Journey into Zapotec households and their threaded heritage. If people, craft, and living culture appeal to you, this is a day well spent.
- Dates: Jan. 14-23, 2019
- Duration: Ten days/nine nights
- Departing point: Oaxaca City, Mexico
- Ending point: Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
About the Oaxaca Purpura Tour
Encounter the last shellfish dyers, endangered silk, and the finest backstrap.
From the Oaxacan Coast to the Sierra Madre, this remarkable and diverse journey takes us to one of the last sericulture villages in Mexico, a village of 4,000 tapestry weavers, into the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to visit of village of Zapotec embroiderers and Huave backstrap weavers, into the home of the last and great Chontal weavers, and onto a remote beach with one of the last ancestral murex dyers on the planet.
The state of Oaxaca is home to a luxurious diversity of textiles. We visit one of the last areas where sericulture is practiced in Mesoamerica, meet weavers and natural dyers in a village of over 4,000 tapestry weavers, explore a fabulous Sunday market, and sit in silence in the ruins of Zapotec temples.
Then we travel through stunning mountains and valleys to the land of the Isthmus Zapotecs and Huaves to visit a village of embroiderers who create the elegant flower-on-velvet festival regalia worn by the women in this region. We visit the home of one of the last weavers of Yautepec, one of the finest backstrap weavers in Mexico. She uses a needle for her shuttle.
We also travel to a small village on a wide sand spit where backstrap weaving is making a tenuous comeback and crown our journey with a boat trip to a white sand beach to witness mollusk juice being milked for the making of the color purple.
- Visit a 500-year-old silk raising village
- Witness purpura shellfish dying with one of the last traditional dyers
- Explore a village of 4,000 tapestry weavers
- Meet one of the finest backstrap weavers in Mexico
- Travel to the land that inspired Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe
- Eat the catch of the day on a quiet Pacific beach
- Immerse yourself in Oaxacan markets
- Explore old Oaxaca City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Our trip starts in Oaxaca City and ends on the Pacific coast in Huatulco. You might choose to fly roundtrip to Mexico City and add one-way flights from Mexico City to Oaxaca and from Huatulco to Mexico City. Aeromexico, Volaris, and Interjet are all options for these flights.
Or you might choose to fly round trip to Oaxaca City on a direct flight on United Airlines through Houston and after the tour ends return to Oaxaca City. Tar Airlines and Aerotucan are options for this flight (HUX – OAX).
- What's Included
- All lodging during trip based on double occupancy
- Most meals (listed on itinerary)
- Superb guide
- Transport in private van
- Entry fees
- Not Included
- Airfare and transportation to and from the trip pick-up/drop-off locations
- Lodging before and after the trip
- Personal items purchased during the trip
- Alcoholic beverages
- Some meals are not included. On these trips, Traditions Mexico invites you to explore the local cuisine at your leisure.
- Gratuities for your Traditional Mexico guides may be given at your discretion in response to their professionalism and leadership. The industry standard is for each individual guest to tip the guide team 5-10% of the trip price.
- Room service
- Travel Visa fees
B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner included in trip cost
Day 1 – Monday, Jan. 14 (D)
Plan to arrive at our hotel in Oaxaca by no later than 6 p.m., when we meet, have a trip orientation, and head out to dinner.
Overnight in Oaxaca
Day 2 – Tuesday, Jan. 15 (BL)
We explore the city that lies just outside our front door. Stone churches, intriguing shops, good places to eat, and shady plazas abound. But our eyes are on the threads, and we get to enjoy a private tour of the Oaxacan Textile Museum, peek at the best of the best in a little shop that’s all about Oaxacan indigenous weaving, and stop by an artisans’ co-op that is by the people and for the people. Plus, we take a look at an elegant church or two, and perhaps take a rest in a shady plaza.
Overnight in Oaxaca
Day 3 – Wednesday, Jan. 16 (BLD)
Into the world of Oaxacan threads, we go! On our first stop, we visit a family of backstrap weavers in Santo Tomas who use the unusual rigid heddle method of weaving. Then we meet a group of fine hand embroiderers in the village of San Antoninio before filling our bellies with lunch in the market town of Ocotlan.
We also meet some of the last old-time wool handspinners, women who for generations have supplied valley weaving villages with yarn. We wrap up this day of delicious textile travel in the town of Mitla, where we spend the night. But before settling in, we stop by the workshop of a fine backstrap wool weaver and natural dyer to admire their work for a bit.
Overnight in Mitla
Day 4 – Thursday, Jan. 17 (BLD)
Today is all about silk. The pine-covered peaks that rise high above our hotel are part of the Eastern Sierra Madre. That’s where we travel today to visit one of the last surviving sericulture areas in Mexico.
