San Lorenzo Zinacantan / by Liesl Pfeffer

San Lorenzo Zinacantan, Mexico
August 2013

We spent one amazing day in Zinacantan and Chamula in the mountains of Chiapas. These two small villages are Mayan settlements with incredibly different culture and traditions despite being 7 kilometers apart. We went on a very small tour (the two of us were the only participants), guided by a lovely Mexican man named Alex who was on first name terms with just about everyone we met or passed in the car. One of my favorite experiences was visiting the home of Maria in San Lorenzo Zinacantan. Maria made all of these textiles on her back strap loom set up against a tree outside her house. The white dress with the purple embroidery and white chicken feather trim (top photo) is a wedding dress. It is just beautiful, so beautiful.

It was sort of magical the way that all the Mexicans we met were so warm to us and interested to share their way of life. Inside Maria’s home we were treated to freshly made blue corn tortillas and slow cooked beans. Maria’s life looked difficult, her home was very sparse. She had hurt her knee badly when she was younger and her knee still gives her trouble. I can’t imagine how painful it would be for her back to sit at a back strap loom all day. Yet her textiles are so incredibly beautiful and intricate and joyful. I wish I could have asked her if making her textiles brings her joy, and what she thinks about when she goes into that meditative state that you enter when you craft by hand for hours.