This past Sunday, my group went to visit a town in Oaxaca known as Teotitlan. We visited a group of amazing women who are known as the Women’s Weaving Cooperative. I know I have not been here long, but I have to say this is one of my favorite tour visits. The effort and heart these women put into their work is inspiring and so is their story. The Women’s Weaving Cooperative started 20 years ago. The group was made up of single women, mothers and widows. They wanted to help children as well as single mothers earn an education, support women leaving domestic violence and make contributions to the community. To do this they decided to sell their woven rugs and carpets themselves at the markets rather than have men do it. During this time, it was frowned upon for women to step out into the public sphere, making it very difficult for the Women’s Weaving Cooperative to start. However, with perseverance and support from leaders and other organizations the Women’s Weaving Cooperative has become one of the most respected and valued groups in the community.
The women make shawls, rugs, bags, etc. using the thread and natural dyes they created. The process was so fascinating! To make the thread the women brush out the wool and then spin it around this wheel to turn it into thread. Believe me when I say it is a lot more difficult then it sounds! To dye the wool the women create their own colors using insects, fruits, plants and wood. For instance, red dye was created from an insect that grows on cactus known as cochineal and depending on how much water was added you could make different shades. Then to make orange you would simply squeeze lemon juice in it. Watching Pastora (the current leader of the Cooperative) make all these colors was like watching a magic show. I cannot wait to go back.