A Few of my Favorite Things in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

This is by no means a “top 10” list (maybe we’ll just start with 5) but these are some of the things I love to do/eat on my regular

Shopping! My favorite thing...

trips to San Cristobal for our work with  indigenous artisans from the highlands. ( I will be back there in a week and no doubt will have more to add…)

1. Wander. It is such an amazing city, well preserved from colonial times with high points to climb to, back streets to explore, and unprecedented people watching…The indigenous people (the majority of the population), especially the women, still dress in traditional clothing of their villages. Men from the warmer lowlands walk the chilly high altitude streets  bare-legged in hand woven tunics, and those from high altitudes walk the same streets in furry, sheep felt rugs that look like bear skins. —very fun and challenging to sort by their costumes, (see http://bit.ly/yBfkUg    for a fabulous lo res pdf book about these people and their textiles by Chip Morris, currently only available at Na Bolom museum/B&B in San Cristobal).

2. Eat French pastries. Not to be missed on the Real Guadalupe, made by real French people!

3. Cruise the markets… WOW! Santo Domingo (every day though the government is threatening to relocate it), the Mercado de Dulces (an indoor sweets and craft market, great on any day but especially rainy days) are the two big ones.

4. Slurp frozen yogurt sticks at the creamery (right) off of Real Guadalupe where there is also a daily vegetable market, hmm, near where the walking street ends).

5. Visit the locals market. (You can find it in any guide book) Huge and full of interesting things to see, but, like any market, be vigilante for pick pockets, etc. and be careful about taking photos. Many people take great offense at taking pictures of them or even their wares. Ask (you will probably have to pay) but even if you just wander through, it is fascinating.

More stories and pictures in a few weeks!

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Filed under Chiapas, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Living in Mexico, Mexican Holidays, Mexican textiles, Mexico, San Cristobal de Las Casas, travel/shopping in Mexico, WBTW, Women Artisans

The Civilized Art of Riding Buses in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico

ImageI’ve had a lot of people ask me recently about taking buses in Oaxaca and Chiapas so I think it’s time to weigh in. First, this information isn’t necessarily true for all of Mexico, I’m just speaking from personal experience living there. I’m also not an expert on the second class buses. Hey, I’m over 50, I’m done with chicken buses!

Compared to the US, Mexico has traveling by bus totally dialed. The buses (first class) generally run regularly, service lots of cities,  are clean, new (ish), and offer many levels of service to choose from.

When was the last time you were on a bus and the driver, dressed in a suit, came into the passenger compartment to give a welcome speech describing their services, itinerary, and offering to be of service if there were any concerns? (Okay, back again to the fact that I no longer ride the chicken buses.)

One bus company that I love and use regularly which I also find reasonable is ADO, http://www.ado.mx They basically control the market in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and I am guessing the rest of Mexico. You can check schedules online and if you’re lucky, buy a ticket online if their system is working (this rarely works for me). I LOVE the Platino service which is like riding business class on a plane, wellll, maybe not EXACTLY like that  but for a bus, pretty darn good:  personal video, cushy reclining seats, etc. The GL service is also very comfortable. Cost isn’t bad either. I can take a bus RT to Mexico City from Oaxaca for about $90.

As for safety (everyone’s concern) all I can say is that I have never had a problem, ever. This may seem like a commercial for this bus company but seriously,  I have ridden the bus (different first class companies) during times of strife, even all night buses by myself during times of strife and believe me, the bus doesn’t leave the station if it’s not safe on the road…That has been my experience…

I regularly take the night bus to and from Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas, and for those of you wanting to visit both cities, it is perfect. The bus leaves around 8:30 in the evening and arrives around 8 am, either way.

Something that I find wonderfully unique about the bus experience in Mexico compared to the States is that is on long trips when two drivers are required, one crawls into a little cubby under the bus next to the luggage and sleeps while the other drives. The drivers switch every 4 hours or so. When you wake up at your destination, they are there, in their suits, wishing you good travels…

Recommendations? Buy your ticket ahead of time for better seat choices (trust me, it will matter when you are at the back of the bus for hours of curvy roads and smelly toilets), dramamine, sleeping aids if it’s a long trip, long pants and a fleece jacket as they are always over air conditioned, and ear plugs/buds.(If you are on the economy first class buses, movies (often gory ones) are played constantly over the sound system so there is no escape.)

Down side? At the end of the day, it’s still THE BUS.

Do you have stories about buses in Mexico? I’d love to share them with our readers! Please comment or post on my FB page http://on.fb.me/kgQvzE

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Filed under Bus travel in Mexico, Mexican Holidays, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de Las Casas, travel/shopping in Mexico, WBTW

Thanks for a Great Year From All of Us!

