The Tlacolula Valley is located east of the city of Oaxaca de Juarez. The valley is home to the pre-Hispanic sites of Mitla and Yagul, as well as what’s claimed to be the world’s biggest tree. Many of the best weavings you’ll see can also be found in this valley. In fact, some of the communities we work with are considered to have the most famous weaving cultures in Mexico.
On our tours you will gain unique insights into our partner communities’ cultures and lifestyles. Read further to find out where we work and to learn more about each community.
Our Partner Communities
Teotitlán del Valle
In Náhuatl, Teotitlán means: “Land of Gods." It is considered to be the first town in this area founded by the Zapotecs. A legend says that the Zapotecs crossed the mountain named Picacho (which can be seen from the church courtyard), looked down from its peak and chose to settle in the valley below.
Teotitlán is famous for its weavings, which have been a popular artisanal activity since pre-hispanic times. The Spanish introduced the loom and wool yarn, which the Zapotecs incorporated into their existing weaving tradition – resulting in the beautiful tapetes (rugs) which are produced to this day. Most people in Teotitlán speak both Zapotec and Spanish.
In Teotitlán we work with many incredible artisan weavers as well as women who raise chickens, sell goods at the market, have small storefronts, and more.
San Sebastián Abasolo
There are no historical documents that say exactly how Abasolo was founded, but there are three places in town where pre-colonial artifacts have been found. Current residents of the town consider the hill Danni Yeri a historic site because near the stream there is a tunnel, which they believe ancient peoples used to travel to the lands of Zaachila, a Oaxacan town some 20 kilometers away.
For some time, the land where Abasolo sits was considered part of San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya's territory. In 1670 natives from Tlacochahuaya began to build huts out in the fields to tend their animals and crops. Over the years an entirely new community was formed. In 1878 San Sebastián Abasolo was officially founded and ceased to belong to Tlacochahuaya.
The town is largely agricultural, specializing in the production of beans, garlic, and chiles de agua (used to make the dish chiles rellenos). It is also common for families to raise sheep, chickens, cows, bulls and other livestock in their backyards. Many women in Abasolo produce Oaxaca’s famous queso fresco, a fresh salty cheese.
San Marcos Tlapazola
Tlapazola was founded in 1685, although there are some indications that people had settled there before then. Almost all of its population (approx. 1000 inhabitants) are indigenous and speak Zapotec.
Its name comes from the name of one of their saints, San Marcos Evangelista and Tlapazola, which means "lugar de la codorniz" (the place of the quail). There is not much information about the origin of this name.
The main economic activities in Tlapazola are agriculture and the production of red pottery, which is becoming increasingly recognized. A very big part of the population are in the United States, many working to send money back to Tlapazola.
Every year, San Marcos Tlapazola celebrates la Feria del Barro Rojo (festival of red clay) towards the end of Guelaguetza (July).
San Miguel del Valle
San Miguel del Valle is a Zapotec community and Zapotec is still most of its people’s primary language. Even though they are only 15 km apart, the Zapotec in San Miguel del Valle and Teotitlán del Valle have distinctly different dialects.
Many of our entrepreneurs in San Miguel are embroidery artists. As you enter town you can’t help but notice the striking outfits worn by all the women in the community. The typical dress in San Miguel includes brightly colored dresses with elaborately pleated skirts and richly embroidered aprons. Though this is not the traditional dress of San Miguel it is the typical dress and it is distinctive to this town. If you know the area, you can look around a large market and see where different women are from by the cut of their dress and the style of their apron.
According our entrepreneurs, it was not until the late 20th century that San Miguel developed its town center. Until that time most people in the community lived and worked on ranches and farms in the foothills of the Sierra Norte mountain range. Around the 1970s several forces converged that encouraged people to start building homes in town. The weaving trade in San Miguel was developing at this time, giving residents a way to earn money from within their homes rather than in the field. Men also started to go to the U.S. to work in larger numbers and the money they sent back helped pay for construction. At the same time services like electricity and water also became more readily available in town.
In San Miguel we work with a mix of artisans (weavers, seamstresses, and embroidery artists) and women whose businesses cater to the local community (women who make tortillas and tamales, raise chickens, have small store fronts, and more).
Santa Ana del Valle
Santa Ana del Valle is a small zapotec community in the Tlacolula Valley 35.2 km away from Oaxaca City, with approximately 2,179 inhabitants. Like other villages around, Santa Ana del Valle is known for its wool rugs which are 100% hand-woven using pedal-operated looms. However, aside from weaving, some of the new En Vía participants have different businesses as well: convenience stores, chicken farms, bakeries, sale of dairy products, decorations, stationer’s shop, among others.
They are very proud of being the first town in Oaxaca to open a community museum located in the main village plaza, it has a zapotec name Shan Dany (Under the Hill). The idea of the community museum is that archaeological pieces found to stay in the origin village as part of their cultural heritage instead to be carried on to other bigger museums. In addition to the archeological pieces, the community museum at Santa Ana is dedicated to the Mexican Revolution, their representative dance, the feather dance (Danza de la Pluma), and the village’s wool textile manufacturing processes.
Like other communities in the region, in Santa Ana, wool textiles woven on a pedal loom are a tradition inherited by generations. They used to weave only with natural colored wool, combining the different colors directly from the sheeps, to get the designs they wanted. Currently the community is interested in preserving the original designs, trying new designs and learning natural dying in order to do less chemical dying.The women of Santa Ana del Valle are a sign of strength and encouragement to expand their horizons.