Ruiz Family Bilingual Guides of Oaxaca, Mexico

Juan Ruiz Alfaro has been guiding and teaching visitors from all over the world about the rich culture of Oaxaca (pronounced wah HA kah) for over 30 years. He is friends with everyone - from famous archaeologists to local vendors. Juan and now his daughter, Xitlalli (pronounced si-TLAH-li), and son, Balam, are in the business of guiding people through Oaxaca. I hope that you, too, will be able to meet them and benefit from their knowledge. (Balam was leading another group when these photos were taken, so he is not pictured).

We met Juan and Xitlalli in July of 2013, during Dr. Ed Barnhart's fantastic Chautauqua Course, Ethnobotany and Archaeology in the Oaxaca Valley, Mexico. Ed is the Director of the Maya Exploration Center. Ed, Juan, and Xitlalli made sure our Oaxacan adventure was interesting, engaging and fun!

At a mezcal distillery, Juan introduces the agave plant used to make the famous Mexican drink. Xitlalli takes notes while I photograph Alicia doing clay filigree.

The booklet that Ed (in the red hat) prepared for each of us included the latest information about the places we visited and the plants we studied. One of the archaeological sites we explored is Dainzu, seen here. Thanks to Juan, we were able to visit tombs and other secured places not usually accessible to tourists.

Monte Alban came alive with stories about the excavations of Alfonso Caso (in bronze on the left) and the Zapotecs and Mixtecs who lived there.

Oaxaca has so much to offer! We visited many museums, workshops, and gardens. The restored remains of Yagul are visible in the distance. Mitla is another must-see archaeological treasure in Oaxaca.

Tlapanochestli in San Bartolo Coyotepec researches natural dyes and raises cochineal insects (the source of a popular natural red dye) on prickly pear cacti. Cochineal has been exported since the Colonial period. This tree in Santa Maria del Tule is the largest in the world! The smaller tree on the right is it's progeny.

San Martin Tilcajete is famous for its colorful carved wood sculptures. Recently they began imaginatively sculpting and painting sheetmetal there, too. Juan describes what Doņa Rocio Nieto is doing as she makes a vessel in the Doña Rosa black pottery studio in San Bartolo Coyotepec.

I was attracted to Oaxaca by the archaeological sites, artists, crafts, museums, historic churches, and food, but there's so much more to do and see in Oaxaca! The Oaxaca airport is convenient and modern, Oaxaca's altitude assures comfortable weather, the residents are friendly and talented and there's always a festival going on somewhere!

If you would like to have Juan, Xitlalli, or Balam arrange your local transportation, make hotel arrangements, or guide you or your group in Oaxaca, please contact Juan at:

While Xitlalli and Juan watch in the background, Jose Buenaventura Gonzalez Gutierrez demonstrates tapestry weaving in his studio in Teotitlan del Valle.

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Clay Filigree of the Velasco Villanueva Family of Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico
The Porras Ceramic Studio of Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico
For links to more web pages about craftspeople around the world, please go to Carol Ventura's Home Page 

Web page, photographs, and text by Carol Ventura, 2013.