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Where The dyeing and weaving village of Teotitlán in the state of Oaxaca, plus Oaxaca's Pacific coast.
When Mar 10-19, 2011
Duration 10 days, 9 nights
Size 6 to 10 participants
Cost Trip price of $2,490 includes all lodging (double occupancy), most meals, all local transport, entry fees, small group travel-6-10 passengers, two guides. Plus hands-on instruction in dyeing, round trip airfare from Oaxaca to Huatulco, and boat trip to murex shell dying beach. Single supplement $330.
Trip Guides Demetrio Bautista Lazo and Eric Mindling.

Murex, Cochineal, and Indigo! Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop
March 10 - 19, 2011
(For tour price and other information, please see the Trip Details sidebar on this page)

Cochineal, indigo and other dyes worked with in the mega-weaving village, Teotitlan del Valle. Bush planes take us to the Oaxacan coast to dye murex with the last of the Mixtec dyers.

Wool skeins in Teotitlan - Traditions Mexico Tours
Josefina displays skeins of wool in Teotitlan del Valle
Trip Features

Five days of hands-on dyeing and material collecting with master dyer, Demetrio Bautista

Learn techniques with Cochineal, Indigo and other dyes
Opportunity to purchase handspun wool from Zapotec spinners for dyeing
Witness murex dyeing with one of the last ancestral murex dyers
Meet a slew of tapestry weavers
See cochineal cultivation
Stay in mega-weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle
Sunday market in Tlacolula
Swim in the warm Pacific
Explore pre-Hispanic ruins
Includes flight to/from Oaxaca coast in 14-passenger plane
Eat delicious home-cooked Zapotec cuisine
Stays in colonial Oaxaca and coastal Huatulco

Our base camp will be the Mega-weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle where there are 5,000 weavers hard at work as well as a small handful of top-notch natural dyers. This is the mother-land of Cochineal, and we’ll delve into its secrets, seeing how it is cultivated and harvested and working with master dyer, Demetrio Bautista Lazo, to learn methods for direct cochineal dyeing with variable pH. as well as how to combine this little bug-dye with plants dyes to get even more tones. Oaxaca was also once a large producer of indigo and we’ll also dabble in the blues, learning how it is used by the weavers of Teotitlán.

Chichipan wool- Traditions Mexico Tours
Chichipan wool

Then we climb into a bush plane and take an excursion over the southern Sierra Madre and down to the rocky shoreline of the Pacific coast with its entrancing blue bays and warm waters to meet with one of the last ancestral murex dyers on the planet. Climbing in a fisherman’s launch we bounce to a remote location that is the lair of Purpura Panza, the source of murex purple in the Americas. We’ll see how the dyeing is done, learn why it is still being done as well as see samples of what the Mixtec weavers make with this purple-dyed cotton thread.

Returning to the highlands a couple of days later we take a breather in the colonial city of Oaxaca, admiring shops that carry some of the finest indigenous textiles in Mexico (all from Oaxaca!), before heading home with hands tinged red, blue and purple.

For more about shell dying, please see our article, Purpua! and our slide show, Dying Murex on the Oaxacan Coast


Shawl dyed with cochineal- Traditions Mexico Tours
Woman with cochineal-dyed silk shawl

(B, L, D) = breakfast, lunch, dinner included)

Day 1, Thursday, March 10 (D). Our first group meeting will be at 6 pm today at our hotel, where we will introduce ourselves, talk about the upcoming trip and then head out to dinner. Oaxaca (OAX) international airport  is your port of entry.

Day 2, Friday, March 11 (BLD). Today we head into the backcountry, traveling to a small village where most of the women spin wool on support spindles as a sideline occupation. We will visit with one of these women to see her amazing proficiency with the spindle and so you will have the opportunity to buy handspun wool to dye if you choose.  Then we travel to the weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle and to the home and hostel of our host and dye teacher, Demetrio Bautista Lazo (http://www.teotitlan.com/). We will settle into our simple and clean rooms with shared bath, built around the patio of this Zapotec weaver’s home and begin to get to know our bilingual, charismatic and extremely skilled dye master. Evening in Teotitlan.

