Tag Archives: San Mateo del Mar

San Mateo del Mar Artisan Weavers at Library Presentation, Monday, February 7, 2022

Eric Chavez Santiago and I are back at the Oaxaca Lending Library for a repeat presentation of Stories in Cloth: Oaxaca Textile Narratives on Monday, February 7, 2022, at 5 p.m. The first one we did in January was sold out and this one is, too. However, if you want to come early to see if you can get in at the last minute if there are no shows (as there often are), we invite you to do that.

The presentation goes until about 6 p.m. Then, our weaving friends will show and sell their work. They represent the most outstanding and famous weaving family of this southern Oaxaca coast village where the finest gauze weaving can be found in the entire state of Oaxaca. Bring your credit card or cash for purchases. Sale opens at 6 p.m. Come for the sale if you can’t make the presentation.

Stories in Cloth: Oaxaca Textile Narratives gives you knowledge of weaving traditions in our state: history of weaving technologies, types of looms, types of fibers, types of natural dyes, iconography — what the symbols and figures woven into the cloth mean, clothing identity from village to village, and where to find some of the best textiles in and around the city.

Unfortunately, the presentation cannot be videotaped at this time.

Want to meet the best weavers in the city where they live and work? Take the Oaxaca City Textile Collector’s Tour for an in-depth, exclusive and insider experience to meet these and other fine artisans who represent their villages and cooperatives. Some maintain a residence on the outskirts of the city and this is where we take you for a day of exploration and discovery.

Shop Open: Textiles from San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca

It’s hot on the southern coast of Oaxaca on the Pacific Ocean where it meets the state of Chiapas. Hot and humid. Situated on a spit of sand in the Juchitan district sits the fishing village of San Mateo del Mar. The region is home to about 14,000 Huave speakers, a native indigenous language. The community has been in existence for at least 3,000 years.

Today: Featuring the textiles of Francisca Palafox Heran and family

In all my years of living in Oaxaca, I’ve not come across these many pieces woven by the master Francisca, who Remigio Mestas selected as the most outstanding weaver in San Mateo del Mar.

SOLD. #15. Collector’s Piece. Silk, Egyptian cotton, indigo, cochineal gauze blusa, 29″W x 33″L, $995
#15. detail, woven by Jazmin Azucena with her initials JAPP

As you can imagine, there is a need there for flowing, lightweight textiles, and the women are talented back-strap loom weavers who can produce extraordinary, fine, lightweight and gauzy fabrics that are replete with images of birds, fishing scenes, palm trees, sea creatures. The figures are woven into the cloth and are NOT embroidered — a remarkable talent.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.

#1. Cotton. 29″W x 27″ Long. $$335
#1 detail

Notably, the finest weaver of the village is Francisca Palafox Heran. Her daughter Jazmin Azucena is following in her footsteps. Their textiles and those of the family are featured today.

SOLD. #2 Natural dyed mahogany cotton with indigo, 24″x39″, $455

A few of these pieces are for collectors. Most are perfect for summer into fall and back to spring daily wearing. You can layer them over a silk T-shirt for colder climates.

SOLD. #3 Signed JAPP, indigo, cochineal, wild marigold, cotton/silk, 28×28, $695
#3 Detail with weaver Jazmin Azucena’s initials
SOLD. #4 Indigo, mahogany dyes by Francisca Palafox. 23×28. $525
#4 Detail. Palm trees, turtles, crabs, by Francisca Palafox. Find FPH initials.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.

SOLD. #5. Red/black cotton blusa. 25×28. $335
#5 detail, mid-weight cotton
SOLD. #6 Signed FPH Francisca Palafox Heran, cotton/silk, 38×32, $395
#6 Detail with signature — white threads are silk
#7, cotton w/indigo, 25×48, $675
#7 Detail, reindeer, crab, fish, lightening motifs

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.

SOLD. #8 by FPH Francisca Palafox Heran, 30×28, $395
#6 Detail, FPH initials
#8 inside out! Threads woven back into the fabric!
#9, mid-weight cotton, black contrasted with purple, 25×27, $265
SOLD. #10, airy-weave cotton, 27×27, $335
SOLD. #11 FPH by Francisca Palafox Heran, mahogany + indigo, 27×31, $425
#11 detail. Can you find FPH initials near the boats?

These three ponchos below are a heavy weight cotton, all made on the back-strap loom by Jazmin Azucena Pinzon Palafox. They are perfect for transitioning from summer to autumn, from winter to spring. An easy-to-wear cover-up — for style and comfort, almost like wearing your own cozy blanket! One size fits most. A pullover with open sides.

