Artes de Mexico: Textiles Mazahua Issue – (behind the scenes)

The latest issue of Artes de Mexico – Textiles Mazahua issue was published in May 2011 and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I was on my way back to the states, driving from Oaxaca to Santa Fe, NM and wanted to pass through the State of Mexico and visit my friends the Flores Silvestres Rescate Project. These gracious women had allowed me into their lives to document the processes in fabricating their elaborate costume. If you read back by to my first WordPress posts you’ll learn of my involvement with the Mazahua ladies of Santa Rosa de Lima, Estado de Mexico, how I wandered into their pueblo and ended up photographing and learning the many pasos (steps ) that go into the 8 lb skirt and the brilliant natural dyed quechquemitl (cape).

Now almost two years later my article : “Un traje en peligro de extincion” (a costume on the edge of extinction) has appeared in this beautiful journal covering not only textiles but other little known cultural aspects of the indigenous Mazahua. My excitement stemmed from being able to bring this issue to the home of the project coordinator, Regina Torres. She, in turn, invited many of the Flores members to have a look. We joked around about how famous their village would now be. The Artes de Mexico photographer Pablo Aguinaco had beautifully captured pictures of their Fiesta Patronal in August 2009. Regina had a full page picture in Gabriel Olmos’ article “Flores en el Asfalto – Fiestas mazahuas” (Asphalt Flowers – Mazahua Fiestas) and she was pleased. The women were pleased and I was pleased and we all had several big meals to celebrate. Lovingly, I was gifted with a beautiful cochineal dyed quechquemitl made especially grande for the tall gringa with long arms. (see slide show)

Cultural recognition has come very slowly to most of the Mexico’s indigenous. To actually be featured in the most prestigious Mexican cultural/art journal Artes de Mexico seems like a big deal to me, a visitor from el norte. But perhaps it is just another day-in-life occurrence to the Mazahua ladies, like grinding the blue corn that has been drying in the corner of the living room – or shearing the sheep, but perhaps a bit stranger.

Well I’d like to think I kept my word – that the ‘story’ of the many pasos (steps) that go into the making of their traje will now be known to many people in Mexico and the world. That their hard work and artistry will be acknowledged and that they can now be confident that ‘we’ think they are intelligent and resourceful women. To me there was no question of that.

If you live in Mexico, Artes de Mexico is available at most museum book shops for about $15US.  In the U.S. you can try….. (working on finding a source – sorry!) Written in Spanish with English translations in the back (don’t worry). Known for its fabulous photograph, these journals of Mexican art and culture has been published since 1953 – (some are now out of print). Other Textiles issues include: Textiles de Oaxaca, and Textiles de Chiapas, and others textile related – China Poblana and La Tehuana (women of the Istmo).

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Grant from LADAP for Mazahua ‘Rescate Traje’ Project

WONDERFUL  NEWS! Los Amigos de Arte  Popular (LADAP) a Mexican folk art collectors group from the US, has just awarded Living Textiles of Mexico a grant for materials for the Flores Silvestre, a Mazahua revitalization group project in Santa Rosa de Lima, Edo. Mexico.

The materials that will be purchased are indigo and cochineal dyes from the State of Oaxaca. This will facilitate the last stage of their revitalization project to produce 30 traditional wool skirt. If you read a few posts ago, the skirts are woven in 16 foot lengths to produce the wool enredos (circular skirts) woven on a back-strap loom which weigh about 7 lbs when completed.

These natural dyes previously came to the project from north of Mexico City at 300 times the cost of the materials here in Oaxaca. The wool for these skirts is harvested from local sheep, cleaned thoroughly and then sent to Toluca where is it carded and made into a loose ‘roving’.

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It is then hand spun with malecates, the most ancient of spindles, dyed with cochineal, indigo and wild marigolds, then hand woven on traditional back-strap looms. The final skirt in stripes of blue, orange, yellow and red (and sometimes green) is embroidered with tiny white patterns on the top and bottom side of the skirt. A magnificent traditional Mazahua skirt worth preserving.

Gallery of Mazahua Week Pics


Read about the Inter-Artisan Exchange between Mazahua and Teotitlan del Valle Weavers…..the last post!

Mazahua Week at Museo Textile Oaxaca – Jan 20 – 24th

At last the Mazahua ladies of Santa Rosa de Lima the Edo de Mexico will be visiting Oaxaca. Specifically they will be staying in the Teotitlan del Valle weaving town in the Valley of Oaxaca. At the Museo Textile de Oaxaca they will be visiting and demonstrating some telar de cinta techniques for finish braids from their brilliant quechquemitles and perhaps the weaving of one their heavy woolen skirts. Because their village project of revitalization is about preserving their traditional traje their visit is about cultural information exchange, specifically natural dyes information, with other indigenous artisans. So we hope  their visit to the Oaxaca Textile Museum and Teotitlan will be interesting for  them as it will be for us. Stay tuned for more details about their adventure in Oaxaca!