Thursday, June 30, 2016

Virtually Teotitlán del Valle

Virtually everyone in Teotitlán del Valle has a deep and detailed knowledge of weaving and dying, and all that goes with it—carding, combing the wool, spinning the yarn, raising the insects on their favorite cacti, picking the right indigo plants. A total knowledge is located, embodied in the individuals, the families of this village. No “experts” need to be called in, no external knowledge which is not already in the village. Every aspect of the expertise is located right here.
How different this is from our own, more “advanced” culture, where nobody knows how to make anything for themselves. A pen, a pencil—how are these made? Could we make one for ourselves, if we had to? I fear for the survival of this village, and the many like it, which have survived for a thousand years or more. Will they disappear in our super-specialized, mass-market world?

— Oliver Sacks, Oaxaca Journal (2002)

In the valley of Oaxaca, old ways combined with practical new ideas and crafts. The idea of each village specializing in a craft was very ancient. It went back to the days of Monte Albán. But what they specialize in and how they make it, has changed over time. Teotitlán del Valle is a good example. Those folks have been weavers for centuries. Now they’re famous for rugs, but it used to be clothes. Then a man named Isaac Vásquez and his family started making rugs. Isaac worked for a while in New York as a cabbie in the 1980s. And his clients told him, “Hey, you know, tourists really like rugs.” So he went back to Teotitlán del Valle and started making rugs. Now, there’s about 150 different families there that are making rugs. They use European looms, they’re no longer using the backstrap loom. And artist Rufino Tamayo revived the local dyes, so now they’re using traditional dyes in combination with these European looms. And they can make any design; they’re amazing. They uses these looms like a painter uses a canvas. Their largest client are the Navajo up in the United States. They’re making Navajo style rugs for the Navajo to sell on their reservations.

— Edwin Barnhart

Pastora of Vida Nueva/Galvain Cuy women’s weaving cooperative drops some knowledge.






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