SOLD. #13 Poncho, 37×31, $450
Inside poncho detail — amazing back-strap loom finish work
SOLD. #14, Poncho, cotton, 37×31, $450
#12, Poncho, 37×31, cotton, $450
SOLD. #16 Traditional machine embroidered Juchitan huipil, $85 — sew the sides to fit you!

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address and item number. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal link to purchase and add $12 for cost of mailing. Please be sure to select Send Money to Family and Friends! We also accept Venmo and I can send you a Square invoice (+3% fee) if you don’t use PayPal.

Textile Care: Dry clean or wash by hand. To wash, turn garment inside out. Immerse in cold water using a mild soap such as Fels Naptha or baby shampoo. Don’t use Woolite — it leeches color. Gently massage the cloth. Squeeze and roll in a towel to absorb excess water. Hang to dry. Use medium heat to iron if needed.

Return Policy: We support artisans and funds get transferred immediately. There are no returns or refunds. This is a final sale.

2019 Oaxaca Textile Study Tour: San Mateo del Mar and the Purple Snail

Saturday, January 5 to Thursday, January 10, 2019 — Six days, five nights immersed in the weaving and natural dyeing culture of Oaxaca’s southern coast. You can take this short-course independently or add it on to the front end of our Costa Chica study tour. 


  • Saturday, January 5, arrive in Huatulco on Oaxaca’s mid-coast. Overnight in or near Huatulco (D)
  • Sunday, January 6, spend the day on the rocky shore line to see how the native snail — caracol purpura — that gives off the purple dye is protected and cultivated. Our expert is Habacuc, a member of the Pinotepa de Don Luis community authorized to harvest this rare crustacean. Overnight in or near Huatulco (B, L)

Caracol purpura dyed cotton thread before it goes to the loom

  • Monday, January 7 through Wednesday, January 9, travel and stay in to Salina Cruz where we will be based to explore the nearby Ikoots coastal village of San Mateo del Mar. Here, fine cotton gauze is woven on the back strap loom.  Turtles, fish, crabs, birds, palm trees are incorporated into the cloth that show the area’s relationship to the sea.  Our visit to several weaving cooperatives includes a contribution to the 2017 September 17 earthquake relief fund that is helping restore village services. (B, L)

Cloth embellished with figures from the natural world

  • Thursday, January 10, we return to Huatulco where we will drop you off at the airport for an afternoon departure time or you can continue up the coast with us to Puerto Escondido. Its a five-hour drive from Salina Cruz to Puerto Escondido along MEX 200. We’ll have lunch in or near Huatulco to break up the trip. Lodging on the night of January 10 is on your own. (B, L)

Finely woven blusa from San Mateo del Mar

What the Trip Includes:

  • 5 nights lodging
  • 5 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 1 dinner
  • Guided boat trip on Huatulco coast to harvest the caracol purpura
  • All van transportation from Huatulco to San Mateo del Mar and back to either Huatulco or Puerto Escondido
  • Donation to San Mateo del Mar earthquake relief fund

What the Short-Course DOES NOT Include: Airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and optional local transportation as specified in the itinerary. It does not include taxi or shuttle service from airport to hotel.

We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Resources, Glossary of Terms

Cost to Participate

  • $1,395 double room with private bath (sleeps 2)
  • $1,895 for a single supplement (private room and bath, sleeps 1)

Who Should Attend

  • Explorers of indigenous cloth, native fibers
  • Those interested in natural dyes, cultural preservation
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Weavers, embroiderers and collectors
  • Home goods wholesalers/retailers who want a direct source
  • Photographers and artists who want inspiration
  • Anyone who loves cloth, culture and collaboration

Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura huipil, Pinotepa de Don Luis

Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The last 50% payment is due on or before November 15, 2018. We accept payment with PayPal only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After November 15, 2018, refunds are not possible. You may send a substitute in your place. If you cancel on or before November 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.

Video: Direct Call for Help to San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, Earthquake Victims

Important message from cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner and medical doctor Anja Widman, who are working with the Ikoots/Huave people in San Mateo del Mar, Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Their coastal village was nearly destroyed after the September 7, 8.2 magnitude earthquake. Please know any gift you make will go to direct aid they will give.

Send me an email if you wish to mail me a check to get funds to them.

And, you might like to see this post I wrote some years ago when I visited San Mateo del Mar and famous backstrap loom weaver Francisca Palafox.

Wefts of Sea and Wind: The Textiles of Francisca Palafox — Textile Museum of Oaxaca Opening


What: Opening
Host: Museo Textil de Oaxaca
Start Time: Saturday, August 22 at 7:00pm
End Time: Saturday, August 22 at 9:00pm
Where: Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Corner Hidalgo & Fiallo, Centro Historico



Ikoot women from San Mateo del Mar, a small fishing village on the southern coast of Oaxaca beyond Salina Cruz, have been weaving here on backstrap looms for generations. Today, most women are no longer weavers, and if they are, the quality of process and product they create are generally basic.

