We love En Via!
Like most people in Teotitlan, Crispina was born and raised there. As with most women her age, she went to school through 3rd grade, enough to read and write at least a little. She started working after that, and has worked all her life at weaving, embroidery, sewing, and selling. She married her husband, Fernando, when she was 20, I think, and has a daughter and 2 sons. Her daughter has gone to live with her husband’s family, as is the tradition, and her 2 sons live with her and her husband, along with their wives, as is the tradition. The family speaks Zapotec at home, but all are fluent in Spanish as well.
Crispina works from early morning until late at night, making a myriad of products from table runners, to place mats, to embroidered clothing, to purses. She comes to Oaxaca several times a week to sell in an open air market and also out of a shop that the family rents. Her husband, oldest son and his wife weave all the wool stuff, while Crispina weaves the cotton. She and her daughters in law do the housework and cooking (EVERYTHING from scratch — you don’t see anything there in cans or packages — everything is gardened or bought raw from stalls in the central market. Oh, except for bottles of soda and beer.)
Once she told me that because the foot powered sewing machine is so slow, she often has to stay up until midnight or 1 am to finish sewing stuff to bring to Oaxaca to sell. I couldn’t help but think that there are literally thousands of unused electric sewing machines in the US, and how hard could it be to get my hands on one of them to bring to her. I set my mind to finding one, and lucked out at the flea market in San Diego to find one that was light enough to bring in my suitcase to Oaxaca. It was $35, not much, but it means the world to her. Once it was there, getting it set up and threaded was a mystery, even with the printed instructions I brought along. Luckily my friend Susan was with me, herself a seamstress. She got it going, and to my great relief, it works perfectly, and will sew just about anything.
Crispina told me she would remember this for the rest of her life. Definitely I will too, along with the tamales that the family shared with us after we finished setting up the machine. We have become a part of that family, and the ties are unbreakable.