The beginning of the end…


The beginning of the end…

This journey is almost finished…


The river in San Rafael

I left San Rafael yesterday, it was a sad goodbye but I leave with my heart full of joy and great memories !

The women prepared us a great meal! They prepared a soup with turkey in it, and some tamalitos (made of corn).

Deborah, Julo and Damaris were there, and we all celebrated at Gilberta’s house.


Women cooking


Deborah, Damaris and Julio

It was a busy day, the women arrived at Gilberta’s at 6 in the morning to start cooking. They were all smiling and making jokes, as they always do!


preparing “tamalitos”


women cooking


Berta and Elvira preparing tamalitos

The women gave me a gift! A beautiful black huipil!

They are so nice, I was very moved…


Abelina teaching me how to do some weaving techniques

They also helped me set up the warp on my backstrap loom, so I could be able to weave on it at my home back in Mexico.


Abelina setting up the warp


Me, weaving!

At the beginning of the day we were all very happy, Deborah and Julio arrived at 11am, but as the hours passed we started to feel sad. I couldn’t believe I was leaving that day!


Eating and having a good time at Gilberta’s

But the hours passed quickly and by 3 in the afternoon, we had to go.

We all had tears in our eyes… it was a very moving goodbye!

But I know it’s not a goodbye.. it’s just a see you later!



Mishel, Karen and me




The women and me (and the Handwoven magazine)


The women and me… the goodbye!!

I’m in Guatemala City right now… feeling kind of strange!

I spent 2 months living with these women and I got used to everything. Things like making tortillas, seeing women carrying stuff on their heads, or walking in the mountains became normal to me.

It’s amazing how we get used to things!

And here I am.. back in the city, where normal things like taking a shower with hot water seem amazing to me!

It was a great experience! One I will never forget.

Our paths cross for a few months, weeks, days, hours…. Seconds! But I will carry these women and their families in my heart for life.


Berta, Elvira, Fulgencia, Abelina and Gilberta (from left to right)

I learned great lessons and meeting these women with great souls, so connected to nature, will make me a different person.

And I hope you will carry  a little bit of these women in your heart too…

This week Deborah will take me to visit some other places in Guatemala, and I’ll be finally going back to my home in Mexico City on Saturday.

So I say “wiila wiib” (goodbye) to you for now….

This is the END of this adventure… but I’m surely the BEGINNING of more!

 “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nim-

Wiila wiib’

Rocío Mena


Sacred threads, Sacred Lives

August 16th, 2014

versión en español

Sacred threads, Sacred Lives

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


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.”




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…


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.


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).


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).


Gilberta’s brand new house



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.


Gilberta’s house by night… no electricity!



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!


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 ‘










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.


Women winding balls at Elvira’s house


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.!!!!


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


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



Women packing the kits


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.


Kits ready to go!


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


Friendship towel kit



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:


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



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.


Berta’s family and me



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)



Abelina’s family and me




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!




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!


Don’t miss my last stories!

Wilaa wiib’



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.


Elvira’s corn field


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.


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.


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!


Dyed yarn


Cochineal, osage orange and madder


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…


Abelina and Fulgencia grinding the cochineal (red cochineal hands)

 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”


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:


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)





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.


The funeral, people carrying the body


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.


The funeral.. on our way to Rabinal


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.


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.


Slicing avocado pits



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).




Abelina peeling the bananas for the indigo vat


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!


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.


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!


Indigo vat



dyed yarn


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).


Abelina’s family and me (wearing corte)


Abelina and her daughter Leily

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


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.


View on our way to Abelina’s home



View on our way to Abelina’s house


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)






Threads of life

July 13th,2014

Versión en español

Threads of life


Preparing the yarn for weaving!

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


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.



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…


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.


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).


Boshbol (leaves full with corn)


Preparing dinner



straining “atol”

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


“Molino”- grinding corn…


“Molino” seen from the outside


Corn ready to make “tortillas”


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!


Berta’s family and me



Dyeing & Moving !

July 10, 2014

versión en español

Dyeing yarn

Watching the depot

Watching the pot


osage orange

Last week we started dyeing. We walked between 35 to 40 minutes to get to Elvira’s house, we took the regular road, crossing the river and walking in the middle of nature. The women carrying all sort of different things on their heads, from packages to plants.


On our way back to Fulgencia´s house


On our way back to Fulgencia’s house

The dyeing was great! We dyed 25 pounds of yarn using indigo, osage orange, cochineal and madder.

Keeping their eye on it all the time

Keeping their eye on it all the time

It was a new experience for me, being in charge and making so many decisions.

I wasn’t used to it! But I’ve learned a lot and I hope to get better!

So many things to plan ahead!


Indigo vat

Cochineal coming out of the depot.

Cochineal coming out of the depot.

The first day we forgot the balance at Fulgencia’s house. And that was very problematic, because we are doing everything by foot.

We also had an issue with soap. We were using a neutral soap, and that’s not easy to find here.

When we arrived at Elvira’s we found out they had run out of soap, so we tried to buy more, but for some reason we couldn’t find more of the same neutral soap.

Elvira lives in San Rafael, so we were far away from Rabinal (the biggest town nearby.

Yarn dyed with cochineal, indigo and osage orange. What a beautiful rainbow of color!

Well, that’s how our first day dyeing started! But thankfully at the end everything turned out to be ok.

I really want to thank Diane, Donna and Catharine for answering my questions, and specially to Deborah for helping me and making this communication possible.



Moving to Bertha’s

On Monday I moved to Bertha’s, I started my day by taking a bath on the river and weaving on the back stripe loom. (I started my back strap weaving lessons with Fulgencia).

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

Abelina and Bertha carrying my luggage and stuff

In the afternoon, Bertha and Abelina arrived and we moved everything to Bertha’s.

At his point I thought I couldn’t be more impressed. But seeing Abelina and Bertha carrying my things on their heads was really impressive.

Two cultures meet: Abelina carrying my luggage

Two cultures meet: Abelina carrying my luggage

Abelina carried my 18kg luggage on her head, while Bertha was carrying my bed on her head too. They crossed the river like that!

Crossing the river of beautiful stones

Crossing the river of beautiful stones carrying my luggage on their heads


I really insisted on renting a pick up. But they refuse.

They just kept saying:  “it’s not heavy! It’s nearby!

Coming next…

 My new experience at Bertha’s house, right now I’m still getting use to it.

A new family, and new stories!

We will be doing the next step… counting and winding yarn!

See you soon!

Wilaa Wiim   (good bye in achí)