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Zapotec Warp and Weft: The Web That Has a Weaver


I have never spent much time in front of a peddle loom or sliding a shuttle through the arms to weave much of anything. But there are people and peoples in the world who know that beauty making sets them deeply in their places and connects them entirely to their ancestry and history – making it not distant or remote but actively woven into their days.

It is good fortune that not everybody forgets such ways all at once. There are some who still dip their paddle in the river of Beauty of Handmade Craft and know their way around all the bends and eddies. Some art (yes, that is a verb) the world like this. One such man is Porfirio Gutierrez from the small town of Teotitilan del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico.

When Spain came and pillaged Mexico and the peoples there (including but not only) the Mexica-Tenochca people who we call Aztec but also their neighbors, the Zapotec, one of the many losses was the loss of language and Spanish became the de facto language. Amazingly pockets of Zapotec and Nahuatl speakers carried on their tongue – others did too. And that language carries with it a way of seeing in the world.

“When I say I am Porfirio Gutiérrez, this means nothing. It’s no responsibility at all, but at the moment I say, I am a native of Teotitlán, descendent of the Zapotec civilization, this brings forth a very large responsibility.”

That responsibility means spinning the wool and dyeing with traditional sources like cochineal, Mexican tarragon, rust, indigo and others. The Gutierrez family are all involved with transmitting the worldview of the Zapotec into the world through the design and their approach to the materials.

The warp of these blankets is what the weft is woven around and you don’t really see the warp in the end except for tying the edges together. It might be that beauty making in slow old ways are part of the weft of our lives. Unnoticed but absolutely crucial to walking in a life-affirming, culture making way in the world.

So find this good man and his family if you can or find someone who walks in similar ways.

We here at Primal Derma try to walk in some of these old ways too, maybe a bit like the Gutierrez family. If you need some, we are here.

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