment and know that all roads taken, lead to where I am, here, in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, to celebrate Day of the Day one more year, and that is good. What will I say about now in ten years, when I look back?

Suspend your ego, I tell myself. This is my preparation.

If you are in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead, consider our specialized day tours–see the right column.

            5. It’s fresh up here on the terrace

Fresca. Fresh is what they say here in Oaxaca to describe the movement of cool air. Look beyond this roof-top terrace.  See the twelve-thousand-foot mountains of the Sierra Madre del Sur. Clouds float as if they were meringue topping a pie too delicious to eat. This is my pueblo, Teotitlan del Valle; it’s a miracle I live here. But things don’t just happen, they present themselves, and we get to choose to embrace them, or not. A journey of almost twenty years was determined in the moment I met the Chavez Santiago family then.

Now, during Day of the Dead, cempasuchitl, wild marigold flowers, paint the landscape. On November 1, the ancestors will return to visit loved ones. We revere the altar where we honor them, we serve them a meal of mole amarillo yellow mole and mezcal, then on November 2, we guide them back to the cemetery lured by the scent of copal incense, aromatic with notes of cinnamon and brown sugar, assuring them that they will rest in peace for another year and visit us again.

This thousands-year-old ritual tells me that eternal life may be possible if we remember and honor those who came before us. It is said that the memory of an individual will last for only two generations. Collective memory may be everlasting. This is comforting as I sit on the terrace, solitary, quiet, protected. Below are voices, the whir of a moto-taxi, a cooking fire crackling, aromas from the outdoor cooking fires wafting scents of tortillas, salsa, beans, the bark of street dogs, the beat-beat-beat of a loom.

I recognize that all that I am is the sound of the Teotitlan del Valle church bell ringing for Day of the Dead, strong and clear, then fading into nothingness.

If you’d like to give me feedback, please write to me directly by email.

I want to give a shout out of thanks to my two best editors: Carol Estes and Kathryn Salisbury! This piece would not be as written without them.

Oaxaca Screenwriting Workshop for Film + TV: We All Have a Story

Arrive Thursday, March 28 and depart Wednesday, April 3, 2024–Semana Santa Experience

What makes a good story? And how do we translate that to a movie or television? We might say: That show has a good story line, or I love those characters (or not), or The plot is unbelievable (as in, either amazing or false). A story is a simple thing – someone wants something, and someone or something stands in their way. The purpose of storytelling is to give meaning and to express wonder. It’s the emotion and empathy that you personally put into a story that makes it compelling. We have created this workshop to provide you with tools to develop and tell a worthy story, and then to pitch it to those who might produce it. This is the perfect opportunity to take a novel, short story, a work of fiction or creative non-fiction, documentary, and personal essay, and begin to turn it into a screenplay worthy of viewing in a movie or on television. Through personal coaching, learning sessions, and group feedback, you will gain the skills to create structure, plot, and formatting.

Whether you are interested in writing a TV pilot, a feature film, a short film, a documentary film, or a work of literary fiction, knowing your core concept and message, and developing fully realized three-dimensional characters is essential to the ultimate success – however long that may take – of a writing project.  We will help you get there.

Meet your instructor: Harry Werksman

Harry Werksman is a veteran screenwriter who promises that you will participate in a free-spirited, free-wheeling exchange of ideas, sprinkled with creative writing exercises, that are designed to warm up your writing engine. If you are an experienced writer and need encouragement and feedback, this is the place for you. If you have always wanted to write a screenplay and you consider yourself a novice, we can offer you a solid path from which you can pursue your dream. All experience levels welcome.

Werksman has worked in the entertainment industry as a writer-producer for many years. He has been nominated for two Emmys, one Golden Globe, one Saturn Award, one People’s Choice Award and three Writer’s Guild Awards (WGA). He has won a WGA Award for GREY’S ANATOMY, a Golden Globe for UGLY BETTY, and won both a People’s Choice Award and a Saturn Award for MOONLIGHT. Other credits include: EON-4, STAR TREK: DS9, EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT, FARSCAPE, THE INVISIBLE MAN, DEATHLANDS: HOMEWARD BOUND, VERITAS: THE QUEST, FINAL FANTASY XV and CASTLE.

In addition, Harry is a seasoned instructor! He has taught for The American Film Institute, UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, New York Film School, The Institute for British and Irish Studies (Oxford University), New York University, and more. Harry holds the B.A. from Northwestern University, and master’s degree from New College, Oxford University, England.

