Monthly Archives: March 2022

Chiapas, Too: Round Two

We are mid-way through our second Chiapas tour. I always say, The right people always show up! and they do. We saw the same things, made the same stops, met the same people and each tour is different based on interests, questions, experience and personalities. We have four weavers and two three textile designers on this tour, plus two tag-along husbands who also contribute a lot to the dynamics of engagement.

We have traveled to Tenejapa for market day. We have meandered museums, designer shops, met Alberto Lopez Gomez, picnicked under the Maya crosses at Romerillo cemetery, and visited with humanitarian healer Sergio Castro Martinez. We met with weavers at a 30-Year old cooperative to talk about cultural appropriation and explored the life of the Lacondon indigenous group through the eyes of archeologist Frans Blom and his photographer wife Gertrude Duby Blom at Na Bolom.

This is a photo essay of our days here, so far. At this moment a fine rain shrouds San Cristobal. I’m sipping hot tea and warming up. I hope you can come with us in 2023! send an email if you are interested.

This textile woven in San Andres Larrainzar was on display at San Francisco International Airport in 2018.
At the Sergio Castro Museo de Trajes Regionales de Chiapas

Interlude: Winding Road to Chenalho, Chiapas

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we traveled to Chenalho with a cake in hand. Or rather, protected from spilling by putting it on the lap of one of our traveling companions! Our adventure took us deep into Tzotzil territory via collectivo taxi, up a winding mountain road to the town of Chenalho. It’s a 45-minute trip on the switchback road, depending on the driver. We started out at the collectivo parking area beyond the market behind Santo Domingo de Guzman Church and we were soon out of the bustling commercial center making our ascent. The scenes are breathtaking. Steep valleys punctuated with terraced corn fields, grazing sheep, houses perched on stilts. We are surrounded by jagged peaks dense with pine forest.

We went about three miles beyond the town center on a secondary road to find what we were looking for. Here women weave and embellish their back strap loomed cloth with unusual raised embroidery that many call Dog Paw. I was a tag along, going with Sheryl and Flora, Carol and Peter, who were ambassadors for the Las Cruces, NM based NGO Weaving for Justice founded by anthropologist Christine Eber. We set out to meet the 30 cooperative members of Tsobol Antzetik, that means Women United in Tzotzil. We said Kolaval and Kolavalik (thank you, both singular and plural) a lot today.

This was another extraordinary day in the highlands for me. This was my first visit to Chenalho although I’ve admired their weaving and needlework skills for quite a while. When we arrived, the babies looked at me, white face with white hair, and cried. It reminded me of the time I went to a remote part of Chengdu, China in the 1990’s when children ran to hide behind their mothers in terror at seeing a foreign face!

Chenalho has not been on our tour itinerary, but I’m going to change that for 2023! Want to come to Chiapas to discover textiles with us? Send me an email to tell me you are interested.

We seized the opportunity to celebrate International Women’s Day because the founder of this cooperative, Flor de Margarita Perez Perez, wrote a song for the 1997 celebration that recognized the struggles of women in Chenalho. This was part of the Oventic meeting of the Zapatista movement for indigenous rights — where a cultural, educational and social center for the Zapatista supporters in the Highlands was established.

Selected stanzas:

We will not surrender. We will continue going forward, asking for justice, men, women and children.

We are not cowards, not like the government. The government feels strong because it has guns, tanks and airplanes. The government ignores the suffering of the people holding hands to protect peace.

These are their stories:

  1. She has one child and weaves to provide for him, pay school expenses.
  2. She weaves to help her 3 children. 
  3. She works to help her daughters. She doesn’t receive help from the government. 
  4. she helps to support her children. During the pandemic, she was not able to sell. Thanks for buying our few things. 
  5. She has 4 children. She weaves and embroiders. 
  6. She makes shawls scarves and shawls and napkins. Appreciates women’s friendships in the cooper and sharing weaving  techniques. 
  7. She works to help her family but she loves to weave. She needs the help to sell weavings to support her family. She values the Friendship and love she receives from the coop women. 
  8. Her father died. It’s up to her to help her mother. She gets support from the group.
  9. Koloval. Thank you. Kolovalik.
  10. She tells us her mother is blind. Her father died. She has responsibility to take care of her family. Women’s cooperative very supportive.

