Oaxaca, Mexico
Storytelling/Writing Workshop Retreat and/or Cultural Tour
March 26-April 2, 2018


Cost: $650, add hotel ($350 for the week) and airfare

Experience Oaxaca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, owing to the richness of its blending of indigenous and Colonial Spanish culture, which presents a dynamic mix of festivals, colorful and sacred street ritual, numerous plazas and outdoor restaurants featuring world-class traditional cuisine* (the“seven moles of Oaxaca and more), churches, museums, markets, artisans, ancient ruins and heroic Spanish Colonial Architecture.

According to the New York Times the 17th century Spanish Colonial City, Oaxaca, is considered to be THE clearinghouse for indigenous art in Mexico.

Oaxaca is located approximately 300 miles southeast of Mexico City where three great valleys merge in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Oaxaca has been an ancient agricultural hub since antiquity, supporting at least 4000 years of continuous civilization—some have called Oaxaca the“Tigris-Euphrates of the Americas.”

This rich history and culture may account for Oaxaca being one of safest cities in Mexico and a favorite for Mexican family vacations.

“Oaxaca is The folk art center of Mexico” –New York Times

Here’s a great article about Oaxaca:

Appropriate for writers, storytellers, teachers, therapists, photographers, people in transition (retirees included), artists of all genres and anyone interested in Mexican and Meso-American culture and history.

Led by Jim May, EMMY award-winning storyteller/author, with Nan Seidler, visual artist and co-founder of “Women’s Works,” an internationally recognized, juried annual art show in Woodstock, Illinois.

This workshop/retreat—cultural tour has been, for some 15 years, a creative destination for storytellers, writers, teachers, artists, photographers, human service professionals, (a lawyer or two), people in transition, and anyone interested in examining their own life’s path in light of the wisdom derived from world myth—the great narratives of humankind, and the record of one’s own life experiences and stories.

Workshop participants can examine their own life journeys in light of cultural influences, traditional stories, and mythic symbols and archetypes. The juxtaposition of time for telling and listening to stories, reflecting, writing, sketching, discussing…and participation in the rich cultural and mythic mosaic that is Oaxaca provides a potential for powerful creative insight and artistic expression and output in virtually any medium.

Some questions that are examined:

How do our lives reflect the great myths, rituals, and artwork of antiquity?

What creative insight and/or output might result from our encounter with a culture so steeped in beauty, myth, symbolism, and ritual?

“Gracious that weekend was incredible!!! I have taken a while to get this little note to you . . . thanking you for sharing and deepening my re-boot as a storyteller and artist in general…”

“I look back at our last year’s experience with great appreciation. I feel and know that your powerful and insightful guidance and all that we learned from one another has become an integral part of the texture of my storytelling.”m –Alidz Agbabian, bilingual storyteller and author (English/Armenian), Los Angeles, CA

“Jim May is a wonderful leader. He creates a safe place for looking at the deep stories inside ourselves.” –David Holt Grammy Award-winning Storyteller and musician, Asheville, NC

The class meets for five mornings: (9am–noon) at Casa Colonial an elegant one hundred year-old, restored, walled estate and B+B located in the heart of the church, museum, and market section of the city.

The Casa contains a lush gardened courtyard, an extensive English Language library, and is a virtual living museum of collected folk art and center for local cultural life with visiting artisans and local personalities passing through on a regular basis, along with a steady influx of international guests.

The Casa is within walking distance of the central plaza (Zocalo), considered to be the most beautiful in all of Mexico, and market and museum/gallery district. Also taxi service from the Casa to anywhere in the city is about $3 American FOR THE CAR (riders split that). The Jan 4-10 class will also lodge at Casa Colonial. Rooms are approx $55 per person which includes a large, delicious breakfast ea day and all taxes and tips.

acala-churchAfter class the rest of each afternoon and evening is free for optional activities: visiting ruins, museums, restaurants (some world class), meeting folk artists in the surrounding villages, taking Spanish and cooking classes, etc. on a “pay as you go” basis.

Most classes decide to take these tours together—all tours originate from the front door of Casa Colonial for your convenience (van or taxi transport). Tours include expert local guides and are very reasonably priced. The afternoon option is open to anyone who wants the tour only/on your own mornings: cost $200-$300 for the week plus very reasonable transport/guide/museum fees.

Some rooms at Casa Colonial are available immediately prior to and after the workshop BUT CONTACT JIM MAY ASAP. If you don’t get into the Casa prior or after our week, there are many, many, lovely and reasonable hotels throughout the city. Rooms at the Casa have already been reserved for March 26-April 1.



Add air travel: there are airlines flights through Houston; and numerous connections through Mexico City to Oaxaca’s modern jet airport OAX on various carriers.  Jim prefers Aeromexico from Chicago’s O’Hare.

Be sure to chose (OAX) airport for Oaxaca City—the capital of the state of Oaxaca: full name—Oaxaca de Juarez, or sometimes Oaxaca—Xoxocotlan.

Avoid the other airport in the state of Oaxaca: Huatulco, Mexico – Huatulco (HUX)—Don’t fly there. It’s on the coast, 300 miles from the capital city.

Jim and Nan often fly through Mexico City. Flying through Mexico City, changing planes in Mexico City’s brand new convenient Terminal 1; and connecting there has sometimes saved folks money and it is an easy transfer. However, try not to book a late evening flight as there is a chance of missing connection if the flight from the states is late. Though there is a convenient, four star hotel IN THE AIRPORT and the airline will usually pay for your room and meals IF the connection delay is their fault.

Cost Summary

Each tour costs an additional fee to driver/guide plus any fees at museums, ruins, etc. This is divided by number of persons in the van—usually no more than $20-$30 per person, per trip. Folks on a budget, or unable to walk–we are within walking distance of virtually the whole city, can get anywhere in the city via taxi for a $3 car fee–AND SPLIT $3 TAXI FEE TO GO ANYWHERE IN THE CITY, more for countryside, and bus would come into play out of the city.

*Room rate is approximately $55 per person (double $110), includes tip, taxes and a huge, delicious, multi-course breakfast with Mexican or American style eggs to order and fresh, local fruit. website for any rate updates.
There is world class food throughout the city and at markets. Chefs from all over the world come to Oaxaca to learn the cuisine that has evolved over 4000 years of continuous peasant, agricultural history. If you are knowledgeable you could eat delicious for rest of the day for about $10, but folks usually want to visit more expensive café’s and outdoor restaurants (still very reasonable). Peso is VERY weak against the dollar right now.  AIRFARE, ON YOUR OWN. Shuttle to hotel: $7.

For more info contact Jim May at 815-648-2039 or 815-382-5264 (cell) or

About Casa Colonial

Casa-walkwayCasa Colonial (, is an elegant, one hundred year-old, restored walled estate and B&B located in the heart of the church and market section. Built in the Spanish Colonial style, the Casa guest rooms surround a lush gardened courtyard; there is an extensive English Language library, and guests live, sleep, and dine in a virtual living museum of collected folk art and local cultural life with visiting artisans and local personalities visiting on a regular basis.

The Casa is within walking distance of the central plaza (Zocalo), considered to be the most beautiful in all of Mexico, and market and museum/gallery district. Also taxi service from the Casa to anywhere in the city is about $3 US for a SHARED CAR (3 persons in a car pay $1 ea).

The Casa has been owned by an American family from the US for more than twenty years and they are very deferential to the needs of their visitors in terms of the wonderful food served, and the quality of the rooms and safe drinking water.

Our host, Jane Robison, and hotel managers are knowledgeable about the cultural and historical activities and sites and also know all the best doctors and dentists in town. On occasion in the past we have had good medical and dental service, some on a “house call” basis.

The staff is extraordinary and most have been at the Casa for 25 years or more. They receive a good wage, scholarship fund for their children/grandchildren, medical benefits and retirement.

“We spent 3 weeks in this sensory oasis with its wide verandahs, folk art, aesthetically beautiful rooms, peaceful garden, vibrant colours, birds and a big spotty dog. The owner Jane was a great knowledgeable hostess and all the staff were friendly, helpful and exceptional. We were there for a an artist residency and the studio room and library were great….”

“…The Casa, its director, and staff were amazing. The food was excellent, our room was spacious with high ceilings (they are all different!), the courtyard with its Pomelo tree and flowers was the perfect place to relax, the library had many interesting and useful books (and free Wi-Fi)…”