Malena has always been known for her ready smile and many jokes. Nowadays, she is also known as one of Manos Zapotecas’ most popular designers and she is such a pleasure to work with because of her easy, affable nature.
When Malena was 10 years old, her mother began teaching her to weave; beginning with simple designs that later became more and more complex. She left school at age 14, which is not unusual for girls in her village, in order to help her family by working. At age 15 she became a wife and mother.
She lives with her husband Hugo and their two children in a large family compound with Hugo’s parents, brothers, and all their wives and children. The whole family shares in the responsibilities of keeping house, raising the children and working with Manos Zapotecas. She says the support of extended family has been a great help to her.
“Day by day we are learning things,” she said, “and this keep us busy, and happy, because we have work.”
Like most weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, Malena traditionally wove rugs but now she has dedicated herself solely to making bags, which are easier to sell. She says her design inspirations come from the colors around her, as well as the ancient patterns. Part of her motivation is to make sure that the old designs never die.