PHOTO: A Jalisco program visits the ancient site of Guachimontones.
Stephanie Schneiderman spent eight years of her childhood in Mexico when her family was stationed there. Today, she uses her intimate knowledge and deep passion of her childhood home to provide travelers with some of the most in-depth cultural explorations of the country.
Born in Havana, Schneiderman, owner of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Tia Stephanie Tours, lived in Mexico from kindergarten through junior high school. Her father was an employee of Chase Manhattan Bank.
Schneiderman’s mother actively engaged her children in a cultural education of Mexico.
“It was my dad who got us there because of his career, but it was my mother who showed us Mexico. On weekends we were always going somewhere to see Mexico,” she says. “We’d go to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. We would walk through the cornfields surrounding the pyramids and we’d find arrowheads and shards of pottery. My brothers and I felt like we were young archaeologists. She’d take us to small villages and small textile communities. My mom really took her time to make sure when we were growing up in Mexico that we didn’t just live there, that we learned about the country and the people.”
The family moved back to the U.S. when Schneiderman was 13, but her passion for Mexico continued unabated. “I’ve continued traveling to Mexico my whole adult life – through the jungles of Chiapas, the canyons of Chihuahua and the valleys of Oajaca,” she says. “I’ve traveled high and low.”
During Schneiderman’s career in automotive equipment sales, she took her vacations in Mexico. In 2004, after many years in the corporate world, she decided to strike out on her own. “I was traveling in Mexico when I had an epiphany,” she says. While traveling on a collective bus through the jungles of Palenque, she got the inspiration for her company. “I literally saw a ray of sunlight and I said, ‘I’m going to start this travel business.’ This is what I am going to do,” she says. “I love traveling to Mexico. I’ve been coming here for so many years it’s time I start sharing it with people so they can see what an incredible country this is.”
Schneiderman targeted travelers whose profile fell between those who vacationed at Cancun all-inclusives and those who traveled to more remote Mexican destinations to take in authentic local experiences. “Somewhere in between there is the traveler who would love to experience these places, people, traditions, culture and diversity,” she says. “Maybe these people don’t speak the language or know how to go about it, how to negotiate cultural and physical landscapes. I can provide that. Through the design of our tours we can help facilitate traveler experiences.”
Today, Tia Stephanie is a recognized specialist in cultural travel to Mexico, providing tours for organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the DuSable Museum of African American Heritage in Chicago. The company provides a wide range of tours across Mexico, focused on various special interests, such as culture, cuisine, textile traditions, ancient civilizations, art history and festivals. It also creates custom tours to order.
“Mexico has a depth of cultural richness that is almost unparalleled. The typical traveler has no idea,” Schneiderman says. “In my case I am so lucky to have grown up in Mexico and chosen to travel there for many years to learn about it firsthand.”
An example of the kind of in-depth cultural experience that Tia Stephanie provides is the “Diego and Frida in Mexico City” tour, an eight-night program that delves into the lives and work of the legendary painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, who made their home in Mexico City.
Tour participants have the opportunity to learn about the subject from many points of view: from art historians, archaeologists, curators, chefs and tour guides who discuss Mexican art, history, architecture, politics and cuisine.
Highlights include the National Palace to see the giant Rivera mural, “The Epic of the Mexican People”; Teotihuacan, a pre-Hispanic site showing the early use of mural art in Mexico; the Coyoacan neighborhood and the markets that are in keeping with those that Kahlo and Rivera visited; the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Dolores Olmedo Museum, which have the largest collections of Kahlo and Rivera works; Chapultepec Castle; the National History Museum; the Museum of Modern Art of Mexico; the Rufino Tamayo Museum; and the National Museum of Anthropology.
In addition to Mexico City, the company offers programs to Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz and Yucatan.
For 2017, Tia Stephanie is introducing two new culinary tours: “The Flavors and Landscapes of Baja California” and “The Flavors of Yucatan.”
For more information, visit http://tiastephanietours.com, call 734-769-7839 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A version of this article appears in print in the October 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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