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These Oaxacan Artisans Defied Cultural And Gender Norms To Build A Thriving Business Making Beautiful Tapetes

In Teotitlán del Valle, the art of making tapetes is a tradition passed down from generation to generation among the Zapotecs, one of 16 indigenous cultures in the state of Oaxaca.

Colorful textiles line storefronts and stalls along the main roads at the center the village, located at the foothills of the Sierra Norte mountains just 20 minutes outside of Oaxaca City. Inside storefronts, artisans greet visitors, inviting them to take a close at every step of the process.

Pastora Asunción Gutierrez Reyes is one of hundreds of artisans in Teotitlán. Now a well-known artisan, she welcomes visitors, both Mexicans and tourists, to her home and workspace. Colorful rugs are stacked in a small closet and some are on display under a covered porch.

Credit: Julissa Treviño

She’s a founder of Vida Nueva, the village’s first women’s-only weaving cooperative to commercialize their long-held skill.

“We started it 20 years ago now. It was a struggle back then because of the beliefs, tradition, machismo and culture,” Gutierrez Reyes says, her long braid falling down her embroidered apron. “That was an impediment to better opportunities for women.”

The Zapotec date back to pre-Columbian times, at least 2,500 years. They excelled in agriculture, writing systems, weaving and ceramic art, according to historians. Textiles have long been an economic driver in Teotitlán, as well as a platform for sharing the culture’s history and stories.

The city is internationally known for its handwoven wool rugs, but only in recent decades have women been part of the business.

Vida Nueva, which was founded in 1996 by six women, defies traditional indigenous norms by allowing women to be at the forefront of every aspect of the business, from weaving to selling. Children in the community begin weaving as early as six or seven years old, but it’s the men who continue on with the craft as adults. It’s only in the last 40 years or so that women have been part of the work, says Adelina Montaño, who’s not a member of the Vida Nueva cooperative but sells at the artisan market in town. Montaño learned how to weave when she was 8.

“It’s passed down by generation. My mom and dad taught me,” she says.

While men work 12-hour days at home making rugs, women sell at the market, take care of the kids, cook and clean, occasionally weaving when they have time. About 80 artisans sell at the 20-stall market.

As an indigenous community, one of the issues Vida Nueva first faced was machismo, and the idea that women shouldn’t or couldn’t work a traditionally men’s craft. Instead, they are expected to stay home to fulfill the household duties. Many of the women in the community didn’t know Spanish, Gutierrez Reyes says.

The women who founded the group did so out of necessity. Their husbands or children had either migrated for work, or the women were single.

Credit: Julissa Treviño

Silvia Gutierrez Reyes, Pastora’s sister, explains that when Vida Nueva first started, people made negative comments. She says they would ask “Why are those women outside working?”

“Even now, women marry very young here,” Silvia adds. “A woman who was going against the grain was judged.”

In the early stages of the cooperative, Gutierrez Reyes said men often questioned the quality of their work simply because they were women. Of course, rug-making is labor-intensive, notes Gutierrez Reyes. Because traditional processes from decades past are still used, artisans start their work at the most basic level.

They comb the wool and spin the yarn, then color the wool using dyes. Some still use natural dyes. The most common, and beautiful, among them is cochinilla, a scale insect found on prickly pear cactus that can be crushed to make a blood red color, and indigo, which is extracted from a plant called añil. Dyes can be diluted with water or altered by using citrus. Weavers then take to their looms, weaving in symbols and designs of the Zapotec tradition. Larger pieces can take anywhere from three months to a year to make depending on the complexity of the design. The final pieces can cost thousands of pesos.

It took years for Vida Nueva to commercialize their craft. Vendor spaces at the artisan market are inherited. Occupants can only occupy one if a family member passed it down to them, Silvia says. Otherwise, artisans can work through tour guides, who bring visitors to the town and take a percentage of the selling price. Or, they could go into Oaxaca City to sell, but women didn’t make that trip alone at that time. It wasn’t until the early 2000s they started selling directly to customers.

Today the cooperative, now with 13 women, is well-known in Oaxaca. They have a locale in Teotitlán but have showcased traditional Zapotec tapetes internationally, too. Other vendors in Teotitlán have well-established storefronts. Some even have websites where they sell directly to customers outside the country.

Members of the collective work on their craft at home, coming together once a month. They decide how often they want to work and how much they want to sell their work for, with the profits going directly to that artisan. They’ve also been expanding their craft by making purses, yoga mats and pillows.

Now, when you walk through the village, women artisan’s names appear on signs pointing visitors to rug shops based out of their homes. Other women’s cooperatives have also popped up in recent years. Some visitors even go out of their way to support female weavers.

Gutierrez Reyes is happy to have some healthy competition. Teotitlán might still be a place with a lot of machismo, but things are slowly changing for the better, she says.