And now, after nearly 30 years in the industry, he’s left Los Angeles for the wind-swept, wide-open spaces of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He continues to write and teach – acting as the Lead Instructor for the Southwest School of Story Telling’s summer film camp for high school students; has earned a master’s certificate from University of New Mexico and the Santa Fe Watershed Association in climate change; and has begun to seriously explore the world of documentary filmmaking.

How Travel Boosts Creativity: Why Write in Oaxaca

Harry tells us that by traveling, we look at the world through an entirely different lens and connect with the greatest of all Muses, Nature. He notes that many of his most creative thoughts come when he least expects them, when he has taken his mind off the challenges he faces, even for a brief time.

He says, In this space, far away from the demands of everyday, competing, and conflicting thoughts, frustrations melt away. Eliminating external distractions allows my mind to relax. I can contemplate my ideas and understand the emotions and motivations I’m trying to convey through words. This is when the magic happens.

Think about Kerouac’s On the Road, Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, Chopin’s Winter Wind: all these incredible pieces were inspired by travel. Finding inspiration in a creative field can prove difficult, with many experiencing a form of writer’s block. Often, the solution is as simple as going somewhere new and having new experiences. In these new surroundings, you may experience a renewed inspiration to get you going again. You may even enter a ‘flow state,’ in which you completely lose yourself in your work and complete a creative project without even trying!

By immersing yourself in a foreign environment, you are helping to strengthen the neurons that like to make connections, solve problems, and embrace new ideas. This will feed into your work, with your new surroundings, offering inspiration.

Location: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

We are based in the famed tapestry weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, located about forty minutes outside of Oaxaca city, where there are 2,000 looms and artisans create award-winning floor rugs and wall-hangings . Here, in a retreat-like setting, we are based in a lovely, small bed and breakfast inn within steps of the 17th century church and pre-Hispanic Zapotec temple and archeological site. Walking trails and cobblestone streets attest to an ancient culture more than 8,000 years old. Up the road, about seven miles from the village, native corn was first hybridized 12,000 years ago. We will be there over Semana Santa Easter celebrations rooted in syncretism – Spanish Catholicism and ancient mystical-spiritual traditions. Being here allows us to immerse ourselves in rituals, observances, meet locals, and retreat into a world of creative inspiration.

What the Workshop Includes

  • Expert instruction and private coaching session
  • Lodging at an excellent bed and breakfast inn
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 3 lunches
  • 4 dinners, including Gala Grand Finale Dinner
  • Mezcal tasting
  • Guided visits to local artisans
  • Participation at Semana Santa Procession
  • Dance of the Old Men enactment
  • Transportation that is part of the itinerary
  • Support for a student scholarship at the Oaxaca Learning Center

The workshop does not include alcoholic beverages, tips, transportation to/from the airport or city to the workshop location, airfares to/from Oaxaca.

Preliminary Program: March 28-April 3, 2024 – Seven days, six nights

Day 1: Thursday, March 28. Please arrive to our Teotitlan del Valle lodging by 4 p.m. to check in. 6 pm welcome reception and supper. Sign up for individual coaching sessions with the instructor. (D)

Day 2: Friday, March 29. Breakfast is at 8 am, followed by a morning session that includes discussion about What is a story? What is a script? This includes a deep dive into format, structure, plotting and the process of scripting for TV, film, short, documentary. You will begin to develop a Concept Document and Character Thumbnails. 11:30 am lunch. Noon break to join the village Semana Santa procession. Afternoon individual consults with instructor and free time. 6 pm Mezcal Tasting followed by dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Saturday, March 30. Breakfast is at 8 am., followed by a morning session to explore the Who, What, Where, and When of a good story. The Why will not be given – you will start your project by teasing out Why this story is important, valuable, meaningful. Through readings and feedback, you’ll better understand what works, what doesn’t, challenges, areas of difficulty and areas for improvement. You’ll continue to work on Concept Document and Character Thumbnails to ensure you are reaching your intended goal. Lunch is at noon, followed by individual coaching sessions, free time to write. We meet at 4 pm to visit a master weaver before dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 4: Sunday, March 31. Breakfast begins at 8 am followed by our morning workshop session that focuses on the “Character To Do List.”  We all make lists: errands to run, groceries we need, holiday gifts to buy, project milestones to hit. We will use this format to explore character as part of the script. And, we will continue to write Concept Document and Character Thumbnails. Lunch is at noon. Then, it’s writing, free time, and personal coaching sessions. Dinner is at 6:30 pm. (B, D)

