First American Art Magazine No. 13, Winter 2016/17 - Page 24

Zapotec Weaving The Resurgence of a Cultural Artform Artists from Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, keep the visions of their Zapotec ancestors alive through naturally dyed and intricately woven textiles By Kevin Simpson A S WE APPROACHED THE HOUSE, a sweet aroma rose from cacao beans roasting on the comal. We could hear a faint, click-clack sound in the close distance. “This must be the right place,” I said to my wife as I knocked on the door. María Luisa opened the door with a big smile on her face. “Welcome,” she said and turned toward the room where the click-clack sound came from. She yelled, “Guta’a saednadan dunun! ” [Come, we have visitors!] “Wait, what did you just say?” I asked. My Spanish is fairly good, but I didn’t understand a word of what she had just said. María Luisa turned back to me and said, “That was Zapotec. We are Zapotec, and we still speak our language in our home. Our children learn Spanish in the school, but we believe it is very important that we speak Zapotec in the house so our children will learn to speak it. We are trying to keep our traditions alive.”1 Just then, her husband Jacobo came out to greet us. “Bala xhte yubtu rebaestu. [Welcome to our home.] As my wife explained, we speak Zapotec here,” he said. “Come, let me show you what it means to be a Zapotec weaver.” We first met Jacobo Mendoza Ruiz and María Luisa Vásquez del Mendoza in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie, two famous weavers, curated the 2012 exhibition, Esplendor de Textil, at the Peter Gray Museum on the University of Guadalajara’s Puerto Vallarta campus. The exhibition showcased Zapotec tapestries that transcended the utilitarian or Contemporary Zapotec rug, wool, cotton, natural dyes. Image courtesy of the author. commercial rug. When organizing the exhibition, the dilemma for the two curators was how to choose who would get to exhibit from the village Teotitlán del Valle, 1. In 2010, according to data from Instituto Nacional para el Federalismo y el Desarrollo Municipal (INAFED), Teotitlán del Valle’s population was 4,357, and 3,727 spoke Zapotec as a first language although 3,440 considered themselves bilingual. Moisés Castillejos Martínez, “Estado de Oaxaca: Teotitlán del Valle,” Enciclopedia de los Municipios y Delegaciones de México, 2010, web. 22 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM