In March of this year I travelled for a second time to the magical state of Oaxaca, Mexico and this time I concentrated on textiles. The tour was sponsored by Traditions Mexico click here specializing in textile and craft tours. Our tour was called Purpura, Silk and Threaded Flowers.

The highlight was Tehuantepec where they make those beautiful velvet and satin floral embroidered huipiles and skirts that Frida Kahlo made so famous. Her mother was from there and they still wear them for their festivals ask they are busy making and selling them in the nearby village of Santa Rosa.

In Huatulco, on the coast, we observed the rare and ancient process of gathering purpura panza, a cousin of murex, used to dye cotton a royal purple color. This was done by a Mixtec man who family has been doing this for uncounted generations. He gathers the small shells that contain the snail-like creatures attached to the large rocks along the shore and gently massages them to release the liquid that oxidizes when it hits the yarn skeins he is holding and turns it purple. Then he puts the shell back on the rocks where he found it. Because of this incredibly time consuming process the purple yarns are usually woven with a lot of other colors – mostly white. But how unique!

We also went to the small silk weaving village of San Pedro Cajones on a hilltop where a family was growing mulberry trees for their silk worms which made the silk they spin, dye and weave into beautiful shawls with knotted macramé fringes. The silk worms they use are descendants of those brought the Spanish centuries ago.

Other highlights included the Textile Museum and the shop Aripa in Oaxaca City. Also Teotitlan del Valle for dyeing and rug weaving demonstrations by Demetrio Bautista Lazo. I especially loved the cochineal dyeing which originated here.

Other great visits were with Macrina Mateo Martinez, the well-known red pottery artist, and her group of women who gather the red clay and make the classic shaped pottery in San Marcos Tlapazola; Yautepec to visit a woman who weaves designs that are so small and delicate she uses a needle instead of a shuttle, and to San Mateo to meet the daughters of the great master weaver Justina Oviedo who invented her own technique for weaving two entirely different designs at the same time on each side which her daughters are continuing to do. In Mitla we saw 2 brothers who use flying shuttle looms to make beautiful textiles and another village where they make elaborate candles.

And of course we loved the beautiful landscape, the ruins of Mitla, the Spanish colonial architecture, the COLOR, the markets, the delicious Oaxacan food and tasting the different mezcals. But most of all the beautiful, talented, friendly people, especially our guide and driver the multi-talented Alex Munuzuri.

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