Tag Archives: back strap loom

Textil Zacoalpan, Native Mexican Cotton Becomes Glorious Cloth

On our first tour day, we make our way to Ometepec, Guerrero, where we spend the first night on the road after traveling north on MEX 200, the coastal highway to Acapulco and beyond. Early the next morning, after breakfast, we travel about a hour northeast to the tiny village of Zacoalpan where we meet Jesus Ignacio and his family.

Ignacio was educated as an engineer and graduated with a four-year college degree but could not find work without moving far away from his family, something he didn’t want to do.

So, he picked up his smart phone, started an Instagram page, and that’s how I found him four years ago. Visiting him, his mother Porfiria, and his aunts is a highlight of our tour. They are humble, and are one of two families in the village who still grow their own cotton. They weave glorious cloth.

The women pick, clean, beat, hand-spin, and weave this native cotton. Ignacio has researched ancient designs, collected pieces of huipiles that have survived over the last fifty years, and the family has introduced them into their iconography. While it is possible to purchase directly from him from the IG page, seeing the garments in person, as well as hearing the weaving stories in the family, makes this a special visit.

Let us know if you want to come with us in 2025. We will be scheduling this tour again soon. Send us an email to express your interest.

Pinotepa de Don Luis Weaver Dazzles Us on the Oaxaca Coast

Our first stop in Pinotepa de Don Luis is at the small home and workshop of weaver Sebastiana Guzman. Her work is always very fine — she uses the finest cotton from the best mill in Puebla state, as well as hand-spun coyuchi brown, white and green cotton. The village is known for its work using purple snail dye, too, and Sebastiana uses touches of it in her weaving to accent the iconography of the region: the double headed eagle, crabs, corn fields, and mountains.

She is the recipient of many awards throughout Mexico, and has many first-place prizes to her name!

After talking with her about her weaving passion, we have an opportunity to see the work she has made. She introduces us to her aunt who spins, and another who weaves and contributes to what is offered for purchase. Sebastiana’s brother Antonio is a gourd carver and he brings pieces of his work including bowls, bracelets, and earrings.

We have visited Sebastiana over the last five years and in this time she has earned enough money to make enormous progress on the construction of her house, which is down a steep dirt, stair-stepped incline to a platform that overlooks the hills below. it is always a treasure to be with her.

Let us know if you want to travel with us here in 2025. We will be posting tour information soon.

Las Sanjuaneras Cooperative, on the Oaxaca Coast, San Juan Colorado

At the end of a winding road about an hour-and-a-half up the mountain from MEX 200, the coastal highway leading north to Acapulco and beyond, is the Mixtec village of San Juan Colorado. Here, almost all the women weave and there are over thirty registered cooperatives. One of our favorites is Las Sanjuaneras. Why? They spin native cotton, make thread using the drop spindle (malacate), and use natural dyes.

About five years ago, two Oaxaca designers, Ana Paula Fuentes and Maddalena Forcella, got a grant to work with the cooperative to teach them natural dyeing and to introduce a weaving technique to create a lighter weight huipil that would be more comfortable in the hot, humid coastal climate. Of course, they still used traditional iconography in their textiles, telling the story of the village and traditions. The innovation has been successful and many collectors value what they create.

This is the fifth year we have come to visit them. When we arrived, the clothing was strung along lines between concrete posts, but before jumping in to the fray, we sat to hear about the cooperative and each woman’s story — when they started weaving, who they learned from, their hopes and dreams for themselves and their families.

So many are supporting their families because they are able to bring in a cash income from the sale of their textiles. This goes to pay for medical care (many of the elderly are sick, have problems with blood pressure or diabetes), educational costs for children and grandchildren, and food that supplements what the men are able to grow in the fields.

The cooperative is getting smaller. There were fifteen women last year. This year, two died. The eldest member of the coop is age 78 and the youngest in in her thirties.

They prepared a delicious lunch for us of caldo de pollo (chicken soup), homemade tortillas hot off the comal, grilled tasajo (seasoned beef), and lots of agua de jamaica (hibiscus water). Muy rico. I was so hungry, I forgot to take photos of the food.

And then, we got to put our hands on the glorious textiles!

Come with us in 2025! Send an email to say you are interested.

We invited Las Sanjuaneras coop members to choose the piece that was their favorite, and that they were most proud of. This was a wonderful way to see the range of colors and garments.

Above left, cooperative president Camerina Contreras, is finishing a huipil, dyed with jicara gourd, indigo, and embellished with native, hand-spun pre-Hispanic white cotton.

The oldest member of the coop speaks to us in Mixtec. Camerina translates to Spanish, and our cultural anthropologist guide Denise translates to English.

On the right, women wear the traditional wrap-around skirt of the region call a posahuanco. Today, it is made with synthetic dyes. It used to be dyed with indigo, cochineal, and purple snail dye. If you find one that is, it will cost 30,000 pesos. So rare.

Amazing clothing, delicious food, humble homes.

Tixinda. Purple Snail Dye. Caracol Púrpura. On the Oaxaca Coast.

Tixinda is the Mixtec word for the purple snail, also known as caracol púrpura in Spanish. It produces a rich purple dye used for ceremonial clothing in the Oaxaca coast village of Pinotepa de Don Luis. The weavers here make beautiful garments on the back strap loom using touches of this rare dye in the supplementary weft designs they create representing ancient symbols important to their culture.

Today we visited 83 year-old Don Habacuc Avedano, who has been dyeing native cotton with tixinda since he was a boy. His son Rafael is following in his footsteps, searching the tide pools along the rocky coast for the illusive snail that is now almost extinct.

This is one reason why the huipiles and blusas are more costly. Another is that it usually takes two months to make a huipil. First the cotton is cleaned, hand-spun, then dyed. Usually they use natural dyes like indigo, cochineal, jicara gourd, wild marigold, mahogany bark, and other plants. Then, the loom is prepared with complementary warp threads.

After a delicious lunch of chiles rellenos in the dirt floor courtyard of the humble family home, we had an opportunity to talk, learn, and understand the traditional culture and weaving process. And, then there was the chance to look at the beautiful work and buy if we wished.

Rafa kept a skein of snail dye in the refrigerator in preparation of our visit and we saw the oxidization process as the color of the cotton changed from yellow to green to blue then to purple when exposed to the sunlight.

It was a magical day.

Let us know if you want to go with us in 2025. We will be making an announcement soon. Send us an email.

Shop Small SALE Continues to December 1

We pride ourselves on buying direct from artisan makers. We know them and the quality of their work. We believe that by supporting makers we are contributing to the well-being of their children, families and communities. Many live in remote regions of Mexico where they have little or no access to those of us who appreciate and can purchase their work directly. In many communities, the men are subsistence farmers who raise the three sisters: beans, corn, and squash to feed their families. Women are able to find markets for what they make and can then raise the cash to pay for the cost of education, health care, and additional food to sustain them. When we bring small groups to visit, what we purchase is a benefit and a blessing. As we continue to give thanks in this season for the abundance in our lives, making a purchase here helps women and their families survive and thrive.

Use Discount Code thankful2023 when you make a purchase at shop.oaxacaculture.com

We’ve just added these beautiful handmade bags to the shop. More than 75 items are listed, including handwoven, naturally dyed rugs and wall-hangings by Eric Chavez Santiago, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Perhaps there is something you would like to embellish your holiday wardrobe or for gifting something special!