Dates: Jan 25-Feb 4, 2020
Duration: 11 days/10 nights
Departing and ending point: Departs Puerto Escondido and ends in Oaxaca Mexico
Want your own room? Single supplement option available for an additional $350
Arguably three of the most iconic natural dyes on earth, cochineal, indigo and shell-dyed purple are the focus of this dyer’s journey and hands-on workshop. If you love natural dyes and traditional culture, this trip is for you.
Our travels take us from the UNESCO World Heritage city of Oaxaca to the peaceful weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle to a small cove on the tropical Pacific which is one of the last places on earth where mollusks are “milked” to create a purple dye.
The core of our journey will be focused in Teotitlan, where we’ll work with a selection of true master dyers and learn from them their secrets and approaches to creating colors with cochineal and indigo as well as peeks at other colors, like those derived from lichens and a kind of wild chamomile. These masters tease dozens of tones from these noble dyes and vertible rainbows when they combine them with other natural dyes.
Then, on the other side of the Sierra Madre we witness something truly rare and extraordinary. The Mixtec people of the Oaxacan coast are the last traditional people on earth who continue to dye using purpura panza, a sea mollusk related to murex. Our’s is the privilege to witness this process with one of the last masters, a true cultural treasure.
We’ll also meet a collective of weavers and knitters working with brown cotton and reviving a village’s economy, see how cochineal is used in traditional food, immerse ourselves in a fascinating indigenous market, swim in the warm Pacific Ocean, see exquisite tapestry weaving, meet a group of weavers who work with shell dyed thread, eat delicious Oaxacan cuisine, travel through the sub tropical coffee growing mountains of the Sierra Madre and rather a lot more.
- Hands-on dye workshops with cochineal, indigo, lichens and wild chamomile
- Witness purple dyeing using sea mollusks
- Meet a collective a women reviving brown cotton
- Explore indigenous markets and villages
- Swim in the warm, clear, blue Pacific Ocean
- Meet master tapestry weavers
B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner included in trip cost
Day 1, Sat, Jan 25
(D) WELCOME TO THE LAND OF COLOR! Today the journey begins. Welcome to Mexico, a land where color reigns supreme everywhere you look and where an ancient heritage of weaving and dyeing continues to exist. We will have our first meeting at 6PM at our hotel in Puerto Escondido on the warm Pacific coast of Oaxaca. We’ll meet, greet and eat a yummy dinner together. (Note: We recommend flying round trip to Mexico City from your home airport and then buying affordable one way tickets from Mexico City to Puerto Escondido, and at the end of the tour, from Oaxaca City back to Mexico City).
Overnight in Puerto Escondido.
Day 2, Sun, Jan 26
(B,L) THE WEAVERS OF PURPLE Once a year a collective of indigenous Mixtec weavers who work with the mollusk-dyed purple thread travel from their far away village to show their weaving skills and sell their work in Puerto Escondido. Today is that day and we’ll spend the morning meeting the weavers and seeing their work. Then we travel down the coast to the balmy resort of Huatulco. I gotta tell you the truth, we aren’t the resort kinda people, but the town is mellow and friendly, and most importantly, it is the gateway to the rocky shoreline where the last of the shell dyers do their work.
Overnight in Huatulco
Day 3, Mon, Jan 27
(B,L) THE LAST SHELL DYERS There are 14 men left on earth who continue to dye thread purple using sea mollusks as part of an unbroken, living tradition. They are the men of Pinotepa de don Luis, the tixinda dyers. We met their wives and daughters yesterday in Puerto Escondido. Today we will get in a motorboat with one of them and travel past cliffs and bays until we come to the place where they milk purpura panza. We’ll see a process that only a handful of people have ever seen and we’ll learn about their heritage and struggles to maintain this unique sea mollusk. Bring your camera! And also bring your swimsuit, for as luck would have it, purpura panza lives adjacent to the most gorgeous beach. You will want to swim! Afternoon will find us under the palm thatch roof of a beach restaurant thirty feet from the sea and with plenty of fresh fish and cold beer.
