I was overwhelmed by the beauty of these textiles and overcome by your response in support of this great women’s weaving cooperative from San Juan Colorado. Thank you all for your incredible support.
This beauty is now SOLD. #5.
To Buy: Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, mailing address. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.
And, then there is this one. Blue and gold. Pericone and indigo.
Now, I’ve just spent the afternoon packing and mailing all the beautiful huipiles and blusas you bought yesterday. Some of you were disappointed because we sold-out early and fast!
So, I’ve contacted Las Sanjuaneras and I am arranging for another shipment of 16 beautiful textiles to come to me from Oaxaca. These will include more blusas and and a few tunics. The selection, again, is magnificent. I have seen preview pictures and chosen the ones I think you will enjoy most.
I’ll give you a heads-up when then arrive. I will need a couple of days to prepare them for posting — with photographs and descriptions.
Thank you for being so wonderfully supportive of Oaxaca and her weaving community. We are all deeply appreciative.
Families depend on the work of women in small, remote weaving villages like San Juan Colorado. Husbands are subsistence farmers who are able to feed their families with beans, corn, squash that they raise in the field. But the produce is no commodified because everyone grows what they need to eat. It is the weaving that can bring in the extra money to the household to pay for school, medicine and health care, an occasional chicken or a fiesta.
In times like these, when there are no tourists to visit or to shop in the Oaxaca city galleries, we are doing what we can to help families sustain themselves.
For me, the most emotional part of our visits to the remote Oaxaca villages along the coast of Oaxaca is to meet the women who weave and hear their stories.
Our Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour takes us north out of Puerto Escondido along Mexico Highway 200. This region is called the Costa Chica and extends from Puerto to Acapulco, Guerrero. Small roads, often winding, are like fingers carrying people to/from the main towns of Jamiltepec, Pinotepa Nacional and Ometepec.
We travel deep into the foothills into these weaving villages where isolation has preserved a traditional way of life.
We meet the women who are the backbone of their families. For the most part they work in cotton. Their work is intense. They grow and pick native cotton. They clean and card it. They preserve the seeds of natural cream-colored, green and coyuchi brown cotton. They use the malacate drop-spindle to make thread. And, they weave wefts of cloth using the back-strap loom, creating designs formed by a technique called brocade or supplementary weft.
There is a growing market for natural, hand-made cloth dyed with natural plants and cochineal and the caracol purpura snail. But the market is still not big enough to create widespread prosperity. It takes years to be recognized and sometimes, not at all.
Women and families struggle. Mostly it is the women’s work that brings the income that buys medicine for aging parents or a sick relative. Mostly it is the women’s work that pays the school tuition, buys books and uniforms for children and grandchildren. Mostly it is the women’s work that brings food to the table — the tortillas, the hot chocolate, the occasional chicken for a fiesta.
Men work the fields. They raise corn, beans and squash. They tend the animals. This work is not income producing because every family grows its own corn, beans and squash to feed themselves. There is no commercial market for the basics that go on the table. This work for men is subsistence farming. In the socio-economic life of a village, weaving cloth can mean a path out of poverty.
Another path out of poverty is the long road north, to El Norte, where uneducated village men can migrate with a coyote across the desert at night, cross a border without papers, and become undocumented workers. They are the farm laborers, restaurant dishwashers and cooks, gardeners, poultry slaughterers and handymen, doing the work that few others want. They stand in line on Friday afternoon, wiring remittances home, sometimes never returning.
The women continue on.
A few women go on to university in Pinotepa Nacional or Acapulco and become accountants or lawyers or teachers, but not many. Some women choose not to marry, a bond that requires them to go live with a husband’s family, taking on their livelihood and craft, contributing to the household of the in-laws. Some women see that the men are in despair, turn to alcohol for consolation when they have little earning capacity and lose their self-esteem. For this reason, many choose a life of independence.
We come not to judge but to understand. We do what we can. We support their work by visiting and buying direct. We are the appreciators who admire, wear and collect what they make. We are cultural appreciators rather than cultural appropriators.
The women who make cloth learned from their mothers and grandmothers. They have been around thread all their lives. Most started weaving at age twelve. They might sit tethered to the back-strap loom for six or eight hours a day or longer. It can take three months or longer to make a fine huipil.