Day 5, Monday, April 1. After breakfast, our session will focus on The Writer’s Room, by experiencing how this group format advances the project. We will collectively craft a single scene either from one of the concepts pitched or of our own that will represent the core scene of a potential story.  A Writers Room is where the writers pitch, brainstorm, and workshop ideas together. A collaboration, the group can vary from several to more than a dozen people. How they operate depends on the executive producer/show runner or their top lieutenants. This is where script ideas are born and polished for production. After lunch, we move into personal writing time, free time, and individual coaching sessions with the instructor. At 4 pm, we walk to the plaza to witness the Dance of the Old Men. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. and on your own. (B, L)

Day 6, Tuesday, April 2. After breakfast we meet again from 9 am to Noon. Each participant will make a presentation to the group of their Individual Concept Documents and Character Thumbnails, to receive feedback, reactions, suggestions, identify areas of difficulty and improvement. This feedback will be the basis for the final rewrite on your own after lunch. At 4 pm we will meet local artisans who will present and discuss their work. We gather at 6:30 pm for a Reading and Celebratory Grand Finale Dinner. (B, D)

Day 7, Wednesday, April 3. Breakfast is included on your departure day. We are happy to help you arrange transportation (at your own expense) to the airport or to the city if you choose to extend your stay. (B)

Note: During the personal coaching sessions, each participant will be scheduled to meet for one hour with Harry Werksman. There will be opportunities, too, to meet for informal chats, answer questions, or help break up a creative/mental log jams that hold up the creative process.

(Itinerary subject to change at our discretion.)

Please complete this Registration Form and return to Norma Schafer at norma.schafer@icloud.com to participate. Thank you.

Note: You can add days on to the tour — arrive early or stay later — at your own expense. We also suggest you arrive a day early (your own hotel expense) to avoid any unforeseen flight delays.

Cost to Participate

  • $2,695 shared double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $3,295 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your place. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before November 1, 2023. The third payment, 50% balance, is due on or before January 5, 2024. We accept payment using Zelle, Venmo, PayPal or Square. For a Zelle transfer, there is no service fee.  We add a 3.5% service fee to use Venmo, PayPal or Square. We will send you a request for funds to make your deposit when you tell us you are ready to register. (We need details on how your account is registered to make the request.)

After January 5, 2024, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before January 5, 2024, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date (less the $500 non-refundable deposit). After that, there are no refunds UNLESS we cancel for any reason. If we cancel, you will receive a full 100% refund.*

Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance: We require that you carry international accident/health insurance that includes $50,000+ of emergency medical evacuation insurance. Check out Forbes Magazine for best travel insurance options. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/travel-insurance/best-travel-insurance/

Proof of insurance must be sent at least 45 days before departure.

COVID-19 Precautions. We trust that you are fully vaccinated and take all precautions when traveling, including mask-wearing in airports and on airplanes. Thank you.

We ask that you test two days before traveling to the tour, and that you inform us if the results are positive. Please bring 4 self-tests with you. We ask that you do a self-test 48 hours after arrival and then periodically thereafter if you feel you have been exposed. Face masks are strongly suggested for van travel, densely populated market visits, and artisan visits that are held indoors. We ask this to keep all travelers safe, and to protect indigenous populations who are at higher risk.

Be certain your passport has at least six months on it before it expires from the date you enter Mexico! It’s a Mexico requirement.

NEW! One-Day Indigo Dye Workshop

Indigo blue is one of those magical colors that so many of us covet. It comes from a leafy green plant that looks like pea shoots and is found in many countries around the equator including Africa, India, Japan AND Oaxaca, Mexico. Laboriously cultivated and processed in the humid conditions of Santiago Niltepec near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexican indigo yields a deep, rich blue color when it is dipped in the fermented dye bath several times.

In fact, indigo is not technically a dye but a pigment, which coats but doesn’t penetrate the fibers. It can be used successfully on animal and plant fibers like wool, cotton, linen and silk it can also be used to color wood and concrete. It does not need a mordant, but it is tricky to work with! Our dye workshop shows you how.

We call it magic because it is precise chemistry, where oxidization occurs to release the color. When you dip the fiber into the dye bath then lift it out, you watch the material change magically from green to blue before your eyes. The amount of indigo, water temperature, and fructose added to the dye bath (an organic, non-toxic natural sugar) must be precise.

Indigo was used to distinguish royalty in many cultures around the world and the French used it to distinguish the color of their military garb.

One-Day Indigo Dye Workshop

From 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. You grind the indigo into powder and prepare the dye bath, learning at least two different recipes and the history of indigo in Oaxaca. You will experiment with a shibori technique and solid color dyeing on cotton. If you wish, you can bring a small amount of linen or silk to experiment with, too. You will have a choice of making napkins, a table runner or a scarf.

