Great things are happening in Oaxaca. Specifically, in a colonial-style compound straddling the picturesque cobblestone streets of Oaxaca’s old city and the choking, exhaust-filled roads of the newer one. It’s there that you’ll find Fundacion En Via.

Riley and Merrit making friends with Teotitlán kids during the tour.

Riley and Merrit making friends with Teotitlán kids during the tour.

The state of Oaxaca and the municipality of Teotitlán especially, is renowned for its arts—textiles, pottery, leatherwork, cuisine, mezcal. When it comes to taking raw materials and transforming them into something even more extraordinary, there’s not much that the area doesn’t excel at. Fundacion En Via supports the local artists on the business side, one place where they can come up short. By connecting the artist’s need for capital to the local tourist trade, En Via has created one of the smartest models of change economies.

The older generation of Teotitlán weavers.

An older generation of Teotitlán weavers.

Here’s the basic run down: visitors tour local crafts people’s studios (almost always a part of their homes) with all tour fees funneling directly to micro-loans to local women artists/businesswomen. Borrowing from En Via means these women can access capital at reasonable rates, not the 50%+ offered by many other local loan sources. Visitors can also purchase directly from the artists and while there’s not great bargains to be had by buying direct, prices are fair and profits go directly to the women and their families.

On our tour, eight or so of us clambered into a small bus and headed out to Teotitlán. Founded by the Zapotecs in the 15th century and despite of, or maybe thanks to its distance from the city of Oaxaca, traditional art forms still flourish in the rural villages. We visited a small restaurant, several textile makers, a tortilla maker and leatherworkers.  They took us into their workshops (often a room in their homes) where they showed us their work and processes. We made tortillas on a rustic coal-fired oven. We crossed rickety single-plank brides. Our kids played with their kids. Spending a day in a tour bus had never felt so forward.

Book your tour with En Via here.

Riley learning how to weave from one of the younger generation of weavers, aided by an En Via guide.

Riley learning how to weave from one of the local artisans, aided by an En Via guide.