Guatemalan Weaving Adventure

Mayan Handsmayan hands collage tour

Guatemalan Fair Trade Weaving Adventures

January 20-30, 2016

Host, guide, and translator Deborah Chandler, author:

Traditional Weavers of Guatemala: Their Stories, Their Lives
Learning to Weave and Guatemalan Woven Wealth

mayanhandsny@mayanhands.org

To register: Mayan Hands Tour Registration Form

 What You Will Do

MH2– Meet Mayan Hands weavers In their homes and communities

– Try your hand at backstrap weaving

– Shop the world-famous Chichicastenango market

– Visit Mayan sites and museums, including Museo Ixchel, named for the goddess of weaving.

– Savor delicious traditional Guatemalan foods

-Explore Guatemalan Highlands, beautiful Lake Atitlan and the colonial city of Antigua.

 Click HERE for complete itinerary.

What You Will FindMH6

Experience the natural beauty of Guatemala and immerse yourself in Mayan culture, ancient and contemporary, in the homes of weavers, in extraordinary markets and museums and in your connections with Guatemala’s greatest treasure, her people.

You will return home with your spirit renewed and hope restored.  Plus of course, a suitcase of gorgeous handwoven fabrics!

The DetailsMH 1

– Trip cost of $1895 includes all lodging (double occupancy), most meals, local transportation, translation, entrance fees and $400 donation to Mayan Hands (with tax deduction receipt). Airfare and personal expenses not included.

– Discounts available for Mayan Hands supporters. Contact us for details.

Guatemala banner

For more information and trip itinerary click here  or email Deborah Chandler at weavingfutures2012@gmail.com

Sharing stories and dreams

Sharing stories and dreams

It’s been a long time since I last wrote…

Since I left Guatemala….Oooh those wonderful days!!!

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I came back to my home in Mexico City and I continued with my different natural dye projects, always inspired by my Mayan friends.

But magic always appears in my life in such wonderful ways. I’ve always thought that everything happens for a reason, and that the people we meet, and the things we do are no coincidence. Life works in mysterious ways.

All the wonderful women I met in the “Tintes Naturales Project” (the Guatemalan and the American) have made a difference in my life, and I will always carry them in my heart.

Helped by my American friends, I will be travelling to the U.S. in a few days.

I will be talking at this years WARP (Weave a Real peace) meeting in San Francisco. I will have the opportunity to share my experience during my days in Guatemala and to talk about the Importance of textiles in this country.

I will be giving cochineal workshops as well. Irene Schmoller and Robin Lynde organized a cochineal workshop at the Meridian Jacobs Farm in Vacaville, California.  Donna Brown organized another in the Denver area at Recycled Lamb, Golden, Colorado.

Cochineal Dye Workshop Meridian Jacobs2

I’ll be teaching a Cochineal Workshop in California and Colorado 

Plus a slide show presentation of my experiences with the women of San Rafael, Guatemala.

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In the Bay Area?  Come hear my presentation on

“The Importance of Textiles to Grassroot Economies in Guatemala”

I trust this will help the women from Guatemala sell more kits!

This Project has helped them to earn a fair wage for the first time.  At the end of 2014 they have earned twice the money (in just 3 months) that they normally do just by weaving the whole year.

They are now selling 3 different types of Friendship Towel kits for both rigid heddle and 4-shaft looms! Now you can even weave vests, jackets and baby blankets!! Cotton Clouds will have these kits at the WARP Annual Meeting May 29-31, 2015.  Also available online at Cotton Clouds.

vest

Friendship Vest by Lois Weaver

jacket

Friendship jacket by Lois Weaver

baby blanket

Friendship Baby Blanket by Robin Lynde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I hope to see some of you there!

May our paths cross one day, so we can share stories and be part of the same dream for a moment… a fragment of time in this awkward and wonderful world.

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Sacred threads, Sacred Lives

August 16th, 2014

versión en español

Sacred threads, Sacred Lives

 “Thread is sacred! He knows, and he feels…”

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View form Gilberta’s house

That’s what the women told me, when some of the threads we dyed with cochineal were full of knots, just after we finished washing them.

We were all trying to fix them, and while doing this, they told me:

 “ Threads know…they always know when we are in a hurry or when we are not happy. That is why we need to be in a good mood while working with them.

Right now, the thread is mocking us, because we were desperate to go, and now we are full of knots.

