The Power of Women Around the World: Mexico

June 5, 2013

The Artists and I WIth Their Handwork

Over the past few months, From The World With Love has been on the road, this time to Mexico.

A good friend of mine, Linda, who I met years ago through our work in the fashion industry, was heading there.  We both share a passion for photography and discovering parts of the world that are new , challenging and educational. Today, Linda is an attorney, working with indigent women in Saint Christobal , working to empower them and educate them in ways they can support themselves. She knew about my work with FTWWL and felt the philosophy of what we do fit perfectly with the part of the world she was living.  Making my way through the southern most region of Mexico was a wonderful, eye-opening experience.  One that I want to share with you.

This part of the world is filled with symbolic color

Mexico is a country riddled with opposites.  Rich color, pattern, texture, and flavor combines daily with some of the world’s most profound poverty.  Yet the people are warm, welcoming, curious and  filled with a zest for life and respect for tradition that is lacking in economies having far more to offer its people.  Their passion and history were evident wherever we went and the people were eager to share their heritage and made us feel completely welcome.

The specific region we toured, Chiapas, is a mountainous region in the southernmost state of Mexico. Dotted with Mayan ruins, lush jungles teeming with life and rock formations exposed and weathered by sun and sky, the physical landscape is magical.  It is responsible for the cultural beliefs, traditions and artwork found in communities that have changed little over the centuries.  The natural beauty of the land, the gifts that Mother Nature has provided its inhabitants and the know-how and creativity of the village residents in harnessing those gifts was revealed to us over and over again in the local artwork. The designs, geometric and organic, woven or embroidered into their fabric are stories in and of themselves.  Their work is influenced by spiritual beliefs, as well as by the beauty in nature that surrounds them.

Try to imagine,  if you can,  the work (not to mention the heart and soul) that goes into these textiles.

There is no fabric shop for these women to source their supplies from. Weavers sit at looms, made with found materials and work threads that have come from the wool of sheep grazing in the low regions.  These threads  start out as white or brown and are rough in texture.  The  yarn is dyed using only the colors provided through indigenous plants, flowers and shrubs.  Jewel tone colors emerge, representative of a particular village or region.  All organic, supplied by nature.  It’s hard to imagine for those of us living in a more abundant universe and can easily shop for our needs, how difficult, remarkable and intuitive this process really is.

This group of textile artisans is strictly female.  There is a bond between them, an unspoken understanding that they need to take care of one another.  Many are related – grandmothers, mothers, daughters – learning from each other and continuing a long-standing tradition.  Historically, these women were held in incredibly high esteem as they were the teller of the tales,  … literally passing down history in their “images” and designs woven into their fabric.  Centuries old beliefs, rituals and symbols are the influence behind a particular region’s type of clothing and the cloth used. We know their story today because of their ancestors who came before, passing down their skills.  Their status within the community was just shy of goddess-like.

Both Linda and I were uplifted by these female artistic communities and saw an important message to take from this area of the world.  The women here and in other under-developed regions of the world, were and continue to be the keepers, providers and authors of a culture while also being caregivers, wives and mothers. No easy task.  Sadly, a matriarchal society and economy that is losing ground.  The industrial revolution (that devil!) has made this particular type of craft easy to reproduce, watering down both the art and local economies. While struggling to keep this craft alive, these women and their families are living in poverty.  Yet their spirit and delight in the everyday is plentiful.

Our goal here at FTWWL is straightforward:  to empower women in communities around the world by assisting them in ways to continue their craft  and sustain themselves economically.  We’ve brought back with us pieces of clothing and jewelry that are inspiring, beautiful and easy to combine with pieces you already own.  A woman with great style in our books is someone confident in herself  and her ability to take a favorite pair of jeans, some strappy sandals, a great bag and a colorful top from a region in perhaps southern MexicoEthiopia or India and carry it off in her own special way.

The whole time doing great things and contributing to the world with love!

Stay tuned for more of the story to unfold.











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