You set your own dates. Please send several dates you are available and we will advise as to our availability.

Private workshop fee is $235 for one person. $195 per person for two or more people.

How to Register and Pay: Send Norma Schafer an email to tell us your preferred dates. We will check available dates and let you know. Then, you tell us you are ready to register.

You can choose one of three ways to reserve with a non-refundable 25% deposit:

  1. Zelle bank transfer with no service fee
  2. PayPal with a 3% service fee (we send you a request for funds)
  3. Venmo with a 3% service fee (we send you a request for funds)

Please tell us which payment method you prefer when you tell us you want to register.

The balance is due in cash on the day of the workshop in either US dollars or MXN pesos (at the exchange rate of the day).

Once you register and make your deposit, we send you a confirmation along with the location of the dye studio, which is located in the historic district of Oaxaca city, about a 20 minute walk from the Zocalo.

  • Lunch is on your own. You can bring a lunch or go out in the neighborhood.
  • Please bring your own drinks and snacks.
  • We give directions to the workshop after you register and pay the registration fees.
  • Please, no children under the age of 15. 

About Your Instructor: The workshop instructors are knowledgeable experts in the natural dye process and materials. They provide dyed wool and cotton yarns and thread for many of Oaxaca’s famous weavers and textile designers, and work with textile designers worldwide to offer customized colors that are used in fashion and home goods.

Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you.

2022 Day of the Dead Culture Tour

October 29 to November 4, 2022—6 nights and 7 days— $2,895 for a shared room and $3,495 for a single room. We have 3 single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico, is meaningful and magical.  Celebrations in the villages go deep into Zapotec culture, community, tradition and pre-Hispanic practice. Some say it is the most important annual celebration in Mexico and here in Oaxaca, we know this is true. This tour is limited to 10 participants.

At Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, we hope to give you an unparalleled and in-depth travel experience to participate and delve deeply into indigenous culture, folk art and celebrations.

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Day of the Dead Altar

Beyond the city, in the Tlacolula Valley, many smaller villages are still able to retain their traditional practices.  Here they build altars at home, light copal incense, make offerings of homemade chocolate, bread and atole, prepare a special meal of tamales, and visit the homes of relatives to greet deceased ancestors who have returned for this 24-hour period.  Then, at the designated hour, the living go to the cemeteries to be with their loved ones  — either to welcome them back into the world or put them to rest after their visit here – the practice depends on each village.

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You will learn about this and more as you come with us to meet artisans in three different villages beyond Oaxaca city who welcome us into their homes and their lives during this sacred festival. 

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Study Tour Highlights:

  • Visit homes, altars and cemeteries in three Zapotec villages: Teotitlan del Valle, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, and San Marcos Tlapazola
  • Participate in presenting altar offerings at each home we visit
  • As a group, build a traditional altar to remember and honor your own loved ones
  • Learn to make homemade chocolate with the Mexican cacao bean
  • See a tamale-making demonstration and taste what is prepared
  • Shop for altar décor at the largest Teotitlan del Valle market of the year
  • Learn how mezcal is an integral part of festival culture and tradition
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We created this study tour to take you out of the city, beyond the hubbub of party revelry and glitz of a Halloween-like experience that has morphed into a Hollywood-style extravaganza in downtown Oaxaca.  We will compare how city celebrations complete with costumes and face painting differ from those in villages even as outside influences impact change. Our desire is to give you a full immersion experience that evokes what Day of the Dead may have been like 20 or 30 years ago–mystical,  magical, transcendent and spiritual.

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Even so, cultural tourism has found its way into the back roads of Oaxaca.  We do our best to be respectful by limiting the size of our group to 10 participants, to give you an orientation about to what to expect and do during our visits, and to offer you an intimate, personal experience.

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We give you an insider’s view. You have the guidance of local expert Eric Chavez Santiago who will lead this cultural tour. Eric is a partner in Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican folk art with a special interest in artisan economic development.  He is a weaver and natural dyer by training, a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola rug weaving family, who was born and raised in Teotitlan del Valle. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions and customs, speaks the indigenous Zapotec language, and serves as your cultural navigator. 

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Eric is a graduate of the Anahuac University, and speaks English and Spanish. He can translate language, culture and traditions, tell you about practices in his extended family and how they have experienced the changes over time.

