Where Flowers Grow on Cloth: Flor de Xochistlahuaca

The Amusgo people span the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero in the mountain region of the Costa Chica between Puerto Escondido and Acapulco. They are back-strap loom weavers of an extraordinary garment called the huipil. This particular textile is fine gauze cotton, a loose weave, to offer comfort to the hot, humid climate. Even in winter, a light-weight covering is preferred.

Gretchen with her fabulous native green and coyuchi cotton shawl, doll and weavers
Beautiful embroidered bodice of under-slip

Our group of eleven travelers made our way up the coast over a six-day period to explore the textile villages of the region. Xochistlahuaca was our northernmost destination.

Understanding the weaving process, time it takes to make
Left, textile dyed with indigo with native coyuchi and white cotton, right, natural dyes

I have known about this cooperative Flor de Xochistlahuaca for years. They participated in Oaxaca City expoventas at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Social entrepreneurs and textile consultants Ana Paula Fuentes and Maddalena Forcella worked with the cooperative, too, to help them develop marketing, promotion and economic development plans.

Wearing glorious textiles, surrounded by glorious textiles

When we arrive, the director Yessie greeted us warmly and introduced us to many of the 39 cooperative members who were there to meet us. They range in age from young adults to aging grandmothers. They are talented spinners and weavers, and their design and color sensibility is unparalleled.

Talking and listening, sharing stories about our lives

What was remarkable about this visit is that we sat opposite each other, face to face, gave self-introductions, and had an opportunity to learn about the role and life of women in the village and our experience as women living in the USA and Canada.

Examples of fine supplementary weft weaving from Flor de Xochistlahuaca

I encourage our travelers to think of ourselves as amateur cultural anthropologist, to ask the people we meet about what they love about their work and home life. They are curious about us and we answer their questions. We are curious about them, the challenges they face, the dreams they have for their children, and what they want to improve quality of life. We are there to learn, listen, understand, share and also support by buying direct from the makers.

A native green cotton shawl on the loom, almost completed
A simple vase with native coyuchi and white cotton on stems

We tell them our ages and where we are from. We share our marital status: widowed, married, divorced, always single. We learn that collectively we are similar. One woman says she never married because she didn’t want a husband directing her life and taking her money.

The dialog exchange at Flor de Xochistlahuaca

Among our group are weavers, dyers, sewers, collectors, teachers, writers, lovers of beautiful cloth. They are culture-keepers who spend days taking care of family, cleaning, cooking, shopping, doing laundry. The cooperative gives them the freedom to weave uninterrupted several days a week and get away from the responsibilities of taking care of others. Women rotate being there. They say it gives them a sense of independence and camaraderie.

Innovating new products: Dolls with traditional cloth
Linda with her purchases and the women who made them

Over lunch at a local comedor we talk about life differences and similarities. Some say it appears that village life is more simple and we dig deeper into what that means. I think it is more basic but it is not more simple. As foreigners living in the frenzy of post-industrial, consumer-based, technology-focused environments, we have a tendency to romanticize what many call a simpler lifestyle. Many of us yearn for that.

Completing the finishing touches — seam embellishments

Women’s lives are complex whether we live in Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, or Chicago, Illinois. We worry about our children, their education, health care, whether there is enough money for essentials and extras. We work at home or outside the home or both. Maybe we have aging parents who need care or an alcoholic or abusive spouse, or a child with special needs. We have dreams that may never be realized.

As we travel through the textile world of Oaxaca, doors open to us to connect and understand, offering a richer travel experience.

Native white and coyuchi brown cotton on the backstrap loom

Let me know if you would like to travel with us on a January 2020 Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour. Send me an email. I will only offer this trip if there are 6 people ready to make a $500 deposit to secure a reservation.

Only another hour to go!
The most delicious pozole ever for lunch
Locally baked bread, Xochistlahuaca
The restaurant owner wearing her daily commercial lace dress, with daughter

14 responses to “Where Flowers Grow on Cloth: Flor de Xochistlahuaca

  1. This trip was amazing and so was Norma. Your expertise were great, helpful, and made the trip experience a dream come true . Hope to take another trip with you again. Meeting these ladies and all that are trying to save this “dyeing” art and culture was an eye opener. We are planning on contributing to help the area by educating people in our area about the need to support these villages. Loved everything about this lovely experience the warmth, safety of the villagers and area and definitely Norma’s planning, orginizational skills and definitely passion for the country and its people .

  2. Hi Norma,
    Remember us: Pat and Bruno from Bela’s in San Cristobal about 6 years ago? Anyway, we’re in Puerto Escondido, on our way to Oaxaca tomorrow for 2 weeks. We want to come to Teotitlan del Valle one day. We came there during our last visit to Oaxaca 5 yrs. ago but missed seeing you. You told us about a restaurant there [it happened to be closed due to a funeral and we happened upon the funeral procession coming out of the church]. Anyway are you around ? Can you tell us a good day to visit Teotitlan del Valle and the name of that restaurant? I’d love to say hello.
    Thanks for your great blog. The Costa Chica information is really interesting.
    Gracias y abrazos,

    • Hi, Pat.
      Maybe the restaurant is Tierra Antigua? Or it could be El Descanso. Both are very good. I’m in Michoacan now and then traveling to Chapala before going back to Oaxaca. My son arrives there on Saturday for the next 10 days, so I’m sorry I won’t be able to visit with you. Enjoy your stay! Norma

  3. A truly amazing group of people to travel with in the country. I came home with weavings,lino prints,carved gourds,shawls, pillow covers, amazing carved wood masks, and a handmade doll. Most importantly I came home with a deeper understanding of community. Denise is the best person to clear this trip .

  4. This was SO WELCOME in the midst of our MW Polar Vortex in Wisconsin.
    Elegant creations, respectful diagloges & very well written~ MUCHO GRACIAS!

  5. What a discovery! The weaving and embroidery look amazing.
    How long does it take to weave then embroider these huipils. What is the average price asked? Where do they sell them? Their village seems so isolated. It must have been incredibly hard to choose which garments to buy and from which vendor (not to leave anyone out).

    • Hi Bev. It’s takes 3-4 months to weave a huipil of this quality. The best, most densely covered in design ones cost about 8-10,000 pesos. They participate in invited, juried expoventa sin Oaxaca City usually through the Textile Museum. You can also find them at Arte de Amusgos across from the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá.

  6. I hope this group comes back to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market this July.

    Thanks Norma. Regards, Susanne

  7. Norma, the Costa Chica textile tour was SUCH a great trip, and this post reminds me of my favorite stop! The women pictured here were remarkable, and it was a joy to visit with them, to learn about their lives, and to realize how similar they and we really are. Thank you for the experience of a lifetime, as well as this post that helps me to remember the details!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *