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Posts Tagged ‘cotton’

Not all cotton bolls are white…

Roberta French, who built my apartment complex in Oaxaca many decades ago, established a textile weaving business and planted coyuche (koyuchi), a natural brown cotton.  She is no longer with us, but her plant survives and grows up onto my balcony.  This time of year, the yellow, pink, and rose flowers bloom, die, form pods, and brown cotton fluff results.

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And the results?  Here, at my apartment complex, the plant is solely decorative.  However, the traditional way of growing, spinning, and weaving brown cotton is still practiced in some communities in coastal Oaxaca, Mexico.  And, I have been lucky enough to have been gifted an old huipil woven of coyuche and acquired a new one at an expo-venta here in Oaxaca city.  If you would like more information on coyuche and its cultivation and weaving, I recommend checking out the Katyi Ya’a collective.

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A mile or two from the city are fields of corn; a recurring reminder of where the masa used to make tortillas, tamales, and other mealtime staples, comes from.  Livestock roam the hills and are often seen being herded down the streets of local villages.

Goats being herded down dirt road

And, at the foot of the stairs of my new apartment is a coyuche bush — the brown cotton plant that has been cultivated in this part of the world for thousands of years.

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The ripe buds of the coyuche have been harvested, cleaned, spun, and woven into huipiles and cotones (men’s shirts) by countless generations.  However, like many textile traditions, industrialization has taken its toll.  The cultivation and use of coyuche is literally hanging by a thread, mostly confined to the Mixteca and Costa Chica regions of Oaxaca.  As a result, besides just liking the design and color, I have a profound appreciation for and treasure this old huipil that was given to me a couple of years ago.

Embroidery detail of huipil made of coyuche

It’s in desperate need of repair.  My friend and Mexican textile collector and chronicler, Sheri Brautigam, advised me to take it to Odilon Merino Morales, who is from San Juan Amuzgo and leads an effort to revive the use of coyuche.  I will ask him if he knows of someone who could give my huipil some tender loving mending.

Living close to the source — there is something wonderful about the coyuche plant’s daily reminder of the origin of one of my favorite huipiles.

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