What I hear are women’s universal stories. we share similar hopes and dreams, family responsibilities. We care for our families, we have our housework, we may work outside the home. We depend on our women friends for emotional support and sustenance.

We brought gifts of hair clips, toothpaste, Kleenex, combs, hand cream, ribbon, reading glasses, band aids. The little girls loved the hair decoration and combs.

From San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: Textile Sale

My modus operandi is to visit the homes and cooperatives of the finest weavers wherever I travel in Mexico and elsewhere. I can’t possibly wear everything I love. But that does not deter me from buying to support what they do. We hear time and again from weavers on our textile tours that the pandemic has wrought economic havoc on their lives and there have been few if any customers who come to visit and buy. Without this support, extraordinary artisans will give up their work and turn to something more economically sustainable — servers and cooks in restaurants, hotel maids, shop girls. The men who make the looms, leave to work in the USA to provide food for their families.*

We don’t want that to happen! So, here I am again, with a stash of beautiful textiles to offer to you for sale.

Buy now. I’ll be mailing after April 1 when I return to the USA.

How to Buy: Tell me the item you want by number. Send me your mailing address. Tell me how you want to pay. Choose one of three ways.

You can pay one of three ways: 1) with Zelle (account number 919-274-6194) and no service fee; 2) with Venmo or 3) with PayPal. If you choose either #2 or #3, we add on a 3% service fee which is their charge to us, and we will send a Request for Funds to your email address. The request will include the cost of the garment + $12 mailing. If you want more than one piece, I’m happy to combine mailing. I’ll be mailing from Santa Cruz, CA, when I return to the USA after April 1, 2022.

SOLD 1. Magdalena Aldama huipil. Cotton. 25” wide x 29” long. $450 + mailing. a stained glass window for Joan!
#2. Venustiano Carranza gauze huipil, 24” wide x 36” long. Cotton. $195 + mailing.
SOLD 3. Venustiano Carranza huipil, 23” wide x 35” long. Cotton. $195 + mailing
SOLD 4. Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas shawl. Cotton. 14-3/4” wide x 56” long. pair with the hot pink huipil. $85 + mailing.
SOLD 5. San Lorenzo Zinacantan, land of flowers, free-form machine embroidered blouse. 21” wide x 30” long. Polyester. $120 + mailing.
SOLD 6. 29” wide x 23” long. Rayon with a subtle hint of glitter. Chiapas. Backstrap loom. $135 + mailing.
#7. Aguacatenango, Chiapas French knot embroidered blouse. Size M-L. 23” wide across embroidered bodice. 25” long. Sleeve length from shoulder 21” $135 + mailing.
This short sleeve green bodice blouse is also available, Size XL $135 + mailing gorgeous smocking

*Agustin, the husband of my friend Francisca who made this blouse (above), left almost a year ago to work in a Chinese restaurant in High Point, NC, where he is washing dishes. He will be there another year to pay off debt incurred during the pandemic. She is at home with her daughter and mother.

SOLD 8. Cream on cream from Venustiano Carranza. 23” wide x 26” long. Loose drape. Gauze weave. 4-Selvedge edge. $135 + mailing.
SOLD 9. White on white. 4-Selvedge edge. Gauze. Venustiano Carranza. 19” wide x 23” long. $110 + mailing.
SOLD 10. White on white gauze. 4-Selvedge edge. Venustiano Carranza. $110. 23”wide x 26” long. To Olive
SOLD #11. White on white. Gauze. 4-Selvedge edge. Venustiano Carranza. $135 + mailing. 22” wide x 23” long.

