I recently had the pleasure of spending a week in Oaxaca and Teotitlan del Valle, Mexico with our weavers. I was instantly astounded by the people and the beauty of that place. I was greeted as a friend and treated with such hospitality as I have seldom encountered. Manos Zapotecas owner Shelley Tennyson acted as my guide to her second home.
The weavers we met were some of the kindest and most positive people I have met. When meeting someone it is customary to clasp hands and kiss each other on the cheek while exchanging greetings. I kissed hundreds of cheeks on my trip. I met so many artisans who are so happy and grateful to be a part of Manos Zapotecas.
Tourism has fallen of dramatically in this cultural Meca, which I found to be an absolute and horrible shame. This area of the state of Oaxaca is one of the most culturally rich areas of all Mexico. Isolated by three mountain ranges the valley of Oaxaca has preserved it’s cultural identity and artistic heritage where others have not.
When entering Teotitlan it is impossible not to realize instantly that this is a weaving village. Almost every home along it’s stone paved streets invites people inside to view their rugs and woven goods. Some weaving houses are quite large. Made up of large extended families all living in a compound and pooling their collective resources to keep their businesses alive. Others are single families operating one and sometimes two looms to create their beautiful works and support their families.
There is no denying the fact that this part of Mexico, and indeed, the world, is what we Westerners would deem poor. But the hope, motivation, positive outlook and happiness of these people struck me. They do not yearn for big screen T.V.’s and brand new cars. Most are content with enough to eat, the ability to buy their children new shoes for the school year that just started, or earning enough money to send their children to college.
My week in Oaxaca and Teotitlan has opened my eyes to the strength and beauty of the people we at Manos Zapotecas work with. And I look forward sharing some of their stories and my own with the world.