Traditional huipiles (blouses) from San Mateo del Mar are finely woven white cotton decorated with supplementary weft designs adapted from beach and sea life.  Turtles, fish, crab, palm trees, shrimp, birds, butterflies, and stars are incorporated into the weaving with purple shellfish dyed thread. The village, however, has adopted the dominant Juchitecas style of dressing, so Ikoot origins are not immediately evident by the traje (local costume).

San Mateo del Mar is a humble, isolated village, dependent upon fishing for mojarras (a type of sea bass) and camarones (shrimp), which is sold in the local street market and exported to the larger, neighboring market towns of Tehuantepec and Juchitán. But mostly, the catch of the day provides food for the family.  There are not many young people.  An aging population implies out-migration to bigger cities for education and job opportunities not offered here.  This is a simple, and by all appearances, difficult life. The village is hammocks, palm thatched huts, tin covered palapas, sand, salt, wind, and intense heat.

Francisca Palafox is one of the last of the great Ikoot backstrap loom artisans. She is 33 years old, the youngest in a family of six children.  She was “discovered” by Remigio Mestas, who searches for master weavers in remote villages and encourages them to preserve their craft. Remigio provides raw materials such as cotton or thread of the highest quality and through old photographs or antique samples, both Remigio and the weaver re-discover and rescue ancient techniques. As a single mother, Francisca first worked selling dinner to the people of her village to support her children, finding time to weave only during the day. Over the past seven years, because of the commissions from Remigio, Francisca has been able to dedicate her time entirely to weaving.

Antonina Herrán Roldán, Francisca’s mother, now age 73, taught her daughters how to weave.  However, it was eldest daughter Elvira, who stepped in to mentor and guide her youngest sister, eight year old Francisca, teaching her to weave after school. Due to economic hardships, her parents had no choice but to take Francisca out of school, and so she began to weave full time. Francisca wove napkins with imaginative designs and successfully sold them.  By age 15, she had won several prizes that distinguished her among the group of local women weavers.

A woman in San Mateo del Mar taught Francisca how to weave the traditional figures into the Ikoot huipil. Soon, Francisca followed her own independent imagination and creativity, incorporating her personal aesthetic into the Ikoot pieces. In addition to the traditional figures, she learned to weave dancers, fishermen, and sailboats.

“I remember seeing an owl in one of my books in fourth or fifth grade and I got the idea to put it into the loom. When one is younger, the imagination is vast and untiring. Youth is so precious,” she says.

Eventually Francisca learned to weave an entire huipil on her own. Knowing that education was a missing piece in her life, after giving birth to her first child, she went back to finish the rest of her studies.

Francisca’s children, a son Noe, age 15, and two daughters, Jazmín, age 13, and Liliana, age 11, learned to weave when they were also eight years old. Lili, for example, helps coat the warp threads of the backstrap loom with atole (a corn drink) to make them stronger. Although Francisca´s children have a vast understanding of the Ikoot weaving tradition and a profound admiration for their mother, they also believe that in years to come it will become more and more difficult to find a sustainable living in weaving. Her son Noe says: “It’s as if my mother helped to preserve our traditions…thread by thread…” Francisca´s sister, Teófila Palafox, as well as their cousin Sabina, are also active weavers.

Francisca is well aware of the danger her community faces. Her daughters as well as other girls in the village no longer want to wear huipiles because they see it as attire incompatible with modernity. Whenever they do wear huipiles, the choice is the red, yellow and black huipil that the women from Juchitan wear.

In an attempt to share her knowledge, Francisca has invited women of the village to weave with her. But soon after realizing the arduous and time-consuming work it is (and without much economic return) they prefer jobs with regular pay that are not as tedious.  “Women come and see, but they don’t like this job.  They prefer looking for something else like selling tortillas…” Francisca explains.

Francisca is one of a few women in her community who continue to weave.  This small group of Ikoot is at risk of being absorbed into the larger culture and of losing their craft. And this is part of what makes Francisca’s work so important. The Textile Museum of Oaxaca pays homage to Francisca Palafox, whose work carries a whole set of cultural symbols, history and knowledge valuable to her village but also to the world at large. Francisca is one of the last caretakers of the Ikoot tradition. More than this, she is also an inspirational, courageous, self-taught, and self-sacrificing woman devoted to her unconditional companion, her backstrap loom.

“The loom is mine, and no one can take it from me…”

Francisca Palafox

Textile Museum of Oaxaca

Written in collaboration with Apolonia Torres and Norma Hawthorne

Translated by: Apolonia Torres

Edited by: Norma Hawthorne