Do you love what you do? One of us asks a weaving cooperative member.
I weave to help feed my children and family, and cover costs for school, one woman answers.
I do love to weave, and I’m proud to continue the work of my grandmother, answers another. It provides for us, but we need places to sell.
We must support each other economically, says a cooperative spokeswoman. It’s in our solidarity that we will help each other and raise us up. It’s more than a social get-together. It is our livelihood.
Children, boys and girls, age eight to twelve, are learning to weave. This is our future. Our boys are also learning to make loom parts and grow cotton. Men can always help and we encourage their participation, she continues.
In the outdoor kitchen, at the comal, a group of women pat masa into tortillas. They turn the corn dough with thumb and forefinger, careful not to burn themselves. Their fingers are worn with years of cleaning cotton, turning tortillas, washing clothes, spinning, caring for others. Some have lost their fingerprints to hard work.
They salt the hot tortilla, picking up the salt between thumb and forefinger, drizzling the tortilla, rolling it and handing it to us as a gift of welcome. It is fresh, slightly chewy and crunchy, the taste of real food. A simple life can also be a harsh one, and I caution our visitors not to romanticize the experience of being here.
In our home countries, we are absorbed with technology, family isolation and the intensity of politics. Indigenous women in Mexico are absorbed with finding access to markets for their work, good health care and education for their children. What unites us is our humanity and our mutual respect.
For many of us who go off-the-beaten-path to visit makers, we can first be surprised, even shocked at how humbly they live. Some of the most famous artisans I know live in adobe houses or those made with concrete blocks. They may not be able to afford a finished floor or it is not a life-style value.
We go into homes with packed dirt floors, swept clean. We go into outdoor kitchens where amazing food is prepared over a simple wood-fired stove; sometimes this is a grill over a cut off garbage can. Occasionally, the sanitary facilities are not plumbed and we must put a bucket of water into the toilet to flush it. We note these differences and appreciate the abundance in our lives.
We also appreciate the abundance in the lives of Mexican families who live close to the land: they live among their mothers, fathers and grandparents. They are supported by a deep network of community, of friends and tradition. They eat homegrown food. They yearn for the same things we do: health, education, contentment and prosperity. They create works of art.
Here in North Carolina summer has arrived. It was 89 degrees Fahrenheit today. How to stay cool and refreshed as the heat arrives? With a beautiful, embroidered or woven blouse made by indigenous Mexican artisans. If you can’t travel with us, this is the next best way to own a piece of wearable art and know that through your purchase you have supported a weaver or embroiderer or sewist.
To buy, please send me an email: email@example.com Include your name, mailing address with city, state and ZIP code, along with the ITEM NUMBER. I will send you an invoice and add on an $8 charge to mail USPS Priority Mail. As soon as I receive payment, I will ship.
NOTE: ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MAY 9, 2019. The last day I can mail is May 10. I return to Oaxaca on May 11. Thanks very much.
#1 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of color around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 29″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is French knots and traditional embroidery; the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this never-worn piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.
#2 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of color around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.
#3 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a undertone of gold French knots on the bodice and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.
#4 is special. It is densely embroidered with French knots, with fine embroidery details on the back facing and cuffs. The lightweight gauze blouse is perfect for summer. With 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 23″ wide x 28″ long, and will fit S-M. The garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.
#5 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of variegated green around the V-neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 24″ wide x 28-1/2″ long, and will fit M-L. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. Check out the detail on the cuffs and back panel. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.
#6 is a lightweight gauze blouse perfect for summer with a splash of jewel colors around the neck and 3/4″ sleeves edges. It measures 21″ wide x 26″ long, and will fit S-M. The embroidery is mostly French knots and the garment is 100% sewn by hand. I personally selected this new piece from the maker in the village of Amantenango, Chiapas.
#7 is a beautiful, hand-embroidered, elegant long blouse perfect over a skirt, jeans or leggings. It is 26″ wide and 31″ long. Side seams are machine sewn. Dress it up or down. Hand-wash and line dry.
#9 shimmers with sparkly threads in the style that Chiapas ladies like. This is a perfect beach cover-up or throw it on for a cool and breezy evening. Easy to wash-and-wear, pure polyester, just like the ladies who made it in the village of Pantelho like. New. Purchased directly from the maker.