Interlude: Road to Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas

This week is one of rest! Hahahaha! I scheduled myself for a calming week between our two Chiapas textile tours. In between, eating, sleeping, walking around and getting super-fixed with shiatsu massage from Kentaro, I asked our guide Gabriela if she would take me to the distant weaving village of Venustiano Carranza. I have never been there but I’ve admired their fine gauze weaving for many years.

Venustiano Carranza is a hill town perched atop a promontory looking out over a vast valley of sugar cane fields and traditional milpa (fields of corn, beans, squash). It’s hot here. Tropical. We travel from cold highlands to warm humidity. Around 10 a.m. it’s time to shed the long sleeves. We drop down from the cloud forest and pine trees. We pass thatched covered huts. Banana and coconut palms accent the landscape. Almost everyone can just pluck a ripe banana from a tree growing in their courtyard.

In front of us on the road are a convoy of trucks laden with cut cane on their way to the factory where the cane is cooked and crushed. It will be used to make pox (posh) the distilled cane and corn beverage preferred in this region or to turn into sugar crystals for export.

Many of the town’s streets are vertical and narrow and winding. It’s a Tzotzil speaking Maya community. It is also a good 2-1/2 to three hours from San Cristobal, so this is an all day outing. We left at 8 a.m. and didn’t return until 6:30 p.m. after a leg-stretch around the Chiapa de Corzo zocalo. Long day. Great finds.

The climate is why the fine, lightweight gauze weave is so popular here. Made on the back strap loom, most of the blouses and dresses are still using the traditional 4-selvedge edge, which means there is no cutting and no hem — sign of a superior textile that showcases weaving skills. I’m looking for white-on-white blouses though the traditional style for the village is white with red designs woven in the cloth. Featured prominently around the hem are figures of chickens and roosters.

While Venustiano Carranza is not on our tour, many of the finest examples of weaving from there are found in designer shops in the historic center of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Let us know if you want to come to Chiapas in 2023. We will add you to the interested list. Just send an email.

Stay tuned. I will be offering some of these goodies for sale soon.

Last Day in Chiapas: Expoventa and Regrets Sale

First thing in the morning after breakfast on the day before departure, we line up for a covid antigen test. Most of us in our textile study tour are returning to the USA the next day. So, we arranged for a laboratory to come to the hotel. Even though I’m staying on, I decided to test, too, just for reassurances. We are proving we can travel safely without infection. We all tested negative!

Hotel staff set up display tables on the grassy courtyard outside our rooms. We invited artisans we know to come and present their work for sale. Francisca, master embroiderer from Aguacatenango who makes the most exquisite French knot blouses, participated. So did Juana from Amantenango who makes large scale jaguar figures out of pottery. We invited a representative from an amber wholesaler and our guide Gabriela’s roommate came with delicious highland coffee. It was a great morning.

Francisca and her daughter Leslie

With the afternoon on our own, some of us went to newly opened Kokono, a restaurant created by Chamula Chef Claudia A. Ruiz Santiz, who sharpened her chef’s knives working with Pujol Chef Enrique Olvera in Mexico City. Bien rico! Others needed the time to pick-up last minute gifts or to get to the FedEx office to ship things home.

Regrets Sale? What’s that? I love to offer the opportunity to pass along any regret purchases to others on the trip. This time, there were few regrets. We gathered at 5:30 in my hotel room to review the discards. There were four pieces! Wonderful that so few of us had any regrets.

Our grand finale dinner was at Tierra y Cielo Restaurant, just up the street from the hotel. I always find this restaurant to prepare excellent meals at a fair price.

Everyone in Chiapas 1 has gone home. I’m here resting and working until our Chiapas 2 group arrives in five days.

We plan to offer ONE CHIAPAS TEXTILE TOUR in 2023. If you are interested in finding out more as we publish details, please email us expressing your interest. We will add you to the list and offer you first opportunity to register. Thank you.