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Moreover, he is deeply connected and will introduce you to some of the finest artisans in the region, where you will meet weavers, natural dyers, ceramic artists, and traditional cooks. You will have an opportunity to see artisan craft demonstrations and to shop for your own collection or for gifts, as you wish.

We will be based in a comfortable Bed and Breakfast establishment one block from the market in Teotitlan del Valle for our time together. (You might decide to arrive early and stay a few nights in the city or extend your trip to be in the city afterward.)

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Angel in Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread)

Preliminary Itinerary

Saturday, October 29: Arrive in Oaxaca and travel to Teotitlan del Valle. Check in to a highly-rated, locally owned bed and breakfast inn. Snack box available for arrivals after 8 p.m.

Sunday, October 30: During our breakfast orientation, we discuss how Day of the Dead is celebrated in the villages and then go on a walking tour that includes the village market, church, archeological site, and cultural center. Today you will also visit the homes and studios of rug weavers, candle makers, and silk weavers talking with them about their own family observances. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle. (Includes breakfast and welcome dinner)

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Teotitlan del Valle tamales with mole amarillo, made by Ernestina

Monday, October 31: After breakfast, walk to the Teotitlan del Valle market to shop for altar decorations to later build a group altar. Bring photos of those you want to remember! Then, we will venture out into the countryside to visit the Zapotec village of San Marcos Tlapazola to meet artisans and discuss their family Dia de los Muertos traditions. You will see demonstrations of red clay pottery and have a chance to buy if you wish. We will come prepared with altar gifts of chocolate and bread to present to the difuntos. On the road, we will stop at a traditional comedor for lunch (at your own expense). We finish the day with a mezcal tour and tasting in Santiago Matatlan, mezcal capital of the world. Mezcal is an integral part of Zapotec celebrations and we will see why. (B, D)  

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Monday, November 1: After breakfast, travel to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to meet a noted weaver artisan who will take us to their family gravesite at the village cemetery and talk about history and traditions. Visit a home where a traditional altar tells the story of ancient Zapotec culture. Our hosts will explain the ancient, pre-Hispanic altar offerings and go deep into the meaning of Muertos here in Oaxaca. You will bring your offering of chocolate and bread to put on their altar to honor our host’s ancestors. We will spend the day with this family and enjoy a very special lunch that they have prepared in our honor. – Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, tambien.  (B, D)  

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Tuesday, November 2: After breakfast, we will visit the Teotitlan del Valle cemetery to see preparations being made to honor dead loved ones: cleaning and decorating the graves. Then we will spend the afternoon in the courtyard of a traditional cook, who shows us how to make hot chocolate and tamales with mole amarillo. We’ll have late lunch there and then accompany her to the cemetery while she sits with her loved ones as they return to the underworld. After the cemetery, you will enjoy a before bedtime snack and discuss how participating in Day of the Dead has had an impact on you. Compare and contrast this experience with USA and Canadian experiences with death and dying.  (B, L, D)

Wednesday, November 3: After breakfast, we will arrange for any laboratory tests (at your own expense) required to re-enter the USA. Then, we will hold an EXPOVENTA to showcase the work of outstanding weavers representing various villages throughout Oaxaca state, including San Juan Colorado, Triqui, and San Mateo del Mar, and San Pedro Cajones. The rest of the afternoon is on your own. You can arrange a taxi to take you to the city, to neighboring villages or archeological sites. We will enjoy a final goodbye supper before you depart. (B, D)

Thursday, November 4: Departure. We will help you arrange a taxi (at your own expense) to the airport or you may choose to stay on in Oaxaca or visit another part of Mexico.  (B) Hasta la proxima!

Itinerary subject to change based on scheduling and availability.

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What Is Included

  • 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
  • 6 nights lodging at a charming B&B hotel in Teotitlan del Valle
  • museum and church entry fees
  • luxury van transportation
  • outstanding and complete guide services
  • multi-lingual translation
  • the cultural experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included

The program 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 instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $2,895 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $3,495 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

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Natural dyes have strong color, beautiful and more complex than synthetic dyes

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 June 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before September 1, 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 September 1, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before September 1, 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. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before June 15, 2022. You can take a photo of the documentation and forward 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. 

Registration Form

Complete the form and Send an email to Norma Schafer.

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.

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Red clay pottery, San Marcos Tlapazola

Who Should Attend • Anyone interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into Day of the Dead 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 find the stories to market what you sell.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

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.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: Oaxaca and surrounding villages are colonial and pre-Hispanic. The altitude is close to 6,000 feet. 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.

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Sitting vigil in the village cemetery, Dia de los Muertos