Both #10 and #11 were bought at Rosa and Cristobal’s cooperative in Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas, a village located an hour-and-a-half from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Both measure 22″ wide x 23″ long and will fit size S-M. These were created on the back-strap loom, lovingly woven. I bought them directly from the family. The same bodice pattern is on both sides.
I had this crazy idea of starting an on-line e-commerce website marketplace to sell and resell new and like-new Mexico clothing AND my own dress design.
(Skip the story, if you like, and scroll down to the goods.)
(I’ve been making and wearing the same dress pattern in different fabrics for the last several years. I thought, oh, I could make and sell these dresses too, because women have stopped to ask me where I bought it!)
I bought a domain name and tried to set up a Shopify store for the last two weeks. I’m frustrated. I can’t seem to get it. Too complicated. Too much time invested without decent results. Not good enough to publish, yet.
Meanwhile, I promised my friend Leslie, who did more than what was required to support artisan weavers and dyers on trips she took with me to Chiapas and the Oaxaca coast, to help her sell what she bought and has not worn. So, here are six beautiful pieces of clothing. You buy from me and Leslie ships to you from Denver, Colorado. Easy. You get it in a few days! See below on how to buy.
#1. San Antonino embroidered and crochet blouse in black and white
#1. SOLD. Flowers galore like a summer garden filled with pansies in a subdued palette of black, white with a tad of blue/gray for accent and depth. A masterful piece of embroidery work from one of the greats in the Oaxaca village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Brand new, never worn. Easy wash by hand or in machine on gentle, cold water, hang to dry. No ironing needed. Size Medium. $225 USD includes 3-day priority shipping in continental USA.
#1 detail of B&W San Antonino blusa
#2 San Mateo del Mar double-weave shawl, deep purple
#2. This stunning shawl was made on the back-strap loom in the Oaxaca Coast community of San Mateo del Mar. In 2017, the town was hit by an immense earthquake and the village was decimated. Many weavers suffered, losing their homes. We bought this at an earthquake relief sale on our Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour to benefit the weavers. It is 100% cotton and 100% made-by-hand. One-of-a-kind. For those of you who love graphic design and making a fashion impact, this shawl will fulfill all your wishes. Note: The shawl photographs black but it is a deep purple. New and never worn. 22-1/2″ wide x 75″ long. $200 includes 3-day priority USPS mailing in lower 48 states.
#2 has a beautiful drape, fine details
#3 Rayas Red and White, Chiapas back-strap loom
#3. This is a comfortable, 100% cotton blouse made on a back-strap loom from finest quality mercerized thread. It’s brand new and one-of-a-kind. The traditional design on the white stripes are added during the weaving process (not embroidered) and is called supplementary weft. Very fine and detailed needlework to embellish the neck and sleeves. We bought it at one of the best cooperatives in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, where Mayan weavers create extraordinary textiles. Machine wash on gentle or hand wash and hang to dry. No need to iron! Measures 23-1/4″ wide across the front and 26″ long from the shoulder. Size M. $110 includes priority USPS 3-day shipping to 48 states.
#3 shoulder detail with finished neck edge and sleeve cap
#4 Rayas in Red and Yellow, Chiapas
#4. This is a comfortable, 100% cotton blouse made on a back-strap loom from finest quality mercerized thread. It’s brand new and one-of-a-kind. The traditional Maya frog design on the yellow stripes are added during the weaving process (not embroidered) and is called supplementary weft. Very fine and detailed needlework to embellish the neck and sleeves. We bought it at one of the best cooperatives in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, where Mayan weavers create extraordinary textiles. Machine wash on gentle or hand wash and hang to dry. No need to iron! Measures 23-1/4″ wide across the front and 26″ long from the shoulder. Size M. $110. Includes USPS priority 3-day shipping to lower 48 states.