READ: This Is How This Mexican Mom From Oaxaca Is Running Successful Mole And Michelada Businesses

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You


These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

With young Latinxs reclaiming the bruja identity, the demand for access to novenas, herbs and other specially crafted ritual tools has grown tremendously. Luckily, these Latinx-owned online botanicas have made it easy for brujas, or anyone who wants to dive deeper into the practice, to get their hands on the goods. Whether you’re looking to conjure up more cash flow or secure some extra protection from those pesky mal de ojos, these shops have the magia you need.

1. The Flowerchild Bruja

You know you’ve received some real tesoro when you open your delivery and see the holographic cellophane. Unmistakable and unique products are what make The Flowerchild Bruja’s shop un cielo de flores. Garden Smudge Sticks adorned with colorful flowers and loose herbs packaged in clear hearts make this online botanica a must-visit if you’re looking to manifest more love and beauty into your life.

2. Brooklyn Brujeria

No forlorn-looking saints and pale stricken Marys here! Brookyn Brujeria offers a fresh and modern take on the classic bruja necessity of novena candles. At $10 a candle, you can enhance the vibrations and style of your space without blowing all your chavo. With intentions like Boss Bitch and F*ck Outta Here, these ain’t your abuelitas’ novenas.

3. The Hoodwitch Store

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Thank you for all of your love & support to those who have been readers and customers of @thehoodwitch over the years. ♥️You know truly how hard I work and that this is my livelihood and culture. Visual art and magic ARE my life and practice. Not a peach flavored “turquoise” glitter drink. My magic is in my blood, my magic is in my ability to bring life to my visions, it is creation & destruction. Over the last 6 years, I have been so honored and lucky to be featured in some of the largest media publications internationally not limited to Instagram. This is bigger than that and the creative team for Starbucks knew that. I have personally worked on consulting large companies in their design concepts this work comes naturally to me. “So what’s the big fuss?” My personal style has become synonymous with the visual aesthetic of my brand. No, I absolutely did not “invent” the crystal balls nor acrylic nails but What I created was a space for myself along with other POC to feel represented and have visual imagery that was representative of us. The colorful candles of my local botanicas, my gold jewelry, and my long nails clutching my crystals are certainly not “new” but to see them presented in a manner that I shared visually in this space was. Katherine de Vos Devine @devosdevine is a lawyer and art historian who wrote a powerful and insightful look as to what exactly is happening with this situation and we are sharing it in our story today because more than anything she truly gives the full tea of the situation. I can strip away the crystal balls, the nail art, and delete all of my beautifully curated photos but I will always be me, I will always be my grandmother’s voices and wisdom. I will create, and I will always know my value and my worth. I trust and believe that my ancestors and my guides are looking after me. These giants may have the money to bully artists, creatives, and small business but we know the truth and absolutely must not allow it. As a small business owner, I appreciate you standing with us in this uphill journey and even if it goes nowhere, at the end of the day I can laugh to myself knowing that Starbucks made a drink inspired by HW 🔮

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If you’re in the market for an obsidian scrying mirror, unique tarot decks or nail polish for your mystic manos, then The Hoodwitch Store is your one-stop bruja shop. Be sure to also check out the Bruja Bookshop tab, where you’ll find vintage, one-of-a-kind libros to up your witchy wisdom. The shop offers some rare finds en español as well. However, make sure you stay up to date on the latest inventory. These goods sell out fast!

4. House of Intuition

If you live in LA, you’ve most likely heard of House of Intuition. With four brick and mortar stores throughout the area, plus an online shop, it’s probably a wise investment to grab one of their “Success” intention candles. Their beautifully colored novenas aren’t the only reason to check out the shop, though. Seriously, this casa is staked with everything from crystals skulls, cauldrons and wands to a line called “Hair Mystics” featuring crystal-infused hair mists. You’ll be glad your intuition led you here.  

5. Lunar Magic Shop

Lunar Magic Shop is the super affordable and super thoughtful shop with some of our favorite bruja apparel. You will for sure want to grab the “My Mom Will Hex You” tee for the little one in your life or the “I Am My Own Sacred Place” one for yourself. While you’re at it, you might as well secure the “Motherhood”and “Student” crystal kit bags. This small shop definitely has the whole family’s brujeria needs in mind.

6. Curandera Press

While this shop is currently taking a small hiatus, they will re-launch on August 1. This gives us time to save up for a big vela haul. We could all use some divine intervention with lazy lovers and bad hair days, right? With Curandera Press’ “No Mas Amante Perezoso” and “Good Hair Day” velas, your prayers are answered. We’re excited to see what intentions they roll out next.

Read: In These Trying Times, Boricua Bruja Emilia Ortiz Provides A Digital Space For Healing

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