Vintage Tech: Tyrian Purple — Caracol Purpura on Oaxaca’s Coast

Writer Alex Szerlip came with us on the 2019 Oaxaca Coast textile tour to investigate and write about the purple snail dye that is on the verge of extinction. While she already knew so much in advance, we took her to the source: the Mixtec village of Pinotepa de Don Luis to meet the few remaining dyers who hunt the snails and color native cotton and silk.

The article she wrote, Vintage Tech: Tyrian Purple, was just published. I hope you click the link to read it.

Exquisite caracol purpura purple dyed native cotton from Oaxaca’s coast

Caracol purpura is also called tixinda in the Mixtec native language. Mexican Dreamweavers Cooperative, a not-for-profit organization started by immigration attorney Patrice Perillie, helps support the tixinda dyers and weavers. Patrice has started a GoFundMe effort to help with expenses to get the cooperative to the famed Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in July 2019. Groups are juried for acceptance and competition is stiff.

Help Mexican Dreamweavers raise $4,000 USD to attend the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Can you help? Contact Patrice Perillie. Mexican Dreamweavers is a USA non-profit, so your gift is tax-deductible.

Says Patrice Perillie about Vintage Tech: Tyrian Purple

This is the most enjoyable and enlightening article on tixinda I have ever read. Thank you for mentioning our work from the bottom of my purple heart…. I will personally read it to Habacuc and Rafael when I see them this weekend! They will be thrilled!

Habacuc’s son Rafael, carries on with tradition, he hopes his own son will continue

Habacuc and his son Rafael are just a few of the dyers remaining who make the journey and climb the treacherous rocks of Huatulco to harvest the purple snail. Their technique preserves snail life and habitat.

What I appreciate about this article is it’s first person narrative, sensitivity and understanding of the work of indigenous people on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica. With environmental and aesthetic perception, Alex Szerlip conveys the cultural and historic importance that purple dye has to the Mixtecs on Oaxaca’s Pacific Coast.

Gretchen shows off her just acquired caracol purpura, indigo and coyuchi huipil

Of course, the color purple has been regaled by emperors and kings for centuries, rare and beautiful. Now, nearly extinct around the world, Oaxaca is one of the last bastions for preservation and hope, thanks to applied anthropologist Marta Turok Wallace. This post is a tribute to her and the people of Oaxaca who are dedicated to sustaining this living tradition.

Note: Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour, January 18-27, 2020, is almost sold-out. We have two spaces open. Don’t hesitate if you have been thinking about this! We visit the Dreamweavers Cooperative in Pinotepa de Don Luis as part of this adventure. Special thanks to cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner who guides us into remote villages to meet the makers.

Cooperative members on Habacuc’s 78th birthday, January 2019

11 responses to “Vintage Tech: Tyrian Purple — Caracol Purpura on Oaxaca’s Coast

  1. Does anyone know what Teresita died from?

    • They say, from eating poisonous mushrooms.

      • Thanks. Thought she wasn’t that old, so was surprised when she died.
        Does that happen often?
        I’d wanted to go to Ixtayutla with her. She offered to take me there. I was so sorry to hear she’d died. Hoped to see her a few more times.
        Such a sweet rascally little person.

        • Yes. It was very shocking and sad. There wasn’t a lot of talk about how she died. It was told to me hush-hush and it happed shortly before we visited there last year. I think mushrooming is a common practice throughout the indigenous world and sometimes people make fatal mistakes.

  2. Sorry>>just reread post and saw contact to contribute to Santa Fe journey

  3. Bever in Connecticut

    how do we contribute to the Dreameavers Journey to Santa Fe

  4. I did not know this…will see what I can do. Gretchen’s huipile is beautiful. The best, Susanne

  5. Very interesting article. Will see the Mexican Dreamers in July
    At the International Folk Art Show.

    Norma thanks for printing the article!

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