#4 Rayas Red and Yellow detail
#5. Fine Cotton Gauze Huipil-Tunic, San Pedro Amusgos
#5. SOLD. Fresh and refreshing: a breathable top, simple and elegant. We visited the remote village of San Pedro Amusgos high in the mountains about eight hours from Oaxaca City. Here they weave cotton on back-strap looms just as they have for centuries. This is a beautiful, lightweight collector’s garment with a white-on-white bodice. Called supplementary weft, the design is woven into the cloth, a difficult maneuver by a master weaver. It is not embroidered! This is new and never worn. Perfect over a skirt, jeans, silk or linen slacks. Wash by hand with a mild soap and hang to dry. Measures 23-3/4″ wide x 29″ long. Size M. $200. Includes USPS priority mail shipping to lower 48 states.
#5 detail of bodice, Amusgos tunic
#6. San Juan Chamula Cape, Chiapas
#6. SOLD. Shades of Gray. This is a traditional cape or shawl, called a Chal, hand-woven in the Chiapas village of San Juan Chamula. This particular textile is one of the finest examples of back-strap loom weaving, coming from the Sna Jolobil Cooperative at the Museo Mundo Maya. The wool is hand-carded and spun using the ancient drop-spindle. This is a total made-by-hand garment. The warp threads are cotton and the weft is a soft, pliant natural gray and cream color sheep wool. The edges are strongly woven with very colorful cotton threads to accent the gray body of the garment. Tie it closed with a hand-made tassel and VOILA. Fun to wear or to use as a bed or sofa scarf. Take the tassels off and make a pillow! Measures 24″ square. $145 USD includes USPS 3-day priority mail to anywhere in the lower 48 states.
Not too long ago, because of the very hot, humid climate, the skirt and a gauzy shoulder scarf was a woman’s only covering. These she usually made herself on a back strap loom, beautiful and strong enough to last a lifetime.
Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil, Pinotepa de Don Luis
Back strap loomed cloth is distinguished by hand-spun cotton threads dyed with purple from the caracol purpura snail, cochineal red from the prickly pear cactus parasite, and the indigo plant carefully prepared in a fermentation bath. The cotton is spun using a malacate or drop spindle.
The designs are not embroidered. They are created by a technique called supplementary weft, often called brocade. The threads are counted and added to the warp as the weaver creates the cloth.
Supplementary weft weaving designs, Pinotepa de Don Luis
Hand-embroidered collars with sea life and flora add interest to huipiles
It happened to be January 20, the day of the Fiesta de San Sebastian, the martyred patron saint of Pinotepa de Don Luis. We were on our way to the Mixtec village of San Pedro Amuzgos to visit Odilon Merino Morales and the cooperative Arte Amuagos. But we had to make a stop to see the festivities!
Procession for Fiesta de San Sebastian, Pinotepa de Don Luis
We could not pass up the pilgrimage of people carrying their saint up the hill, or the Carnival dancers in the Zocalo, or the mayordomos of the village dressed in white who sat in the patio of the municipal building sheltered from the 90 degree Fahrenheit heat.
Getting ready for the fiesta dances, Pinotepa de Don Luis
We were to return to Puerto Escondido for the annual Dreamweavers Tixinda Cooperative Expoventa early on January 21, so we decided to not visit these weavers in their Pinotepa de Don Luis homes. But, the fiesta drew weavers from the village who set up shop on the zocalo, where a few of us found treasures — coyuche and hand-spun cotton with natural dyes.
Treasure hunting in Pinotepa de Don Luis at the special market
In addition to hand-woven textiles, this woman is selling earring, necklaces and bracelets made from gourds, painted and carved with sea and nature motifs, lightweight and easy to wear.
Men plant the cotton, women weave. On feast days, no one works.
After another hour and a half on the road toward the State of Guerrero border, we were greeted by Odilon at the Arte Amuzgos cultural center he established in his home town of San Pedro Amuzgos. It was well into mid-afternoon and we sat down to a delicious lunch prepared by the women: beef soup with a rich, spicy tomato broth; comal made organic tortillas; flavorful black beans, locally raised; fruit water of fresh squeezed lime juice and hisbiscus.
A good time to catch up on news.
Next installment to come!
Dressed in drag for the carnival dance, typical in many pueblos
I think his feet must hurt in those high heels
The man to the far right below is wearing a typical shirt from the region, woven with native coyuche cotton — a natural caramel color that is delicious to look at. The word origin is Nahuatl, from the Aztec language, and means coyote because the color resembles the fur of the animal.
Standing proud and waiting for the ceremonies to begin
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
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