Workshops

Oaxaca, Mexico
Storytelling/Writing Workshop Retreat
and/or Cultural Tour
March 18-24, 2024

Class Fee: $650, add hotel ($420-$630 includes tax, tips, breakfast) and airfare.
Casa Colonial at www.casa-colonial.com is 4 star B+B. Discounts/payment plans considered for students, single parents, or unemployed)

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” popularized in the US by chef Rick Bayless, and more), churches, museums, markets, artisans, ancient ruins and monumental 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.

Here’s a great article about Oaxaca: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/26/travel/oaxaca-mexico.html

The Class

The class/retreat is appropriate for writers, storytellers, teachers, people in transition and retirees, therapists, photographers, 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 at the Old Courthouse Gallery in Woodstock, Illinois.

Workshop participants have an opportunity to 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 ancient ritual?

“Gracious that (workshop) 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 six 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. After class the rest of each afternoon and evening is free for optional activities: visiting ruins, museums, restaurants, or resting at the Casa. A nearby hotel (walking distance—two blocks) offers use of a resort style swimming pool for the cost of a drink.

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). So some chose to explore on their own in the afternoons and/or evenings. The Casa offers free wifi. No special electronic adapters needed.

Organized afternoon tours for our group are offered. 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. 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.

On a budget? Free lance in the afternoons – we are within walking distance of virtually the whole city, or, if you prefer you can get anywhere in the city via taxi for a $3 car fee, more for countryside; bus would come into play out of the city. These self-guided trips will save you money if you are on a strict budget. Also, if you eat in the market or street kiosks, one can eat “world class” food (according to Rick Bayless, award-winning Chicago Chef).

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For those not interested in the morning class, the afternoon and evening touring and “hang out” option is open to anyone who wants the “touring only” – on your own mornings. The “associate fee” is $250 for the week plus transport/guide/museum fees (see above) if you come along on afternoon tours.

Some rooms at Casa Colonial are available immediately prior to and after the workshop but CONTACT Casa Colonial (www.casa-colonial.com) ASAP, attention Amado. If you don’t get into the Casa prior or after our week, there are many, many, lovely and reasonably priced hotels throughout the city. Rooms at the Casa have already been reserved.

Air travel cost on your own. Fly in anytime on March 18 and out anytime on March 24. Class and touring on Tuesday–Saturday.

PASSPORTS ARE REQUIRED FOR TRAVEL TO MEXICO.

TRAVEL

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 Interjet from Chicago’s O’Hare as the best value carrier.

Be sure to choose (OAX) airport for Oaxaca City, sometimes called Oaxaca de Juarez or sometimes Oaxaca—Xoxocotlan. It is the capital city of the state of Oaxaca. 

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 new, convenient Terminal 1; 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.

Shuttle from OAX airport to Casa Colonial hotel: $7 (peso or dollars accepted); about 20 minutes ride in a “collectivo” (shared van). More money for private van.

Hotel – Casa Colonial

www.casa-colonial.com  *Room rate is approximately $60-$90 per person (double $110), includes private bath, tip, taxes and a huge, delicious, multi-course breakfast with Mexican or American style eggs to order and fresh, local fruit, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, etc  (see http://www.casa-colonial.com 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 dishes that have evolved over 4000 years of continuous peasant agriculture and cuisine. If you are knowledgeable, or with guidance, you could eat delicious food for rest of the day for about $5-$10 per person, but folks usually want to visit more expensive cafés and outdoor restaurants (still very reasonable) as well. Peso is VERY weak against the dollar right now.

About Casa Colonial

Casa-walkwayCasa Colonial (www.casa-colonial.com), 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)…”

For more info contact Jim May

jimmaystories@gmail.com

815-382-5264 (cell/text)