Sunday, August 18, Teotitlan del Valle: I’m behind the wheel of the aging blue Toyota truck, four on the floor. Cindy climbs in next to me riding shotgun. Eric, Sue and Emma hoist themselves onto the flatbed and we set off up the cobblestone street, bumpety bump, for the house where they cultivate silkworms, cook the cocoons into silk, spin it, and weave it into glorious rebozos, huipils, camisas (shawls, blouses and shirts). “Tope”, Sue shouts as we approach a speed bump. It is impossible to go faster than 10 mph anywhere in the village. There is a Tope every block or two.
Reynoldo Sosa and his wife are the proprietors of Arte y Seda. They feed their caterpillars mulberry leaves from the trees that grow in their courtyard. The silk is spun and woven into beautifully soft material, which is then dyed with cochineal, pericone, indigo or the leaves of pecan trees. They only use natural dyes. She told us that her father was cultivating the silkworms, and they learned the process from him. Years ago, in the early 1900’s, the use of pesticides in the village wiped out the silkworms and the family had to start all over. This is a labor-intensive process. Just like everything else that is handmade in the Oaxaca valley.
Notice that the loom is dressed (warped) by hand, with all those fine strands of silk that are looped through tiny eyes. Then, when it is cut off the loom, it is sewn into a garment, or finished off by a macrame or crochet process that makes a beautifully intricate and secure fringe. Amazing!