Murex (sea snail) dyeing with traditional Mixtec dyer
Backstrap weaving of traditional wraps dyed with Murex and indigo
Brown cotton hand spinning and weaving
Visit award-winning Amuzgo brocade weaver
Learn how a group of Mixtec women is redefining their work to keep it vital
Bathe in the warm Pacific at Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, and more
Enjoy fresh seafood
Travel to seldom-visited regions of a gorgeous coastland
Fiber Arts of the Oaxacan South Coast
January 24 - Feb 1, 2014
The last Murex dyers, five centuries of silk, a village of 5,000 tapestry weavers. From the Oaxacan Coast to the Sierra Madre , this is a truely remarkable and diverse journey.
The last of the Royal Purple Shell Dyers
Some of the very best of Mexico’s indigenous weaving is found along remote reaches of the Oaxaca coast. We go visiting Mixtec and Amuzgo backstrap weavers, hand spinners and natural dyers as well as taking a trip to a remote beach with one of the last traditional murex dyers on the planet.
land of Mixtecs, Zapotecs, Amuzgos, Chatinos, Chontales and Afro-Mexicanos,
once the lair of pirates and coffee traders and still filled with mysteries
and secrets, the Oaxacan south coast was virtually closed to the outside world
until 1982 when the coastal highway was paved. Now the coast has opened up and
tourists have discovered the wonderful beaches of this south coast and travel
the long highway to bathe in the warm Pacific. But the Oaxacan coast still hides
Principle among them are a group of
25 Mixtec dyers who are the last people on earth to still dye purple with Murex
shell fish as part of an intact tradition. On this pioneering trip to see the
textile traditions of the Oaxacan coast we will enjoy the unique honor of traveling
with one of the last shell dyers to see where and how this ancient process is
done. We'll visit the weavers who make pozahuancos, or traditional wraps, with
this purple cotton. We will travel to an Amuzgo village to meet some of the
finest backstrap brocade weavers in the country, visit a Mixtec village where
brown cotton is cultivated and travel to the world of the coastal Zapotec women
who embroider and wear the floral blouses and dresses once so dear to Frida
Kahlo. And always, to our south, will be the luring blue water, mangrove lagoons
and sand beaches of the Pacific. The ocean, being the greatest of all fabrics,
will not escape our attention either and we will splash in its inviting waters
at some of the finest beaches the coast has to offer, and eat of its fruits,
for here fresh fish, lobster and shrimp abound.
This is a unique and rare trip created
as a result of years of exploration and research among the villages and weavers
of the Oaxacan coast. It is an adventure not to be missed.
The Pacific Coast of the state of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico
Jan 24-Feb 1, 2014
Nine days. eight nights
Trip Price, $1,650 for 6 to 12 guests, $1,875 for 3 to 5 guests. Includes all lodging (double occupancy), most meals, all local transport in private van, entry fees, two guides. Single Supplement, $285.
Day 1, (D). Our trip begins at the Pacific coast resort beach town of Puerto Escondido. Participants will make arrangements to get to Puerto Escondido
and the hotel where we will hold our first meeting in the evening. There are
daily flights to the Puerto Escondido airport from Mexico City and Oaxaca. Evening in Puerto Escondido.
Day 2, (B,L,D). After a fine breakfast overlooking the beach and surf we travel up coast and deep into the realm of the traditional coastal Mixtec people. We'll stop in Jamiltepec to visit the hilltop market where handspindles made of mangrove root and clay can be bought. Then we will visit Huazolotitlan, a Mixtec weaving and mask-carving village. We will spend lunch and the afternoon with a family of weavers, learning about back strap weaving and the traditions of this village. We will spend the evening in Pinotepa National.
Backstrapweaver and assistants
Day 3, (B,L,D). This morning we head to another Mixtec weaving village, San Juan Colorado. Here we will meet with a collective of woman weavers who cultivate brown cotton and who are trying to bring back natural dyeing methods used by their ancestors. This group is combining their traditional weaving skills with new design and color ideas to create textiles that appeal to a broader audience (like us!). They will prepare us a traditional Mixtec lunch as well. From here we leave Oaxaca state and head into Guerrero and the land of the Amuzgo weavers. We will spend the evening in the hilltown of Ometepec with its amazing wedding cake church. Evening in Pinotepa Nacional.
