The Ancient and Living Colors of Oaxaca

The Ancient and Living Colors of Oaxaca

In Partnership with Wild West Weaving, Silver City, New Mexico

October 10-18, 2020




Sometimes called, “The Magic Colors of Oaxaca”, this trip will explore, visit, experience and work with the BIG THREE colors of Mexico, all found in Oaxaca! From a live sea mollusk, to a bug in the scale family, to a plant that grows in hot climates, we’ll explore purple, red and blue; caracol purpura pansa, cochineal, and indigo. On this trip, we’ll meet with dyers who are maintaining their ancestral heritage, and we’ll work side-by-side with our friends in Teotitlan del Valle in a 3-Day Natural Dye Workshop. If you are interested in cultural expressions, natural dyes, ancient and living cultural expression, we invite you to join this extraordinary journey to Oaxaca.


Trip Highlights:

  • Explore the world of “caracol purpura”, purple dye, extracted from a sea mollusk
  • Travel by boat to the rocky shores of Oaxaca’s coast, with the Mixtec dyers to observe the dye extracting technique, passed down from generation to generation
  • Travel to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, to learn about dress and tradition
  • Meet with indigo growers and producers
  • Arrive to the Central Valleys of Oaxaca
  • Welcome reception at our Natural Dye Workshop, home for the next 3 days
  • Work with cochineal, indigo and yellow dye sources
  • Explore Ancient Zapotec site, Monte Alban, Mesoamerica’s first urban center
  • Visit Tlapanochestli, to learn about the history of cochineal
  • Eat delicious regional dishes from Oaxaca
  • Visit local markets, coops and shops


Trip Includes:

  • Accommodations
  • Expert Guides and/or Academics
  • Comfortable / Secure Transportation
  • Welcome and Farewell Dinners
  • Breakfasts
  • Meals according to itinerary
  • Water on Van/Coach
  • Airport Transfers
  • Entry Fees

natural dye



This trip is designed to learn about and experience the incredible natural dye sources of Oaxaca, from the caracol purpura pansa on the Coast of Oaxaca, known about by the Mixtec dyers for thousands of years, to the cochineal dye, that European powers fought for, to indigo, the most enchanting blue dye worldwide. Of course, yellow sources will round out the pallet! We’ll travel to the Coast of Oaxaca, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. If you love natural dyes, the relationship between biodiversity and cultural diversity, ancient and living traditions, this trip is for YOU!



Day One: Arrive in Huatulco (HUA) airport. You’ll be met at the airport and transfer to our hotel, overlooking the bays that we will soon be exploring!


Day Two: Explore the world of caracol purpura pansa with our Mixtec dyer friends.



Today we’ll get up early, to meet the window between tides, to view and better understand the ancient methods used by the Mixtec dyers, who travel a great distance from their homes in Pinotepa de Don Luis to extract dye from a sea mollusk. Taking cotton skeins on the rocks, the dyers continue their work one shell at a time, carefully returning it to the rock, the dyers return to their community with purple dyed thread, of the women to weave into the making of their “pozahuanco” wrap skirts. It’s an incredible symbiosis between man and nature, that we are fortunate to witness. We’ll enjoy our lunch by the ocean before returning to our hotel in Huatulco.


Day Three: Isthmus of Tehuantepec and San Mateo del Mar


Leaving the Coast, we’ll travel to the narrow “waistband” of Mexico, called the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. We’ll stop in a very remote “spit” of land, where the Huave or Ikoots (as they call themselves) live. The ikoots have adopted the dress of the Zapotec, and their flowing skirts blow in the wind, as this is one of the windiest places on the planet. In fact, a town there is called “La Ventosa”, the Windy One! We’ll meet with the weavers, who on a backstrap loom, will show us their ancient designs that used to create their own dress in huipiles, but today are sold to outsiders as table runners, place mats, wall hangings, etc. Their work and motifs are singular in Mexico. From here, we’ll go to Tehuantepec, enjoy a regional lunch, check into our hotel, go for a swim, before heading back out at night to learn about the iconic and historic dress from the Istmo de Tehuantepec. We’ll enjoy a fashion show, a zandunga (their traditional dance), dance demo, embroidery demo and some delicious regional snacks.


 Day Four: Juchitan Market, Depart for Central Valleys


Before we leave the Isthmus, we’ll stop at the Juchitan market, a bustling experience where “traje”, dress, hair adornments, dried fish, fruits, breads all co-mingle in a vibrant and bustling setting. It’s the women who sell at the market and control the purse strings.

Leaving the Isthmus, we’ll make our way into the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. Time permitting, we’ll stop at Mitla, to see the ancient motifs in the stone fret technique. Then we’ll stop at our weaver, dyer friends in Teotitlan del Valle, to get our introduction to our Natural Dye Workshop, that will take place over the next three days. End in Oaxaca City for Overnight.


Day Five: Natural Dye Workshop, Day One: Exploring Yellows!


Today, we’ll start with our yellows. Using dye sources such as “pericon” tagetes lucida, a wild marigold, and marush, we’ll prepare multiple skeins for yellow tones and for future overdyes for our greens and oranges. We’ll enjoy lunch of the most delicious quesadillas made with native corn. After our workshop, we’ll visit Tlapanochestli, a cochineal R & D facility, to learn more about the red dye source that originated in Oaxaca. We’ll be working with cochineal tomorrow!


Day Six: Natural Dye Workshop, Day Two: Exploring Red! 


Before we begin our “red” workshop, we’ll stop in the daily market of Teotitlan del Valle, one of the most beautiful markets in Oaxaca, that maintains its traditions, operating in much of the same way it likely did thousands of years ago. Fruits, breads, cheeses, “tlayudas” (large tortillas), tamales de chepil (a local herb), herbs, and more are bought, sold and traded. Arriving at the workshop, we’ll begin our work for the day, using the carminic acid from the cochineal bug to develop a surprising and wide array of red hues. Late afternoon visit to Monte Alban, the first urban center of Mesoamerica.


Day Seven: Natural Dye Workshop, Day Three: Exploring Blue!


On our last day of the workshop, we will work with our incredible blue dye bath that has been fermenting for the last three days. Using indigofera suffruticosa, we’ll prepare various skeins with different strengths of blue, and we’ll use our yellows and reds from the days before, to create an incredible rainbow of colors and hues. We’ll bring our workshop to an end and enjoy a closing ceremony.


Day Eight: Free Day in Oaxaca City, Farewell Dinner


On your free day, you can explore markets, coops, galleries, museums in Oaxaca City. We’ll gather in the evening for our farewell dinner.


Day Nine: Depart







Photos From This Tour

























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