Overnight in Huatulco
Day 4, Tues, Jan 28
(B,L,D) REVIVING A MOUNTAIN VILLAGE WITH BROWN COTTON We depart the coast and travel the steep roads into the lush, green Sierra Madre. We’ll pass banana trees, coffee fields and wind up in misty pine forests in a small community where a couple of visionaries, inspired by the work of Gandhi, lead a collective of women and men from the village that is both reviving the village’s economy and creating a market for natural brown cotton grown on the coast of Oaxaca. The whole good work is achieved through spinning, weaving, dyeing and knitting. We’ll meet the people involved, learn about the project and see the work they are doing. Plus breath the cool mountain air and spend the night among the pines. Overnight Sierra Madre
Day 5, Wed, Jan 29
(B,L,D) INTO THE HEART OF OAXACA Onward we travel, descending from the great mountains and into the grand central valley of Oaxaca, the very heart of this realm. Our destination today is what is probably the largest weaving village in Mexico, Teotitlan del Valle. By large I don’t mean metropolitain like, there aren’t more than 8,000 people in the whole village. By large I mean lots of weavers…perhaps 5,000 people quietly working away in their houses on stout floor looms creating colorful woolen tapestries. Most of the color comes from synthetic dyes, but a handful of masters are working with an amazing array of natural colors. They are the people we will be meeting and working with and the reason we’ll spend three full days in this friendly Zapotec indigenous village. But before we even get there today we’ll stop in Santo Tomas Jalietza and meet a family of backstrap weavers and visit a center doing research on cochineal.
Overnight in Teotitlan
Day 6, Thur, Jan 30
(B,L,D) COLLECTING COLORS This morning we meet master dyer and grand gentleman, Demetrio Baustista, for an overview of the natural dyes used in Teotitlan. Demetrio, like most of the dyers here, is relatively young. They are the revival, bringing back a tradition that was almost lost in the last century. They’ve brought it back with astounding skill. With Demetrio we head to the hills and collect lichens and pericon and we’ll work with them to create mustards and greens. And Demetrio will show you his rainbow of natural-dyed rugs. You may be tempted. In the afternoon we’ll take a fun jaunt to the nearby village of San Miguel where the women make floral embroidered aprons. These are the common daily wear of women throughout Oaxaca. And they might come in handy for the play we’ll be doing with reds and blues. (PS Our visit to Teotitlan will be focused on natural dyes, but it’s very worth noting that most of our meals here will be home cooked, traditional Zapotec cuisine. You will begin to understand why Mexico has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO for its cuisine) Overnight in Teotitlan
Day 7, Fri, Jan 31
(B,L,D) INDIGO Today the blues! The lowlands of Oaxaca were once a center of indigo production, and the heritage of blue hasn’t been lost. We’ll spend the whole day working with Juana Gutierrez, a wonderful dyer featured in the new book, True Colors by Keith Recker. Our workshop will include a woven shawl for each of us that we’ll work on dyeing in wood heated caldrons in an outdoor courtyard. We’ll play with indigo and explore about 10 different shades of blue. Plus enjoy a home cooked lunch and the pleasure of being in an old time village.
Overnight in Teotitlan
Day 8, Sat, Feb 1
(B,L,D) COCHINEAL Fidel Lazo, who has participated in the legendary International Folkart Market of Santa Fe with his natural dyed wool and alpaca rugs is a true master of cochineal. This incomparable natural red dye was once king in Oaxaca, the wealth generated by its sale funded the construction of many grand colonial era churches. Production died with the invention of synthetic dyes over a century ago, but craftsmen like Fidel are bringing it back. Fidel finesses dozens and dozens of tones out of cochineal and today we’ll learn how he does this as he goes through the processes of dyeing skeins of wool in different ways to create a rainbow of reds, purples and oranges. In the afternoon we’ll met one more dye master for a more brief peek at his explorations with color and shibori techniques.
