Oaxacan Weaving Cooperative
This cooperative is located in the ancient rural village of Teotitlan de Valle and is made up of 23 families. The coop was formed when a woman named Shelly Tennyson came to the village to volunteer with a group of indigenous women. Shelly became aware that there were no market and a lack of buyers for this craft and decided the best way to help was to create new markets in the US, so began this Oaxacan Weaving Cooperative. When Shelly comes to visit from San Diego every 2-3 months they hold meetings and the weavers make decisions regarding the group.
One World Fair Trade recently sent our Manager,Gretchen Specht to meet Francisco Santiago “Paco” and his wife Josefina, one of the families, in their shop full of colorful and glorious weavings and this is her story.
In the front corner was a large loom on which Paco works, the walls were covered with rugs and beautiful bags. Paco weaves rugs and Josefina makes bags, he also helps all of the weavers with quality control and getting the bags ready to export to the United States.
This group is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation. Josefina said that because they have the FTF symbol they know people see the value in their work and it makes them proud to work harder to make the weavings better. Because they are part of Fair Trade the weavers receive a fair wage and are able to work from home on their own looms, which allows them to be with their families. Since becoming a member of FTF the weavers have had trainings on cost benefit analysis and have learned what how to set a fair price for their work. Each family sells through Paco’s store, taking their weavings to the city, as well as in their own places. Most artisans weave in their own homes then come to Paco’s to do the finishing leather work, if it is needed. You can find many of these unique and beautiful bags in our Fair Trade Bags & Purses collection.
We then walked down the street to another beautiful showroom full of colorful rugs, bags and scarves. This was the showroom Casa Santiago, the workshop and home of Paco’s parents, Porfirio and Gloria. We talked at length with Rocio, Paco’s sister-in-law and his sister Maria Luisa about their work, which is showcased there as well. Maria Luisa says each weaver has their own style some prefer traditional designs while other find joy in creating new ones. Maria Luisa’s favorite bag to make is the “Gloria” bag to her it represents home. Rocio says, “I am free when I am designing, I love colors and I decide while weaving what it will be maybe a pillow, a rug or a bag”.
Most weavers learned from their parents and are passing down these weaving skills to their own children. Some traditional designs include the cornflower, rain, spiral or “Greek” which meaning is “life and death, wind and water, we are not only people but spirit”, and diamonds representing the “eye of God” for protection.
The weavers are all very grateful to Shelly for working with them to start their own Weaving Cooperative. Before then came they would have to wait long periods of time to sell their goods. Now, they sell many products and often are paid in advance, this helps them with other things like childcare and sometimes house cleaning. All of the weavers are able send their children to school and some have even earned scholarships to University.
Rocio, Maria Luisa and Josefina have all said that they are proud to have people in the U.S. knowing their handicrafts and are happy to be forming this relationship. Josefina says, “When I get an order it makes me very happy and I am excited to get up in the morning to work, I love making bags”.
Rocio told us that she had a dream that one day her weavings would be sold in the U.S and people would like them and buy them. She said she would tell the other weavers this dream and they would laugh. Now, her dream is a reality and she is so happy. I shared a dream of mine that I have had for many years, that I one day would come to meet her and hear her story. It is part of my job to connect customers with the artisans, which I do by reading about them. I can now say, I met Rocio, she told me her story and I am honored know her and share it with you.
One World Fair Trade is proud to partner with the wonderful and talented artisans & families of this Oaxacan Weaving Cooperative.