Chiapas to Oaxaca – Textile Connections Changing Lives

For many of us a whole new world opens up when we travel. Weave A Real Peace helped two young Maya women, Claudia Pérez Pérez and Celia Arias Pérez travel from Chenalhó, Chiapas to Oaxaca for the annual meeting in June. This was only the second trip for both young women outside of Chiapas and they were deeply moved by the hugs and good feelings generated during their time with WARP members.

During our Friday meeting one of the topics we discussed was the pros and cons of outsiders wearing traditional clothing, including the huipiles of Maya tradition. Here are Claudia’s thoughts, in her own words.

We feel very comfortable when we see a foreigner wearing our blouse. We think that she isnt an egotistic woman, that she doesnt feel that she is better than us. I feel very happy to see that she wears it on her body, that she has a good heart for us. We think that she honors us, that she has great caring for us, that she gives us a lot of support.
                                                            Claudia Pérez Pérez of Tsobol Antsetik, Chiapas, México, June 2017

Both Celia and Claudia gathered ideas from our Saturday tour to several Zapotec weaving and dyeing families in Teotitlan del Valle, including new ways to talk to visitors who come to their co-op’s meeting house in Chenalhó and how they might develop a museum in their meeting house. Christine will give them a boost by returning textiles she has collected from the coop since the 80s to build a collection. I am waiting in line to share my background in museum anthropology and exhibit design – can you see my hand waving?

Upon their return to Chiapas Claudia gave an hour and a half long report on the trip. In a very Maya way she gave an hour-by-hour rundown for the entire 5 day schedule! Claudia since has taken a major step to continue her education. Since dropping out of middle school at 14 to marry she has regretted that decision, but on Saturdays she now attends a school in San Cristóbal, studying computing and English. She loves the experience and Christine is confident Claudia will become a leader of women in her community, following in her mother’s footsteps.

Celia and Claudia were a delight – new friends from Mexico to support and cherish for the work they do in their communities. Christine Eber has spent years working with the women of Chiapas and continues to offer support to them in many ways, including establishing Weaving For Justice in Las Cruses, New Mexico. We thank Christine for sharing this story of how our members create and support connected textile communities. The photos were also shared by Christine.

Celia and Claudia enjoying the Oaxaca experience.

Next month we will learn more about Weaving for Justice, a volunteer non-proift organization in Las Cruses, created to assist the members of the cooperatives in Chiapas to continue living on their ancestral lands in sustainable ways that respect their lands, language (Tsotsil), and traditions.

In the meantime, think about how you create a connected textile community – local, global or in-between and share your story with us on the WARP blog!      Judy Newland, WARP board member

 

Weaving Through a Garden

Weave a Real Peace members visited the Oaxaca botanical garden in June during the 2017 Annual Meeting

 Guest post written by Gail Ryser

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The thing that I love about visiting a botanical garden is how easily the landscapes and vistas transport you across space—to different climates and other places around the world, sometimes familiar– sometimes not. And the really cool thing about visiting an ethno-botanical garden is that you can be transported across space and time, because this kind of garden also showcases plants used by people. Such was my experience while visiting the Jardín Etnobotánico in Oaxaca City, Mexico. This city is a perfect place for such a garden; it is a UNESCO city of Culture, and is in one of the most bio-diverse regions of Mexico.

The only way to visit this garden is to be part of a guided tour. As our fabulous guide Georgina Rosas led us on winding paths through the 2 plus hectares, we learned that the creation of the garden was a collaboration between artist Francisco Toledo and anthropologist Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg; it is part of the Santa Domingo Cultural Center.

The garden is a showcase of plant diversity organized by climate zones, and of innovative and practical installation features that are prime examples of cutting edge sustainability. Renovation of the church grounds and building of the gardens included a passive rainwater catchment system that directs rainwater from the roof of adjacent buildings to an underground cistern (below a huge plaza) with a capacity of over 1 million liters. In an experimental setting a large geothermal temperature-controlled glass-greenhouse with roof access through a central stair, protects several species of plants and trees.

There is another story expressed in the plantings of the garden; one that reflects regional history and intentionally symbolizes cooperation and resistance experienced by native peoples. Domestication of corn from a grass known as Teosinte and squash began in this region around 10,000 years ago. Today, 47 of the 57 varieties of native (non-GMO) corn are in the State of Oaxaca. We are told that the garden also hosts rare and endangered species (perhaps the reason plants are not labeled). Georgina also takes us through a forest of prickly pear cacti ‘guarded’ by walls of columnar cacti. Prickly pear supports cochineal, a small insect that produces an intense red dye. The dye played a major role in the economic development of Spain during the 16th century. Only silver was a larger export from the New World to Madrid.

Thank you to Alejandro, the director of the Oaxaca Botanical Garden, for allowing WARP to use these photos.

 

Gail Ryser lives in Tucson, is an archaeologist specializing in paleoethnobotany and perishable fibers. Her research area is the central Andean coast. She is an active water-harvester, seed saver, and gardener.

PO Box 87351 Tucson, AZ 85754 glryser@gmail.com