Imagine a 6-month time-frame to write a textile travel guide to Mexico. Challenging and a bit scary, but I decided it was definitely possible. After all, I had been documenting textiles for about ten years in Mexico and was a frequent visitor to all the fiestas and markets there. It was all familiar and I had over 40,000 pictures.
Off I went last January to re-visit all the locations of the fairs and the very exciting markets covered in my book Textile Fiestas of Mexico. I needed to fact check with local experts and make sure my information was correct and fill in missing images. What I was slowly realizing was that I couldn’t do it alone. Guelaguetza, the colorful exuberant festival in Oaxaca, was in July, far beyond my deadline. While I had pictures from previous years, they weren’t the dynamic ones I wanted.
Enter Facebook! Trolling through images of this Oaxaca festival, I stumbled onto a Facebook page for Guelaguetza, and there were the perfect images. The photographer, Alejandro Aquino, had a familiar style of composition and feeling that would fit with my style—one of being there and right in the front row! It took me awhile to get a dialogue going with Alejandro and to ask him to contribute to the guide, but we finally connected and he said, “Yes.” Then I got to pick out his images of the festival to fit my text along with the editor and designer who then did their magic.
My Friends in Mexico
I met Alejandro Aquino in January for a short interview, which I hope will lead to further exploration of his work. He’s a young sensitive guy in his late 20s from Zinatlán de Alvarez, Oaxaca. He was an independent photographer for the journal Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca. Now he’s focusing his photography on el campo y realidad de la gente (the countryside and reality of its people), la pobreza (poverty) being one of his prime themes. El mar y el cielo (the sea and sky) strongly draw him in, too. I can’t wait to explore more of his images soon. Currently, Alejandro is a secondary school teacher in a town near Oaxaca.
Norma Schafer, a friend and the person who invited me initially to stay in Teotitlan del Valle in 2009, contributed two dynamic market chapters to Textile Fiestas of Mexico. The first is about Teotitlan del Valle, the very important rug weaving center of Oaxaca, where Norma actually lives. She knows the complex story and who the best natural dyers are in a village of over 200 weaving families. Her perspective was essential to the guide.
An accomplished photographer, she took on my last assignment in Tenancingo, the traditional rebozo weaving capital near Toluca and Mexico City. She leads study tours and just happened to be visiting before my March deadline. Que Suerte! (What Luck!) Thank you, Norma. She did a great job and the images are super. Who wouldn’t want to go rebozo shopping in Tenancingo?
Norma Schafer is a published writer and photographer and since 2006, she has offered curated study tours, workshops, and specialized programs throughout Mexico. Through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, she takes you beyond the ordinary to introduce you to Mexico’s most outstanding artisans who are off-the-beaten path and internationally recognized.
Her tours are limited in size to give you the most personal experience. Workshops and one-day natural dye textile study tours can be scheduled to suit individual travel plans. Norma has over 30 years of experience creating international award-winning programs for Indiana University, University of Virginia, George Washington University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
YES, I met my deadline in six months, with a little help from my friends!
Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping is available at ClothRoads, Amazon, and at your favorite bookshop.
Meet Sheri in person, get an autographed copy of her book, and learn more about traditional textiles of Mexico in a special presentation October 16th at Bella Frida, in Louisville, CO.