Mayan Weavers’ Cooperative In Berkeley This Weekend

Charlene Woodcock
Friday April 22, 2016 - 02:05:00 PM

Jolom Mayaetik is the name in Tzotzil of a Mayan weavers’ cooperative formed in 1996 in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. The Zapatista uprising of 1994 was probably the catalyst for its formation, along with the failure of the Chiapas state weavers’ cooperative to benefit its members. And in 2016 Jolom Mayaetik continues to serve the interests of women whose beautiful, complex work has been taken for granted or marginalized in the past but whose technical skills and aesthetic traditions are providing a means for them to gain independence and also to provide financial support for their families at a time when they are increasingly forced into a cash economy. 

Some of us in this country regret the loss of once ubiquitous handcrafts, functional art, that in the past provided both an income and creative satisfaction for those who made pottery for use, wove and sewed textiles for clothing and home use, were masters of woodworking and the building skills. It is deeply satisfying to see the successful effort of this women’s cooperative to carry on an art tradition that has been passed from mother to daughter over hundreds of years. One of the most accomplished members of the cooperative, Magdalena López López, began learning to weave at age seven. Because her mother had died, she asked her stepmother to teach her but was rebuffed. But her father saw that she was serious and began to buy her yarn, and she observed other weavers closely until she mastered the techniques. She has created two thirty-foot tapestries that document the hundreds of weaving patterns that she learned or created, one of which was displayed last year at the Museum of the Americas in Madrid. Her nine-year-old daughter takes justifiable satisfaction in her own work (2015 photos below). 

Textiles from the Jolom Mayaetik weavers’ cooperative will be on display and the cooperative president Elvia Gomez Lopez will be demonstrating backstrap loom weaving at The Gardener, 1836 Fourth Street in Berkeley, 2 to 4 PM Saturday April 30, and at Talavera, 1801 University Avenue, Berkeley, Saturday and Sunday May 7 and 8, noon to 6 PM. For further information, charlene@woodynet.net.