 When we are not happy, is better no to continue weaving or working, because the thread can feel it, and it gets difficult to continue.

 When we are weaving and we are in a hurry, it takes us more time to finish! And when we are weaving without any pressure or bad emotion, everything flows and we finish very quickly.”

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cochineal

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Fulgencia working with threads

All this time, I was very impressed with their ability to untie knots. They do it in such an easy way! Flowing, like dancing with the thread!

Unlike me, sometimes I can  spend  a lot of time trying to untie a knot, without any luck.

Now I understand it! They are like having a conversation with the threads…. And they have a natural skill to work with them!

That’s the way they interact with the world and with nature! Flowing with life…

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Abelina weaving on the backstrap loom

A couple of weeks ago they told me a similar thing about corn.

They say that is better to eat the corn they have planted. Because that way it has more “ uk’ux” , more HEART!

That’s how the old wise mayan men call it.

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Elote (corn)

They say you can feel the connection with corn, because you saw the plant grow and you worked the ground.

It’s like having a connection with all living and non living things! They feel and they listen …and LIFE talks to them in amazing ways.

I eat “Elote” (corn) in Mexico, but I buy it on the stores… This week I ate “ elote” here , they brought it from one of their fields. It was coming fresh right from the field to my hands.

And it’s amazing to tell you… it feels different…!

I would like to think that maybe I felt the corn’s “uk’ux”(heart).

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Elote (corn)

Gilberta’s House

I just moved to Gilberta’s, she has finished her house! Unfortunately I will be staying here only for 6 days! (instead of 13, as I did with the other women).

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Gilberta’s brand new house

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Gilberta

There’s no electricity yet! So we are using candles. It’s a different experience, and I think is ideal to spend my last days here this way… More connected to everything and without any technology.

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Gilberta’s house by night… no electricity!

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candles..candles!

This is my last week here in San Rafael! I can’t believe it.. time passes so quickly!

I’m leaving on Monday.. and it’s sad to think about it.

We have been dyeing this week, in order to make a review, and see if they have any questions!

But I think they are more than ready to continue on their own!

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yarn dyed with cochineal and madder

So don’t miss my last post next week! We’ll be having a goodbye party on Monday!

Deborah and Julio (From Mayan Hands) are coming!

Wiila wiib ‘

Rocío

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearts working together!

If you want to read the whole story, from the beginning! Click here

August 7th, 2014

versión en español

Hearts working together!

This last week was crazy!

We have been dyeing , winding and packing to get more kits ready.

We were expecting the Handwoven magazine article until september, but for some reason we don’t understand, the article came out earlier.

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Women winding balls at Elvira’s house

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Some of the packages ready to go!

So that’s why we only had some kits ready. But we have been working a lot to send more kits as soon as possible!  We finished 117 kits yersterday! Now we just need to wait for them to arrive to the U.S.!!!!

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Abelina carrying the yarn and boxes form one place to another.

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Kits ready to go! Women smiling, the work is finished!

 

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Women packing the kits

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Elvira and Berta packing kits

 The Friendship towel kits

This project started like 5 years ago, and since then,  a lot of volunteers have been working to make this possible.

Catharine Ellis and Donna Brown came down here last year to teach the women more about Natural Dyes, and then last march Donna Brown came back for a week with Diane de Souza and me.

The towels were designed by Sarah H. Jackson.

Irene Schmoller from Cotton Clouds is helping to sell the kits without any profits at all.

There’s also all the Mayan Hands team in the U.S (Anne Kelly and Mary Joan), in Guatemala city (Julio Cardona), and Brenda Rosenbaum, the founder of Mayan Hands.

And of course Deborah Chandler, this couldn’t have been posible without her.

All this people working together to make this Project succeed!

Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

Featured in Sept/Oct 2014 Handwoven

The kit includes 11 balls dyed with different Natural Dyed colors: Dark cochineal, light cochineal, osage orange, natural, madder, light indigo, dark indigo and osage orange+indigo (green).

It also includes the instructions on how to weave 4 beautiful towels.

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Kits ready to go!

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Kit seen from the back, you can appreciate all the different colors!

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Friendship towel kit

TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS KITS  click here.

TO ORDER FRIENDSHIP TOWEL KITS  click here.

But of course we couldn’t be talking about this Project and the Friendship towels without this 5 incredible women: Fulgencia, Berta, Abelina, Elvira and Gilberta.

