Oaxaca Amigos: English Classes for Community Guides and Rural Artisans

related: Teotitlán del Valle, folkart, artesanos
flickr: Amigos
editing: Teotitlán

Key points - capacity building, crafts, communication, conservation, consultation, collaboration

For visitors - If you wish to support this work, visit the weavers in Teotitlán del Valle and purchase a weaving for yourself or friends.


Oaxaca Amigos was developed as a response to lowered business in Teotitlan after the 2006 protests. In 2007 Amigos del Sol agreed to initiate an intensive English-class course in the village. The first five months of 2008 were spent listening to weavers who expressed an interest in learning English as a way of connecting with visitors.

Future work:

Collaborative projects beyond the 2008 classes will be discussed with the students, community leaders and donors.

Questions? Please contact gerhardbuttner@yahoo.com

Thank you for your support.

Oaxaca Amigos Clases


News (September) - The classes have come to an end for the moment. The participants are happy and hope to practise their English in coming months. Some follow-up visits were done in September to some weavers who had specific questions) and other occasional activities are planned for the future. Congratulations also to Corrie McCluskey for winning the Oaxaca Amigos raffle of a Teotitlan woven bag (photo online soon). Some conclusions are being created on the page amigoslessons.

(August 16) - As we prepare for the last week of classes in Teotitlan, the flickr gallery of the classes is growing and even more photos will be added soon: flickr

(July 7-13) - Classes were postponed this week as Teotitlán del Valle held its annual festival.

News (July 1) - The classes continue every Monday and Wednesday and we are reaching the half-way stage of the three-month course. The first half of the course had the focus of increasing the general vocabulary of students and ensuring an understanding of basic sentence structure. For this purpose we adapted the basic verb list used by the Amigos del Sol Language Institute to the Teotitlán context. Now the students are ready to enter the second stage by using this vocabulary in a variety of very practical situations using role-play with topics like: first contact with visitors, explaining designs and processes, talking about Teotitlán - an excellent moment to introduce the past tense - and discussing common visitors questions.

Later during this second part of the course we will also have time for a raffle of a typical Teotitlán project in which one of our sponsors will have the chance to win a product created by one of the students. We are also looking forward to the Teotitlán fiesta 7th to 12th of July which includes the Indigenous Food Festival and Tamale Fair (July 9-13).

Teotitlan English class 3

(June) - Classes began on schedule Monday, May 19. Class size has varied each week as the course takes form. About ten students are taking part and not even the heavy rains of June 4 could diminish the enthusiasm of the class. Gerhard is teaching two classes a week on Mondays and Wednesday afternoons. Ron accompanies him on Wednesdays and visits weaver families during the class. As a result this wiki has details about the upcoming Indigenous Food Festival and Tamale Fair (July 9-13).

It was interesting to see that several people wanted to send their young children to learn, rather than giving this a try themselves. We could much easier have filled this class with children but that would be slightly defeating the object of offering a course of English for tourism. We set the age criteria as 16 years and above, but with some flexibility in the case of younger people who on occasions help their parents directly with the visitors and the selling of weavings. After all the Teotitlán workshops are all family ventures with young and old participating in various activities.

(May 17) -- A class for beginners is ready to start on Monday, 19th of May in Teotitlán del Valle. We now have several students registered and expect more to join us in the next week or two as the word spreads. We once again wish to thank our sponsors listed below who have made this possible. We also wish to thank the municipal authorities for allowing us to use a classroom next to the village library and for helping to promote the course among residents. Watch this page for further updates, photos and videos.

(April 29) -- Thanks to some additional donations during April we are now preparing to start classes in a few weeks time – we include the list of donors. Several artisans have expressed very keen interest (in fact the original idea arose from comments by some of these artisans who noticed that their lack of English is complicating their communication with visitors). The local village authorities are keen to help with promotion and supplying an appropriate venue for the classes.

(April 1) -- We have received more than $600 to begin the English classes in May, including contributions on Chipin (see below) and direct donations. Donations are still open and donors will receive the benefits mentioned below. We still require a few hundred $ to ensure an efficient full three month initial course.


Assist the Zapotec artisans and local guides of the town of Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca, Mexico) to benefit from tourism-specific basic English classes in their own town. Training will be offered in 2008 to help the artisans connect better with travelers. Many have asked for English classes as a way to communicate with visitors and clients.

Oaxaca tourism received serious setbacks during 2006. Tourism is recovering and this initiative is designed with the community guides and rural artisans to make the most of in-bound tourism.

Since many of the visitors from other countries have a limited level of Spanish the need for English language skills for rural tourism have been identified as priority by the weavers themselves. At this time, most artisans and guides don´t have the needed financial resources to take the classes. Apart from achieving a basic level of functional English competence the program includes aspects of instilling natural and cultural awareness in their ecotourism and rural tourism initiatives.

The format of the planned project is adapting the existing English course of the well-respected local language school Instituto Amigos del Sol (with more than ten years of experience in English teaching in Oaxaca) for specific needs of those working in rural tourism in Teotitlán and taking it to the village itself with experienced English teacher and ecotourism advisor Gerhard Buttner as trainer and teacher.

The funds collected will be used to pay the study fees of the students and the teacher traveling expenses from Oaxaca City to be able to hold the classes in the community itself for an initial 12-week course of 4 hours per week.

Benefits for contributors:

Financial contributors (from US$50) will receive credit on this page.
Everyone will receive regular email updates on the progress of this initiative and will be entered into a raffle draw with a Teotitlán product as prize (draw to take place during a class exercise).
Those who donate US$100 or more will receive a surprise.


Participants will receive personalized English instruction including tips on interaction with visitors.
English classes will focus on practical usage as requested by artisans and visitors.
Classes will be photographed and presented on Flickr.
Updates for the Planeta.com's Directory of Teotitlán Weavers and Teotitlán del Valle

Relevant links:

Teotitlán del Vale - Planeta.com
Instituto Amigos del Sol

With thanks to our donors:
Gold Class Donors ($1,000 Mexican Pesos and above):
Jennifer Rosenberg (in honor of Melissa Biggs)
Heinrich von Fintel
Henry Wangeman
John and Barbara Mader

Other donors:
Jeffrey Rickin
Ron Mader
John Mader
Marlene Ehrenberg
Robert Healy
Corrie McCluskey
Wendy McIntyre
Vivian Velasco
Ann Crew

Special thanks to Canyon Travel for supporting the Oaxaca Amigos project.

Oaxaca Amigos (Cartel Para Teotitlan)

Teotitlan English class 4



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