Sunday, 17 November 2013

Of Markets and weaving and other crafts

One of the pleasures in touring with Exodus  is that you also get to experience some of the local culture as well as visiting the  archaeological sites.

One morning on our way to Mitla we stopped to sample a local market

This is a daily event here. The villagers have a tradition of just shopping for what they need that day and it's all over by lunchtime.

Very much a social event as well as the chance to buy just about anything you could really want from fresh vegetables and meat to nail varnish and deep fried grasshoppers.

The traditional dress is still very much the normal thing to wear. This is not for the benefit of the tourists though - it is their way of life.

We bought bread and cakes to try and some grasshoppers to bring home.

Our next stop was at a local weavers - yes obviously the idea was that we bought something but we were invited into the family home and given a traditional welcome in their altar room.  Like most of their neighbours they were staunch Catholics and we were ritually greeted and blessed. I did try not to smile when we learned that the youngest daughter was  named Ixchel ( the Mayan Goddess of the moon and patroness of weaving)

The daughter in law of the  house made wax candles for the church. Traditionally these are bought by the bridegroom for this bride. Despite costing the best part of a year's income they are lit at the wedding.

The detail is quite amazing. You can certainly see why they cost so much.

The main reason for our visit though was to see the old Mayan style of dyeing and weaving. 

The colours used are all natural dyes found and prepared locally. Some were familiar to me like lichens and marigold but others were new.

OF particular interest was the red - cochineal from the cochineal scale insect (Dactylopius coccus) The family farm them on cactus and once they have completed the life cycle they are collected. The dye is carminic acid and it is released by crushing. 

The intensity of the colour produced  from the dried grey insects was quite amazing.

Our host was a very skilled weaver indeed.

He is producing carpets and rugs of his own design and also based on some of the ancient Mayan artwork from Mitla which is close by.

The area also has a wealth of cave paintings which predate the Mayan empire. This rug is a  woven reproduction of a typical design.

I'd have happily bought any number of rugs if there had been anyway of transporting them home. At present they are sent to a wholesaler and sold that way. I suspect for a very great deal more than the weaver was asking for. I had to content myself with a bag.
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