Honoring Mother’s Day: For all women who gave and received life!
Twenty years ago, Vida Nueva cooperative was founded by six single women from the same extended family group, three of whom where sisters. Some of the women had husbands who never returned to Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, after migrating out for work. Some had not married. Some were widows. They needed to support their families and weaving had the biggest potential economic reward for their labor.
But, weaving was not women’s work.
The traditional role for women was (and still is, for the most part) to stay at home, keep house, tend the children, cook and raise small animals like chicken, sheep, pigs and goats.
Twenty years ago, weaving and then selling/marketing the product was not a usual role for women, plus it was unheard of to go to the city to develop customers. Most women of the time went barefoot, wore indigenous dress and did not go beyond the family compound expect to daily market. Entering the city was foreign, uncomfortable, intimidating.
Since the height of the Bracero program, when men migrated to the U.S. as temporary farm workers, and women learned to weave out of economic necessity, the number of women who now weave is substantial. Today, most women work alongside husband, father or brother, to weave in a family centric enterprise. A few also participate in selling and receive recognition for their contributions.
It took a while for Vida Nueva to get started, but they had the help of a non-governmental agency, Grupo del Apoyo a la Educacion de la Mejor (now defunct). Through donations and business development guidance, Vida Nueva began producing rugs for sale in 2001. Their first clients, arranged by the NGO, were adult Spanish language students who were visiting Oaxaca from the United States.
The cooperative meets regularly, makes decisions together, created a mission statement, a vision, goals and objectives for the organization that includes a marketing plan, and have built distribution markets over time. They also put money aside each year to invest in an annual community project that can benefit everyone in Teotitlan del Valle.
Not all the rugs woven by Vida Nueva are made with natural dyes. Most are woven with synthetic colors because most buyers don’t want to pay the price for a naturally dyed rug and prefer bright, electric colors. But, the cooperative will do custom orders for naturally dyed rugs and from time-to-time, may have some on-hand.
Today there are 12 cooperative members, two of whom are married. Their clientele has developed by word of mouth over the years, and they also have been invited to participate in shows/sales in the U.S.A. including the International Folk Art Market and the Feria at Lake Chapala, Mexico Arts Show.
Vida Nueva Women’s Cooperative Contact Information
Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca
Telephone: 951 524-4250
Some Useful Resources
- Zapotec Weavers of Oaxaca, by Lynn Stephen
- Made in Mexico: Zapotec Weavers and the Global Ethnic Art Market by William Warner Wood
- Artisan Cooperatives in Oaxaca by Meghan Edwards