Sixteen years ago I traveled down to southern Mexico to do research for A Perfect Red. It was a miraculous trip in many ways, not least because I met up with Eric Mindling, a local guide with a powerful love of the people, cultures, and art of Oaxaca. Exploring cochineal byways with him was one of the best adventures of my life.

Last month, Eric talked me into a reunion of sorts, an internet conversation that had me traveling over those old roads again with him. He taped it, so if you’d like to travel along with us, you can listen in here. We talk about cochineal, history, and what it’s like to research and write a story that traverses more than 500 years of history.

As Eric says, bear in mind that the conversation took place across 6,000 terrestrial miles (and who knows how many more in cyberspace). The sound quality isn’t all we would wish it to be, but we’re happy to have you along for the ride.

I’ll just finish by saying that Eric is an artist himself, and I’ve been delighted to see his own work take off.  You can see his stunning photos here, where you’ll also find links to his books. His TED talk — Sagebrush, Tumbleweed, and Very Slow Fashion — is a masterpiece. If you’ve ever thought of traveling to southern Mexico, I highly recommend checking out the tours he runs through Traditions Mexico.