Memories of Mexico portrayed in textile art
Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most diverse states. Its eight regions foster natural reserves of incredible beauty, wildlife, archeological sites, stately cities, charming magic towns, one of the most diverse culinary traditions, and of course, its extraordinary textile art. The tradition of embroidery traces back to pre-Columbian times when maguey thorns were used instead of needles. Mexican needlework has evolved into an immense variety of styles and hand and machine techniques, through which the artisans represent their history, traditions, dreams, and love for their land.
The textile art is Mexico’s living memory and a fundamental component for the economy of the indigenous communities of Oaxaca and other states. When you purchase one of these beautiful garments, remember that you are buying a unique piece made by hands who have inherited this wisdom from generation to generation. Make sure that you pay a fair price for them. In addition to the technical mastery, the embroidering process can take weeks and even months.
Jalapa de Díaz
Jalapa de Díaz is located in Papaloapan, where the Chinameca and Mazateca people preserve a rooted tradition of textiles made in waist loom and needlework on cotton and rayon. The traditional embroidery from Jalapa de Díaz is handmade, using cotton thread on a piece of rayon, which is traditionally black, although we can find these works in a wide variety of colors. The traditional designs are based on flowers, birds, and oversized leaves, representing the iconography and cosmogony of these indigenous communities.
Santa María Alotepec
The community of Santa María Alotepec is nestled in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte and is inhabited by the Mixe people. The traditional embroidery of this region is machine-made on cotton. The Mixe artisans make shirts for men and blouses and huipiles for women, embroidered with designs that portray scenes of their creator’s daily life, telling us their everyday stories through footpaths, flowers, roads, and thorns.
The town of San Antonino is in Oaxaca’s Central Valley, very close to the state’s capital, and its needlework tradition is one of Mexico’s most celebrated. The needlework of San Antonino is made by hand with silk thread on cotton and portrays butterflies, hummingbirds, roses, jasmines, lilies, that can come in one or multiple colors, as well as the “do me if you can”, an intricate embroidering technique that represents images of children and requires great skill and mastery.
Istmo de Tehuantepec
The extraordinarily beautiful huipiles that became world-famous thanks to the legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo are an artistic expression of the Zapotec people. There are two main techniques used in the huipil tehuano, which can be used together or separately. The string embroidery forms geometric figures, flowers, and magueys on cotton, linen, or satin. The traditional colors of this type of garment are red, yellow, and black; however, the new generations of artisans make gorgeous designs in a wide variety of colors for all tastes. The Tehuana flowers are one of the most sublime expressions of Mexican needlework, in which the designs are hand-embroidered on black or white satin or velvet. Every flower is unique and embroidering a single piece can take weeks and even months.