The idea was to drive to Aguacatenango which is about thirty minutes beyond the pottery village of Amantenango del Valle. We were a good hour or so beyond San Cristobal de Las Casas. Few tourists come in this direction.
The idea was to pull up at the church, park the van, gather under the big tree and wait. Perhaps some of the village women would show up with their beautiful embroidered blouses to sell.
Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour.
I did this with our group last year. I hoped the serendipity would repeat. It was fun meeting local women whose skillful sewing resulted in blouses covered in intricate needlework. Within five minutes, perhaps thirty or forty women clustered around us. Word spreads fast in a small pueblo.
This year was a special treat. Not only was it a glorious day, the workmanship was especially fine.
Our only problem was that most of the blouses were too small. One woman insisted that her blouse was a large and when I said it was too small for me. We went back and forth about this a couple of times.
Finally, I thanked her, complimented her work, and told her it might be size large for women in the village, but it was a size small for us gringas. I’m tall here and I’m a chaparrita!
Then, Cynthia discovered Francisca Hernandez, one of the better embroiderers. Francisco invited Cynthia to visit her mother’s house. We have larger sizes there, she said. Cynthia came over and said, Can we do this? I said, Yes. How far is it, I asked. Only three blocks, she said. Sure, why not?
We were hooked.
Eight women from the USA and Canada followed Francisca down empty streets in midday. We passed a house with corn drying on the roof. We passed women and children peeking out of doorways. Behind us trailed women and girls from the village interest in what we were up to.
These were long blocks.
We entered a humble home after climbing through a stick and wood fence where Francisca’s mother and father welcomed us. We walked across an uneven stone path.
Out came the larger embroidered blouses. We tried them on, standing next to bags stacked four high, fill with corn cobs. The space was dark and narrow, illuminated by one raw bulb. The French seams were perfect, all hand-stitched, finished perfectly.
We formed a ring around Francisca and her mom. A ring of village women, two deep, looked on.
Francisca gave us a demonstration of how she makes French knots. Nudos de francesa. Catherine, president of her embroidery guild, was mesmerized since the technique was different and equally as beautiful. I promised to return in two weeks with our next group.
Being open to serendipity provided us with a memorable experience and a connection none of us will forget.
Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour: Deep into the Maya World