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Posts Tagged ‘embroidery’

As I’ve mentioned before, the ubiquitous aprons (mandiles) worn by the Zapotec women of the valley of Oaxaca have been elevated to an art form.  Each village has developed their own unique style and none is more distinctive than those worn by the women of San Miguel del Valle.

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Their full-skirted pinafore style aprons, made from poly-cotton plaid fabric, are elaborately machine-embroidered with colorful flowers and birds.  Worn daily, they are the “uniform” of the women of the village beginning when they are little girls.  And, most women have a wardrobe full — one to match each dress.

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Thanks to microfinancing assistance from Fundación En Via, many of the women have developed profitable businesses selling these aprons and also have branched out to making tote bags and purses.  The Fundación recently held a 3-day expo-venta in Oaxaca city and guess what I came home with?

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I’m hoping to go on one of the Fundación microfinancing tours next month — to meet and learn from the women who benefit and to further contribute to this worthwhile endeavor.  Empowering women empowers communities!

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The lowly utilitarian apron has been elevated to an art form by the Zapotec women of the Tlacolula valley in Oaxaca.  Worn every day, mandiles (aprons) are an essential and practical part of their traditional dress.  Most women own several and take great pains to color coordinate them with the day’s attire.

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Fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe at the home of Fidel Cruz and Maria Luisa Mendoza, Teotitlán del Valle.

Plainer aprons are worn around the home.  However, they don one of their “Sunday best” aprons for special occasions.  These are heavily embroidered and often have necklines and hems that are scalloped and, as a fashion statement, are frequently worn to the weekly market.

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Vendor at the Sunday market in Tlacolula del Valle.

Mandiles are made of store-bought poly-cotton fabric, usually in a small plaid design. While “100% cotton” sounds more desirable to many of us, the blend is undeniably more practical.  After all, who wants to iron when there is work to do and the temperatures are summery all year ’round?

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Andrea weaving in Teotitlán del Valle.

Even though the embroidery is done by sewing machine, the more elaborate designs can take from three to four days days to make.  Aprons range in price from approximately 150 to 700 pesos.

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Leonor Lazo feeding a baby goat in Teotitlán del Valle.

Given that, in addition to being practical, these are also a fashion accessory,  it should come as no surprise that styles can vary from village to village.

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Young women from San Miguel del Valle attending a festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

I grew up with aprons.  My grandmother lived next door and could always be found wearing a “house-dress” and a pinafore style apron with front patch pockets.  Some were plain, but many she decorated with embroidery.  Thus the mandiles of Oaxaca spoke to me and I listened.

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Reyna Mendoza speaking to her El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class.

My first “Oaxaca” apron was a maroon plaid cobbler style with only a moderate amount of embroidery. After a year or two, it became so much a part of my home attire that I bought another in brown plaid.  These are my workhorses and I wear them every day while cooking, cleaning, and even gardening.  And, I proudly bring my own apron to cooking classes and make sure to pack one when I’ve been invited to a fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle — putting it on to help clear tables. I always get smiles from the women (and some of the men, too).

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Me, the metate, and maiz at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

However, after countless Sunday market day trips to Tlacolula de Matamoros, not to mention, spending a lot time over the past several years in Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the fashion statements women, both young and old, were making, so I bought a slightly more elaborately embroidered pinafore style and then another and another.

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Three of my mandiles; the red is the newest.

I even dared to wear one recently in New York at my granddaughter’s first birthday party.  With children ranging in age from six weeks to six years, I thought it was a very practical fashion statement on my part.  And, guess who got one for her birthday?

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Birthday present to my granddaughter — a toddler-size mandil.

A good place to check who is wearing what style of mandil is at Tlacolula’s Sunday market.  And, should you want to buy one for yourself and/or give one as a gift, there are at least eight apron stalls at the back of the market on Sundays.

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Apron stall at the back of the Tlacolula de Matamoros market.

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The celebration of Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indigenas continues in Oaxaca this weekend, with music, dance, food, and an artisan expo-venta (sale) in Jardín El Pañuelito.  As I walked through the exposition, one woman’s embroidery drew me back for a second look.  I was especially drawn to a huipil that had been hanging next to the one below.  It’s not in this photo, because one of the “Diablos” from the Santiago Juxtlahuaca dance troupe (who were performing later) had already volunteered to climb up on a chair to take it down for her to show to me.

However, before I could get my money out, a delegation of dignitaries came by for a photo shoot.

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This popular and exceptionally talented woman is Carmen Vásquez Pérez, from San Mateo Yetla, Valle Nacional, located 172 kilometers northeast of Oaxaca city in the Papaloapan Region.  According to the article, Mujeres preservan bordado en Yetla, the village is surrounded by waterfalls and lush vegetation and is rich in Chinanteca customs.

P1130484Doña Carmen learned to embroider as a child and has been instrumental in an effort to preserve and promote the local traditional designs and techniques.  As you can see below, her workmanship is exquisite.

P1130489 After returning home and doing a little research, I’m even more pleased with my purchase.  And, by the way, I did not “bargain” — my new treasure is worth every peso of its 600 peso price tag, and then some!

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