Martinez hand-carding wool in the south coast weaving village of Huazolotitlan
Day 4, (B,L,D). Today we travel inland to the village of Pinotepa de Don Luis. Here we will visit Habacuc Avendano, a traditional purple shell dyer, and see how the shell-dyed purple cotton is combined with red silk and indigo blue dyed cotton to make pozahuancos, the traditional wraps used by Mixtec women along the coast. We'll also meet with Habacuc's sister who heads a woman's weaving co-op in the village and his wife and daughters, all proficient weavers, who will have many goodies to tempt us with. Time allowing in the afternoon we'll travel out to a nearby beach to watch the waves crash. We will spend the evening in Pinotepa National.
Day 5, (B,L,D). This morning we head into the hills to visit the Amuzgo village of Xochistlahuaca where we will be honored by the presence of Florentina Lopez de Jesus (see page 359 of Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art). The work she and her peers in Xochis produce is among the finest and most beautiful brocade work being produced in Mexico and I wager you will never see cotton spun more finely than by these women with their hand spindles. We will see Amuzgo backstrap weaving and brocade, as well as learn about cotton cultivation, natural dyeing and the work done by Florentina to make this group of weavers successful. In the afternoon we'll stop in a town where glass beads are used to adorn blouses and dresses. Evening in Ometepec.
Amuzgo backstrap weaver
Day 6, (B,L). Do your yoga before getting into the van today, because today we will cover long miles in the van, heading back down coast to our final destination. A lovely hotel and a fine beach. Along the way we will stop in the town of Cuajinicuilapa (say it 5 times fast) to visit the Museo de la Cultura Afromestizo, the only museum in Mexico dedicated to the African presence in Mexico. Along this stretch of the coast there are many Afro-Mexican communities, founded hundreds of years ago by escaped and freed slaves. At the end of the day the sea awaits us and its warm water and waves will wash away our road weariness. Evening in San Agustinillo.
Day 7, (B). We have traveled hundreds of miles and seen many things and now it is time to take a breather. The day is yours to play on the beach, lounge in your hammock or explore. In the morning, if you are interested, you can join me to visit a nearby lagoon where we take a boat ride to see crocodiles and iguanas and we can venture up to a place where hammocks are woven. Also, as an option, you can take a boat trip out to sea to spot sea turtles and dolphins. Evening in San Agustinillo.
Amuzgo huipil - a brocaded blouse.
A skein of murex-dyed cotton. The dye, called Tyrian purple by the Phonicians, is derived from a marine snail. The dye was used by Romans to color ceremonial robes, and Aristotle assigned it a value ten to twenty times its weight in gold, or so says Wikipedia.
Day 8, (L,D). Habacuc Avendano, the Mixtec shell dyer we met several days ago, joins us today for a trip to the rocky coastline and a boat ride out to a white sand beach with sky-blue waters where the little shells live that produce a regal purple dye. We will stand witness to this rare and ancient process (bring water proof shoes for rock hopping) as Habacuc harvests the shells to dye a skein of wool and explains to us how it is that, after thousands of years of harvesting shells on this coast, there are still shells to dye with. We'll have a picnic on the beach and a swim and a snorkel (bring your mask if you have one). In the afternoon we boat back to the big bay where the van is parked and head back to our restaurant with a view for one last dinner together. Evening in San Agustinillo.
Day 9, (B). After breakfast we say our final adioses and each head our own way. Transport can be arranged to the Huatulco airport, about 45 minutes away.
All itineraries are subject to change without notice.
SUGGESTED READING Artes de Mexico, 'Textiles de Oaxaca', No. 35, Mexico City, 1996. English translation at back of volume.
Artes de Mexico, 'La Tehuana', No. 49, Mexico City, Spring 2000. English translation at back of volume.
Klien, Katheryn, ed.The Unbroken Thread: Conserving the Textile Traditions of Oaxaca. Los Angeles, California: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1997.
Fomento Cultural Banamex, The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art, Fomento Cultural Banamex, A.C., Mexico City, 1998.
Gonzalez, Alicia Maria, The Edge of Enchantment, Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, Mexico, Smithsonian, Washington and New York, 2002