They had faith in this Project since the beginning, and they have continued working hard, even if they didn’t have any profit on the beginnning.

This last week we discovered I should have been spending 13 days instead of 12 on each women’s house. So I returned one more day with each one of the women.

Just like a perfect review for you to meet them:

Fulgencia

IMG_4295She’s the mother of three children: Chente (18), Glenda (16) and the youngest one (13).

They all go to school but the boys need to work some days by night, making bread. Glenda has   a Mayan Hands scholarship. Her husband works in Guatemala city, and he only comes home every two weekends.

They have a beautiful house on the other side of the river. It’s called Chisaliá.

I could describe Fulgencia as a joyful woman! She is very responsable, she always arrives on time and she really pays attention to the details. His husband is very good at fixing things, so they also fix bicycles and different things.

The children are always helping their mother. They all like winding balls! Glenda has learned how to weave from her mother, it’s amazing to see how the knowledge passes from one generation to another. Between them, they only speak in “achi” (mayan dialect), but they spoke to me in Spanish.

Fulencia & Family

Fulencia & Family

Berta

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She’s is a single woman, she decided not to get married, so he lives with their parents and youngest sisters.

She takes care of her nephew, he’s one year old.

She is very funny and  smart!

It’s easier for me to communicate with her! In this house they speak achí, but also a lot of spanish. She has two younger sisters living in that house. Miriam is 16 and she’s in highschool and Irma must be like 23, she’s studying at the universtiy to become a professor. We really got along well!

They live on the mountains, far away. To go to town we needed to walk like 30-35 minutes and then take a pick up. That’s the same for Fulgencia and Abelina.  They have hens and chickens to sell, as well as pigs.

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Berta’s family and me

Abelina

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She is Berta’s sister, she lives just next door. She has 4 children. Three girls: Mishel (8 ), Karen (14) , Leyli (19) and one boy: Edwin ( 16).

Leyli has a Mayan Hands scholarship.

I got along very well with those girls, specially Mishel! Abelina’s husband also works in Guatemala city, he spends some time in here and some time in the city.

In this house they only speak in spanish!!

Abelina is always smiling and making jokes.

She is also very good at math, and she is kind of the secretary of the group. She is charge of writing everything down on a notebook. (all the dyeing procedures)

 

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Abelina’s family and me

Elvira

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Elvira lives closer to town. To go to town you only need to get a pick up ( you don’t need to walk between the mountains).

She has 2 boys: Misael (12) and the oldest one ( 14).

Her husband left to the U.S eight years algo , but she barely hears from him. She’s alone to do all the tasks, because she doesn’t have any girls, to help her cook or clean.

She wakes up very early in the morning to milk the cow, and then she makes cheese to sell. Her parents leave very close to her, like 10 minutes away.

She’s always very busy feeding the ducks, hens, pigs, and taking care of her children. We dye at her house, this is the place where we have been dyeing since the beginning!

 

Gilberta

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I haven’t lived with her yet. Maybe this weekend!

She’s finishing her house!!! She will have a new house to live! Exciting! So we are waiting for her to finish it, so that I could go spend my last days with her.

She is a very joyful and active woman!

She is the leader of the weavers, she started the Weaving Project like 12 years ago.

She has one daughter! She’s already and adult.

 

They are all very honest, kind and responsable women!! and they all want to improve their income, so their children could have a better way of life.

And of course, they all get along very well! They are very good friends.

This was a longer post, but it was worthed, for you to be able to get closer to this women.  Next week I’ll be going to Gilberta’s…

I only have a week and a half left!

 THIS JOURNEY IS ALMOST FINISHED!

Don’t miss my last stories!

Wilaa wiib’

Rocío

 

The four cardinal points

If you want to read the whole story, from the beginning! Click here.

July 30th, 2014

versión en español

The four cardinal points

For Mayas, the four cardinal points are sacred! They refer to them, and they bless them in a lot of ceremonies!

To me they represent their love to mother earth and nature.

This week, I changed my direction too, I’m staying on the other side of the mountains and closer to town. at Elvira’s house, the place where we have been dyeing since the beginning.

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Elvira’s corn field

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Corn field

Last Thursday we started our day by watching the MAIWA Documentary “Blue Alchemy, Stories of Indigo”. It’s a great film, and it shows stories from all different parts of the world.