Overnight in Teotitlan
Day 9, Sun, Feb 2
(B,L) SUNDAY MARKET! And now a new kind of color, the market! Every Sunday for generations, market has been a gathering point in the town of Tlacolula. Villagers from all the surrounding towns come to buy, sell, eat, watch… it does not get more colorful than this and we’ll put ourselves in the middle of it all and simply enjoy! Then, satiated, we escape! We head to a nearby village for another home-cooked lunch (One cannot get enough of this in Oaxaca, if you are only mildly into dyeing but really into food, this trip will also please you well!). And for desert, a special treat, a pre-hispanic recipe that is dyed with cochineal. Then we head for the crown jewel of this state, the colonial city of Oaxaca. But before arriving, one more stop to gaze at the resplendently colorful ceiling of the church of Tlacochahuaya. Predominant colors? Appropriately blues and reds ;). Then we arrive in the city and your evening will be free to wander. Head for the tree covered central square, filled with life, restaurants and beauty. Overnight in Oaxaca.
Day 10, Mon, Feb 3
(B,D) OAXACA CITY We have travelled from the far away Pacific coast, through the Sierra Madres, visited small villages and rural markets. Today, like pilgrims headed to Rome, we enjoy being in Oaxaca city, undeniably one of the cultural jewels of Oaxaca, recognized for its architecture, folk art, cuisine, contemporary art and festival life. If I were you I’d stay on a few days past the tour and simply BE in this city. But for our purposes, we’ll offer you a little on our last full tour day. With a walk through the heart of town to show you around and a couple of key, textile focused visits, we’ll at least whet your appetite for more. We’ll visit the Oaxacan Textile Museum in an elegant, restored monastery and we’ll visit the shop of the master of Oaxacan textile renaissance, Remegio Mestas. This shop is like a museum of the best of the best of indigenous textiles from throughout the state. Then we set you free. Go, explore, enjoy, absorb, experience, BE! We will gather for dinner, reminisce over our adventures and bring to a close our colorful journey.
Overnight in Oaxaca
Day 11, Tues, Feb 4
(B) DEPARTURES Bon voyage. Oaxaca City has an international airport with affordable connections to Mexico City and direct flights to LA, Dallas and Houston.
All itineraries subject to change without notice.
- Three hands-on dye workshops and materials
- A Professional, bilingual guide
- 10 nights accommodation based on double occupancy
- All local transport in private van
- Entry fees, tips for meals
- Local guides
- High quality, small group travel
- 10 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 7 Dinners
See itinerary for included meals. We have chosen to leave some dinners out when we are in places where people can easily find dining on their own. This gives people a chance to explore, have time away from the group, chose not to eat if their stomachs are satiated (almost always the case on our tours) and gives the guides some recovery time as well.
- Insurance. Full Comprehensive Travel Insurance is mandatory for this tour
- Travel and medical insurance
- All services, meals other than those indicated above, alcoholic beverages
- Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
- All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, medical needs, tips etc
- Tips to tour guides
Our tour begins in Puerto Escondido and ends in Oaxaca Mexico. Consider the option of purchasing a round trip ticket to Mexico City and two one way tickets: Mexico City to Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca to Mexico City, to complete your travels. Interjet, Volaris, Vivaaerobus and Aeromexico are all good Mexican airlines that often run these routes. One way tickets can be had at good prices.
To witness the shell dyeing process we travel via open top motor boat over several miles of ocean, clamber out at a beach and must walk across uneven rocks and boulders to see the process. You will want good fitting tennis shoes or water sandals (like Chacos or Tevas) for the rock scramble and must have decent equilibrium to be able to walk on the rocks. We are there to help with the rock walk, but cannot guarantee access if you are not able to walk on the rocks. We will accommodate by bringing the shellfish to you to view if you are not able to walk over the rocks.
The roads through the Sierra Madre on days 4 and 5 are very winding. Come prepared if you are affected by motion sickness.