Silk was booming throughout Oaxaca 450 years ago, but a century of disease, corruption, and competition from the Orient turned that boom into a bust. Oaxaca–remote, hidden, and deeply rooted–hasn’t paid much attention to the wider world’s cycles of boom and bust. What you no longer find anywhere else, you can still find in Oaxaca. A village of silk artisans carrying on a trade introduced by the Spanish almost 500 years ago is one of those things. Today, we go meet some of those people and hear their stories about the past and present.
Overnight in Mitla
Day 5 – Friday, Jan. 18 (BL)
Mitla is most famous for the ruins of ancient Zapotec palaces, and this morning you get to visit them before the sun gets sharp. Not only is the stonework of these palaces phenomenal, but the designs cut in stone also appear to be entirely inspired by woven patterns. No one actually knows, but we let you be the judge.
After the ruins, we leap into the center of a phenomenal town of over 4,000 weavers called Teotitlan. We can’t visit them all, so we visit a couple instead. In one household, we get to see a loom that is 15 feet wide and meet weavers who are working with contemporary artists to create some very unusual designs. In another, we spend time with one of the most accomplished natural dyers in Teotitlan. In yet another household, we have lunch–a delicious meal of home-cooked Zapotec cuisine with freshly made tortillas of homegrown corn, fresh fruit water, homemade salsa, and a tasty main course with a sip of mescal as an aperitif.
You also get to visit this town’s simple and lovely church adorned with bouquets of flowers kept fresh 365 days of the year by the 13 men who tend the saints as well as ornate wax candles. Time allowing, we might even meet one of the village’s candle makers and see how they ply their art.
Overnight in Mitla
Day 6 – Saturday, Jan. 19 (BLD)
Onward! We bid Teotitlan and the Oaxaca valley farewell and head to the hills, following the old trade path turned Pan-American Highway to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. En route, we make a small detour to visit a weaver who is just about the last weaver in a village that once did some of the finest cotton weaving in Oaxaca. Actually, it still does in the hands of one artist. The village is Yautepec, and our weaver works so finely that she uses a needle for a shuttle.
After marveling over her fine work, we head to the bustling Zapotec town of Tehuantepec, where a tree-shaded hotel with a pool awaits us. We assure you the pool is a welcome sight in the tropics, where it feels like they leave the heater and humidifier on all the time!
Overnight in Tehuantepec
Day 7 – Sunday, Jan. 20 (BLD)
If you are familiar with the famous Mexican artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo, then you know that she favored hand-embroidered floral blouses and skirts, oftentimes made of velvet. (If you aren’t familiar with Frida, take a moment to do so–look on the internet or watch the movie Frida). Ornate, hand-embroidered blouses and skirts are the dress-up, show-off clothing of the Isthmus woman. Frida fell in love with the costume and made it her own.
This morning, we go to the little village of Santa Rosa, which is one of the principal sources of these blouses. In Santa Rosa, almost every woman spends part of the day embroidering blouses that are commissioned by shop owners and women from the neighboring towns. We visit with a few of these women to see their stunning work.
Then we take a back road and travel out to the long sand spit between the Pacific and a large lagoon called the Calm Sea to visit with the Huave people who live there. In San Mateo, we meet with the family of Justina Oviedo, featured in the book Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art, and see how these backstrap weavers incorporate images from their surroundings, like crabs and cranes, into their beautiful weavings.
Overnight in Tehuantepec
Day 8 – Monday, Jan. 21 (BL)
Today we make a leisurely migration along the Pacific coast to the small resort town of Huatulco. But before we get there, we stop in a little place that is decidedly un-resort-like–a long, quiet beach with simple thatch-roofed eateries run by local fisherfolk and good cooks.
Lunch is the catch of the day grilled with garlic or wood baked. And there is plenty of time for a swim and stretching out on a hammock!
Overnight in Huatulco
Day 9 – Tuesday, Jan. 22 (L)
Today we climb aboard a small boat with a Mixtec man whose family has been dyeing cotton with purpura pansa (murex cousin) for uncounted generations. We head up the rocky coastline to a white sand beach with sky-blue waters where we find the little shells that produce the regal purple dye.
We stand witness to this rare and ancient process as the dyer 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 enjoy a picnic on the beach followed by a swim and a snorkel (bring your mask if you have one). In the afternoon, we boat back to the big bay, and you have free time in the afternoon and evening to explore the area.
Overnight in Huatulco
Day 10 – Wednesday, Jan. 23
You may plan your departure for any time today. ¡Feliz viaje!
All itineraries subject to change without notice.