I made the translation for them, and they were really touched by the part filmed in Mexico, where they could see an indigenous community dying with Indigo. The women of this community in Mexico make a cross before dying with indigo, just like a blessing, over the pot.

They really liked that, because to them the cross represents the four cardinal points. So now each time we start an indigo vat, we make a cross and we bless the cardinal points.

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Indigo vat

By watching this movie they could really understand where Indigo comes from and how people from other cultures and other parts of the world dye.

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Women reading the books

They are very interested in Natural Dyes, I’ve showed them some books and they really want to learn more about them.

They are even asking for some seeds to plant!

Everyday life

After watching the movie, we started dyieing. And we didn’t stop! Not even on Saturday or Sunday!

We dyed aproximately 70 pounds of yarn!

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Dyed yarn

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Cochineal, osage orange and madder

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Yarn at Elvira’s house

We had some problems…

I decided to grind the dried avocados pits on the coffee machine, but it didn’t work out! And I broke it!

Fortunately, I found out that in the same place they grind corn everyday, they have a coffee grinder. So we went there and they grind it for us! Problema solved!

But we did have to grind the cochineal by hand…

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Abelina and Fulgencia grinding the cochineal (red cochineal hands)

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 It’s really amazing how hard they work and how they do everything with a smile on their mouths!  Always laughing and making jokes!   That’s really something to learn from them.

They never stop, when they are not dyeing, winding balls or weaving, they are taking care of their animals (cows,ducks,hens,pigs), or working on their fields. Plus the normal housework because they all have kids and they need to take care of them.

Good quality is very important to them! and they pay a lot of attention to that.

They told me the other day: “Quality is very important because we want our clients to be happy with the product. If it’s not good enough, we need to find a solution and get better”

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Women packing the kits


Their persistence is incredible!

 Coming next…

We’ll keep up winding balls and making packages !

The kits are already out there! And they are selling like crazy!

Friendship Towel photo from HW

Example of the towels you can make with this kits

You can find them  by clicking here  or in this address:

http://www.cottonclouds.com/shopping/kit_info.asp?id=3074&cat=Weaving&panelID=2

 

Don’t miss my next days here! I will be moving to Gilberta’s and lots of new adventures.

Wilaa wiib’ (good bye in achi)

Rocío

 

 

 

Dying & Dyeing

If you want to read the whole story,  from the beginning! Click here.

July 23th, 2014

versión en español

Dying & Dyeing

Last week started with a funeral, a woman from San Rafael had died.

When somebody dies here, all town attends to the funeral and the different ceremonies.

The first night we went to the “velorio”, which takes place in the house. We prayed the rosary and we made company to the family while eating bread and drinking coffee.

It was kind of an adventure to get there, because we had to walk though the mountains in the middle of the night to get to the house, just with a flashlight to see our way.

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The funeral, people carrying the body

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The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal

The next day we attended to the funeral. It started at noon, when the family members gave “pinol” (traditional food) to hundreds of people in their home.

Then we walked from their house in San Rafael down to the cementery in Rabinal (2 hours walk). The volunteers (all of them men) were carrying the body in the front, and we all walked behind them while a band was playing.

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The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal

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The cementery , and “the ancianitos” praying!

It was a very interesting experience! The “ancianitos” (old wise men) were in the front, saying a lot of prayers in “achi”, and making reverences to the four cardinal points. They did that like 4 or 5 times on our way.

 Dyeing

The next day after the funeral, we started dyeing yarn!   We started by scouring and mordanting the yarn, but also by  making a lot of tests!

A few days before I did something crazy, I decided to buy 400 avocado pits from a guy in the market.  Actually we are trying to replace the tannic acid with avocado pits for the mordant part. The tannic acid is the most expensive product, so that would be perfect.  I think women can get this pits for free on the avocado season and let them dry.

We started by slicing them, and then they had the idea to grind them on a cheese grinder and it worked perfectly.

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Slicing avocado pits

 

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Avocado pits

We also made some tests on rayon and organic cotton.

Indigo crisis

We dyed with cochineal, osage orange, madder and indigo.   All the other colors were a success! But we were really having troble with indigo. This time we made an organic vat made with banana juice (last time we tried with mangos and it worked well).

 

 

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Abelina peeling the bananas for the indigo vat

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Banana juice

We made two indigo vats, but we were having trouble to achieve the same shades of blue. With the first pound we got beautiful dark blues but then it was difficult to get even colors.