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Happy New Year to our friends and supporters of ABRAZOstyle/ Latin Threads! As the year closes we’d like to thank you for your ongoing interest in our work in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico and give you a short update of what we’ve been up to.

My blogs have been painfully few his last year due to all the attention we have been giving to creating a market for our artisans’ work here in the States, but I will endeavor to post more in the coming year…A good New Year resolution, I’d say!

We are very excited to report that we’ve had a fantastic year with very positive growth in the company and in our circle of  artisans.  Our hand crafted , socially responsible clothing and accessories for the worldly woman are now found in boutiques, specialty gift stores, museum stores, high end garden stores, and even zoos on the west coast, parts of the southwest, the midwest and east coast,  but there is still much to be done!

Plans for 2012 include continued growth in the communities we work with in Mexico as well as expanding into larger markets in the US.

The embroidery classes we started in October in our village of San Pablo Etla, Oaxaca have been going extraordinarily well. (See pictures) The group is now up to a maximum size of 15 members with our most advanced students producing hugely improved, beautiful work. Thank you Ayuda (the NGO sponsoring the classes). In the coming year we will be working with the women to help them to create their own designs and products to market through ABRAZO in the States.

We are also continuing to expand our work with families of women in small villages in the highlands of Chiapas.  Look for some their new and traditional blouses this spring on our web site along with new designs and colors in our totes and scarves. Lots of surprises coming!

We appreciate your sharing what we do with others and, as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions!

If you are interested in following us on Facebook, just click on this link and you’ll get the latest updates as they happen!

http://on.fb.me/kgQvzE

Thank you once again for your interest and encouragement. Abrazos (hugs) from all of us and best wishes for a bright and successful year!

Adele and the ABRAZOstyle Team

Oh, I almost forgot. If you are interested in joining us in Oaxaca this year on a socially responsible shopping tour, please let us know.

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, embroidery, Fair Trade, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Market Bags, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de Las Casas, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, travel/shopping in Mexico, Uncategorized, Women Artisans

The Practice of Stitches, Patience, and Cooperation

The first meeting of the group.

Several months ago, with the support of a small non profit group called AYUDA, the ladies of San Pablo Etla began embroidery classes. It was their decision. The non profit asked me what the group needed and I had my own idea. I thought it would be fantastic for the women to learn to sew on sewing machines and to create clothing (as well as embroidery) to sell. More skills, more income, right? Well, I was pretty off base. When my assistant, Celina, and I had a meeting with the group to discuss the modest funding AYUDA was offering, I gave them my suggestion of what we could do with the money. They nervously looked at one another until one of them spoke up. “What we really want to is to be the best ‘bordadoras’

Abigail, Marta's daughter, joins in the class for fun.

“(embroiderers). They said they “had so much to learn” and wanted to improve upon the skills they were building. Only later would it come out that they were also intimidated to take this on for fear of failure.

What has transpired over the past months has been very interesting. The teacher for the group (a young and very congenial local woman) who has an impressive repertoire of stitches, started the group on some of the more difficult stitches (at their request) and they are moving through them with great enthusiasm. Of the 8 or so women we started with, several have dropped out due to jealousy and envy (a common theme in my blog), but others have made remarkable improvement and are now taking on more difficult embroidery projects. Though their work is not yet at the level of the women of Chiapas who have embroidered for generations*, they are developing a beautiful, consistent style which we will be introducing online this spring in our new beach cover up.

Word has it that a few of the women are interested in trying the sewing machine now but they remain intimidated by the machine and are afraid of breaking it. We will see what develops on this front.The challenge remains to continue to supply these women with work so that they can continue to develop their skills and provide for their families.

On a parting note, Marta, our star of San Pablo, actually paid for the addition of a bedroom to their home from the money she earned embroidering. Humble though it may be (made from corrugated metal with a dirt floor), the pride in her face was obvious when she showed us around. Of course, for fear of shaming her husband, she didn’t mention who paid for it. Celina just whispered the great news to me as we were leaving.

*In fact, a number of the families we work with in Chiapas actually have 4 generations of women sewing in the family.

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, embroidery, Fair Trade, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, Women Artisans

Huipiles and Whirlwinds

It has been awhile and there is much to catch up on with stories of our travels, the evolution of Latin Threads into our new brand, ABRAZOstyle, and of course, updates on our artisans! As we are busier now than ever, I’m afraid I have fallen behind with sharing our journey, my apologies. Please indulge me for a few more weeks, until the holidays, and I will catch up with more news.

Meanwhile, for those of you interested in learning more about the history of the huipil, here is a short description for you. If you are curious to learn more, below I’ve included a link to a fabulous new book about the textiles of the Chiapan highlands. A smaller version of the book with be coming out on Amazon around January.

