How One Artisan is Changing a Community May 10 2017
With each artisan collective that we partner with, there is a common bond that is represented within all of the communities: culture. All of these makers and creatives around the world weave and create crafts that are richly inspired by their culture. To highlight just how much, we wanted to share the story of a very special woman named Pastora who continues to impress us with her creativity, drive, and perseverance.
In a small Zapoteca community of Oaxaca, Mexico, called Teotitlan del Valle, there are only about 8,000 inhabitants. While this town is only 12 miles away from modern technology, it is still very rural and considered a village in the eyes of neighboring people. This is where Pastora lives. Her community is very traditional with pebble streets and agricultural fields. There are no fancy shopping centers, plazas or coffee shops. People barter and exchange their produce like beans, corn, and tortillas while speaking in the native language, which is considered an important inheritance from their ancestors. The traditional dress is still worn and made by the people of the community as the main economic activity of Teotitlan is the production of wool handicrafts, carpets and bags. That's how we learned of Pastora and the amazing handiwork that she does on the looms to make our pillows and rugs.
Just like most of the people in the village, Pastora was taught how to knit when she was just 10 years old. She is an unmarried older daughter in a family of seven women - her grandmother, mother and four sisters. At a very young age, Pastora acquired the responsibility to care for her family and support her mother. Her Aunt Victoria taught her to knit as it was the only way to contribute financially in the family, as it is with 80% of the people of Teotitlan. Aside from weaving, Pastora had the opportunity to go to primary school for one year even though many years ago it was custom that education was exclusively for men.
As Pastora grew older into adulthood, she experienced a level of disadvantage in the community since there was not a man to support the family. This disadvantage was that knitting was not an activity designed for women and only men did this type of work. Few families in the community had women weavers, only ones who were in the same position as Pastora's family. With little economic stability, the family remained humble because they not only had to knit, but they also had to sell food for the children.
Of all the challenges and goals of trying to support her family while going against cultural norms in a very traditional society, Pastora and her family have shown to be strong women of struggle. Because of her experience, she wanted to help other women and families who were unfortunately in the same situation as her own family. She had the idea and the dream of wanting to change, or at least to improve the situation of the families, and especially the women of the community. With the support of her mother Sofia, who is a traditional healer, they decided to start a group that would bring together women who, like them, needed to get ahead economically. They gathered similar women in the the same situation of life to meet and work together with the sole objective of finding a space for family, personal, professional and spiritual support. From there, a collective was born. Through this group, women can support themselves and find economic success together.
Buying goods that go directly back to this community of women not only betters their livelihood, but also allows them to create stable improvements to their community. We absolutely love working with this collective of women who have come together to support each other in life and craft! They are incredibly talented and produce quality works of art in each pillow and rug they create. Learn more about the process here.