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The Zapotec Weaving Tradition

The Zapotec Weaving TraditionFor nearly 30 years, the owners of Marisol Imports have been working directly with the master weaving families of Teotitlan de Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico. We have developed close relationships with several families in the village and enjoy individually selecting every rug in our store. We choose only the best crafted weavings with a visually balanced design and an appealing use of color. This careful consideration and personal contact with the weavers and their families assures the fine quality and heritage inherent in each piece.

The Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico have been weaving textiles for over 2,000 years. The first ancient Zapotec City, Monte Alban, was established around 500 BC and flourished for 1200 years in southern Mexico. Ceremonial architecture, hieroglyphs and clay figures are only part of this rich legacy that included colorful cotton cloth woven on backstrap tension looms. After the decline of Monte Alban and several hundred years of invasions and instability, the Zapotecs were subjects of the Mixtec and Aztec empires, paying tribute to these rulers with their woven fabrics. The arrival of Hernando Cortes and the Spanish conquistadores in 1519 ushered in a period of violence, disease, slavery and religious conversion. The Spanish recognized the value of the Zapotec weaving tradition, however, and introduced sheep, the fixed-frame pedal loom and the spinning wheel. These 16th century investments prevented the dismantling of the Zapotec culture and enabled the weavers to make larger, stronger and more durable textiles.

Today this weaving tradition has evolved to become a world famous artistic enterprise. The Zapotecs of Teotitlan de Valle are famous and respected for their determination to maintain their traditional culture while adapting to the realities of the modern world. Three hundred miles southeast of Mexico City, Teotitlan is the center of the Zapotec weaving tradition and one of many indigenous communities in the state of Oaxaca. Many of the town's 6,000 inhabitants continue the same weaving practices used for generations. Originally clothing and cloth were made from cotton and cactus fibers; today rugs and textiles are made from 100% wool. Natural dyes, such as the deep indigo blues and bright cochineal reds, are derived from plants, minerals and insects. Some weavers continue the laborious and ancient alchemy of natural dyes, but since the 1850s most weavers have used synthetic aniline colors. Both men and women card, spin and dye the wool and families typically pass on their weaving skills and particular styles to their children. The beautiful colors, patterns and designs created by the Zapotecs are a unique mixture of cultural tradition, family innovation, customer request and artistic exploration.


The Zapotec Weaving Tradition