Hasta pronto!
Adele

The huipil, a pre-columbian garment pervasive in Mezo America, can best be described as the canvas on which the wearer weaves her or his identity. It is a simple garment made from rectangular pieces of fabric woven on a back-strap loom, which are then folded in half and stitched together with a hole in the middle. Simple in construction but complex in its symbolism, each huipil portrays the celebration of daily life, honors the earth, the gods, the saints, and is a unique and personal statement about its maker. One can determine where the wearer is from, their marital status and even their religious beliefs at a glance.
The tradition of the huipil has been passed from generation to generation, with periods of great artistic flowering, as well as periods when the tradition was at risk of being lost forever. Today, the Mayan textile culture continues to thrive. Styles, colors, and techniques continue to evolve despite the move toward modernity that is ever more prevalent in villages throughout Chiapas and elsewhere in the Mayan world.

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Rosita threading her back-strap loom in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

– https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0f-9JoAPGuCNDNlMTYyMDItYTYwNC00MzViLWIyMDAtODU0YzYyZWQ4Y2M0&hl=en_US <https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0f-9JoAPGuCNDNlMTYyMDItYTYwNC00MzViLWIyMDAtODU0YzYyZWQ4Y2M0&hl=en_US>

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Living in Mexico, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Textiles Oaxaca, Women Artisans

Huipiles and Whirlwinds

It has been awhile and there is much to catch up on with stories of our travels, the evolution of Latin Threads into our new brand, ABRAZOstyle, and of course, updates on our artisans! As we are busier now than ever, I’m afraid I have fallen behind with sharing our journey, my apologies. Please indulge me for a few more weeks, until the holidays, and I will catch up with more news.

Meanwhile, for those of you interested in learning more about the history of the huipil, here is a short description for you. If you are curious to learn more, below I’ve included a link to a fabulous new book about the textiles of the Chiapan highlands. A smaller version of the book with be coming out on Amazon around January.

Hasta pronto!
Adele

The huipil, a traditional Mayan garment dating back to 200AD, can best be described as the canvas on which the wearer weaves her or his identity. It is a simple garment made from rectangular pieces of fabric woven on a back-strap loom, which are then folded in half and stitched together with a hole in the middle. Simple in construction but complex in its symbolism, each huipil portrays the celebration of daily life, honors the earth, the gods, the saints, and is a unique and personal statement about its maker. One can determine where the wearer is from, their marital status and even their religious beliefs at a glance.
The tradition of the huipil has been passed from generation to generation, with periods of great artistic flowering, as well as periods when the tradition was at risk of being lost forever. Today, the Mayan textile culture continues to thrive. Styles, colors, and techniques continue to evolve despite the move toward modernity that is ever more prevalent in villages throughout Chiapas and elsewhere in the Mayan world.

Image

Rosita threading her back-strap loom in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

– https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0f-9JoAPGuCNDNlMTYyMDItYTYwNC00MzViLWIyMDAtODU0YzYyZWQ4Y2M0&hl=en_US <https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B0f-9JoAPGuCNDNlMTYyMDItYTYwNC00MzViLWIyMDAtODU0YzYyZWQ4Y2M0&hl=en_US>

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Blip, off the radar in Oaxaca

Pascuala and Cristina trying on their new glasses.The ladies of Aguacatenango.

7 weeks in Oaxaca…where did it go? I thought (ridiculously) that somehow I would have time to catch up on things I never seem to take care of in the States, and that I would have relaxed evenings to rest and recharge… what was I thinking????

We have accomplished a lot, learned a lot, and have been humbled once again by the challenges that always seem to surface at the least welcome moment. This time our stumbling block was fabric.  In the midst of working out design and embroidery of our new blouses, the fabric we have been working with suddenly became unavailable. Gone. Blip, off the radar. After multiple phone calls and trips to all manner of stores and even other towns, we discovered that due to the increase in cotton costs, the purveyors in our area stopped ordering it. (Of course, the other story is that people are hoarding it until the price goes up again.) Regardless, our production came grinding to a halt. So, we have decided to produce some “limited edition” blouses in other fabrics until we get back on track.

Of course, I have been looking for some new and fabulous, light and elegant cottons but have been extremely challenged on that front as well…(Anyone reading this who knows of a great fabric factory in Mexico, PLEASE let me know!) And, unfortunately, the culture here is such that often people do not share sources, so it is kind of like reinventing the wheel every time there is something new to figure out. Fun? Not really, just part of the game…

As I sit here in Chiapas waiting for my night bus back to Oaxaca after a whirl wind two day trip, I have to admit once again that I love my job: the headaches, the challenges, the artisans and the discoveries. Most of all I love sharing this beauty and richness with our customers who realize that there is more behind a piece of clothing than the fabric.

I will try to write more soon about some of our best (and worst) moments in these last weeks…

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Aguacatenango, Chiapas, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Textiles Oaxaca