We let the vat rest, we added more sugar (hot banana juice) and more lime. And when we got back like 4 hours later, the vat was even worst!

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Women using leaves to carry hot pots from one place to another

The indigo wasn’t reduced!

At first I was desperate! But after trying a lot of different things, I just decided we should try a new one.

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Indigo reflections!

At the end we were even making jokes about how the indigo was sick and had died!

So, I don’t know what happened to that vat, it just made me realize that dying with Indigo, specially with an organic vat, is really a challenge.

The women are a little bit worried about Indigo, they don’t really understand it. But I will try to change that! It’s just a matter of practice!

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Indigo vat

 

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dyed yarn

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dyed yarn


Good bye Abelina

I’moving to Elvira’s today. So I’ll say goodbye to this wonderful family, Abelina’s family is wonderful. She has three daughters (Leily,Mishel and Karen) and one son (Edwin).

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Abelina’s family and me (wearing corte)

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Abelina and her daughter Leily

Mishel is 8, and we got along really well! She’s very nice and cute!

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Mishel (Abelina’s 8 year daughter)

I won’t be on this side of the mountains anymore. I’ll miss that!

It’s very far away from town, but full with nature and amazing landscapes.

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View on our way to Abelina’s home

 

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View on our way to Abelina’s house

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Abelina’s house

To go anywhere we need to walk like 30-35 minutes through the mountains.

Don’t miss my new adventures at Elvira’s… and more dyeing is coming!

Wilaa wiib’ (good bye in achí)

Rocío

 

 

 

 

Threads of life

July 13th,2014

Versión en español

Threads of life

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Preparing the yarn for weaving!

This week has been all about threads…about winding balls, counting yarn and weaving on the back strap loom.

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preparing the loom…

I’ve been thinking that winding a thread is just like life.

We continue turning and turning on the wheel of life just like we do on a winder, until we find a knot or a problem on our way, and that’s when we just stop.  Suddenly, we don’t know what to do and we start making the knot or the problem bigger and bigger. Instead of just trying to undo the knot, simply by loosening the threads.

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threads

When I was learning to wind yarn on the wheel, they told me it was very important to never tightening the threads. Sometimes it seems like there’s no way to continue and we get stuck. But we just need to find other way by loosening the threads.     Flowing! Like the river! Like in life…

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Preparing the yarn for weaving

This is one of the many things I’ve learned here! We should keep living! Flowing without making knots.

I’ve been observing how they weave on the back strap loom; they received some new orders so they ‘ve been weaving and weaving beautiful scarves.  I really like the back stripe loom, actually I ‘ve just finished my first piece.

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I’ve just finished my first piece on the back strap loom

Maiz, mazorcas y más (Corn)

I spent this last week at Berta’s house. Living in this house was a different experience, they speak Spanish almost all the time, so it was easier to communicate. The past few days had been about learning and discovering how things are done here.

I learned how they prepare atol (traditional beverage made with corn) and how they prepare some other traditional dishes, like boshbol ( leaves full of corn).

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Boshbol (leaves full with corn)

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Preparing dinner

 

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straining “atol”

I also got to see “the Molino” where they go every morning to grind corn for making “tortillas”.

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“Molino”- grinding corn…

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“Molino” seen from the outside

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Corn ready to make “tortillas”

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I found out that a regular family buys approximately 100 pounds of corn each 10 days. It’s amazing how their whole life turns around corn. Everyday I get more and more evidence on how their whole alimentation is based on corn.

Almost all of them have cornfields, and they eat from their own crop  or 9 or 10 months depending on the season, and then they have to buy the rest on the market.

Berta was saying the other say:

“We prefer to eat the corn that comes from our own field, because somehow it tastes better and we get more out of it. When we eat from the land we have worked, it has more uk’ux (heart).

It’s the heart of earth!  ” uk’ux ulew”      The holy mother earth!

Right now they are worried because it hasn’t been raining, Rain is very important in this season because it’s the harvest time, so if it doesn’t rain soon, all the harvest will be gone and the prices will increase a lot next year.

Coming next…

I’m moving to Abelina’s house this weekend. She is Berta’s sister so I’ll be just next-door.

Days pass so quickly! I can’t believe my days with Berta are over, but I have met wonderful people and I leave this house with my heart full of great memories!

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Berta’s family and me