Pacific coast of Oaxaca- Traditions Mexico Tours
The Pacific Coast Lair of the purple Murex

Day 3, Saturday, March 12 (BLD). This morning we travel into the Sierra Madre which rises directly behind Teotitlán and spend the morning learning about and collecting different kinds of dye plants such as wild chamomile, moses, etc. We’ll have lunch in a mountain village eatery before returning the valley and preparing our wool for dyeing. Evening in Teotitlan.

Day 4, Sunday, March 13 (BLD). This morning we head out to the swirling Sunday market of Tlacolula where we will get an infusion of the smells, tastes and sights of Zapotec Oaxaca. After market, and for the next two days, we will work with cochineal, indigo and additional dyes. Demetrio will lead us through and explain processes for the different dyes and variants. We will dye small batches, working with a variety of ingredients and combinations with the goal of giving you a solid foundation in the basics of dyeing, or expanding on your existing knowledge with these ingredients that you can then take home and build upon. We will visit a wool spinner/supplier here where we encourage you to buy some yarn, but also recommend bringing yarn from home if you would like to see how different yarns take the dye. We will be eating good Zapotec home cooking prepared by Demetrio’s wife and meet other members of his family as we enjoy the special opportunity of being part of a Zapotec household.

Day 5, Monday, March 14, (BLD) Today we continue our dyeing work with Demetrio. Time and energy allowing we may spend the afternoon visiting a nearby archaeological site and meeting other weavers in Teotitlán.

Day 6, Tuesday, March 15, (BL) Today we continue our dye work, and in the afternoon we will finish our work with Demetrio and head to Oaxaca city where we will take the afternoon off and spend the night in the city.

Cochineal preparation with metate- Traditions Mexico Tours
Cochineal insects are ground on a metate to release the red dye

Day 7, Wednesday, March 16 (BL). This morning we climb aboard a 9 a.m. flight in a 14-passenger prop plane to the small Oaxacan coast resort town of Huatulco. We will take it easy today, heading to one of the lovely and quiet beaches and dip ourselves in the warm Pacific. We will be careful to not let the sun dye our skin the wrong tone. Evening in Huatulco.

Day 8, Thursday, March 17 (BL).  . This morning we climb aboard a small boat and, with the Mixtec shell dyer, head up the coast to the remote beach where purpura panza lives in the rocky tidal zone. You will want to be sure to bring shoes with good grip that you don’t mind getting wet for the scramble over the rocks to watch the shell dyeing. Teva or Keen style shoes work well. We’ll talk about how this shell fish is used and cared for by the Mixtec dyers and the problems facing the future of this rare, ancestral craft. We will also have a picnic on this beautiful beach and swim in the clear water before returning to Huatulco.

Day 9, Friday, March 18 (BD). Once again we climb aboard our little plane and pop back over the 10,000 foot southern Sierra and into the Oaxaca valley, leaving behind the tropical coast for the wintry (in a Mexican way) highlands. Inthe afternoon, we find ourselves back in Oaxaca city to settle into our hotel and then, after a brief walking tour of old town, the afternoon is wide open for you to explore this colonial gem. In the evening we gather for our final dinner together. Evening in Oaxaca.


Chcineal dying- Traditions Mexico Tours
A skein of wool dyed with cochineal emerges from the dye pot
Day 10, Saturday, March 19 (B). . Breakfast is included this morning, but you may plan your departure at any time this day.

Suggested Reading

The Perfect Red, by Amy Butler Greenfield. Traditions Mexico is proud to have assisted Ms. Greenfield when she visited Oaxaca doing research for her book. In fact, we are proud to quote from her acknowledgments: "I also apprecieate the help I received from Eric Mindling . . .guide extraordinaire, whose relaxed good humor and love for the region were evident from the moment I first met him".

Amy's book tells the story of the search for the dye source of this color, which was in high demend by royalty and high fashion in the 1500's. There was a time when it was more valuable than the gold with which it shared space in galleons returning to Spain. She also details the methods and history of the production of the dye in Oaxaca. It is a treasured volume on our shelves.



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