Today we again, ventured out of Oaxaca city to discover more about the small surrounding villages still very much reliant on the income from weaving and other hand crafts to survive. The village of Santo Tomás Jalieza is renown for making belts with the back strap loom.

We visited GAAPI, a weaving cooperative of 44 women (see photo) all native to the village. This is a government initiative project that was formed 2 years ago. Three of the women spent some time telling us about about the history and traditions of back strap weaving – a simple loom which has its roots in ancient civilisations. The women here all began weaving when they were 5 years old, again a long standing tradition, passed down from generation to generation. It was so interesting talking about the women’s role in the family and identifing with each other about the realities of bringing up children alongside our handiwork – something I have had to learn to manage side by side with my shoemaking since having my daughter who is now age 1.

After the organization was formed, what were the impacts that it had on womens lifes in the village?

“It’s had a very favorable, positive impact, because organized together we can do more. Everbody can work, whether your a man or a woman. Now as women we are also bringing in an income, towards our family, were not just waiting for our fathers or husband to bring in the money.
Together we have more opportunities. For example if you were to comission, lets say, 100 pieces like this one (holding up a piece of work), well then we would all work together to get in done.
We work with other artesania, we’ve travelled to other states, taken part in different pageants, we’ve also travelled abroad. We’re fortunate enough to have some very skilled workers among us who do some very beautiful work. So they have been invited by different organisations to participate in competitions abroad. – Maria Chavez Antonio,  GAAPI

Its been so inspiring to talk to the women here and hear about their success of their work outside of Mexico as well as within their local community.

We then decided to ask a few of the local women who sat weaving away in the village square more about themselves and discovered a bit more about their families, the  history of weaving in the village and their feelings about the future of weaving traditions and a lot about the patterns and motifs behind the work which I will go into more detail about later.

How long has the tradition of back strap weaving been in your families?

“It’s passed from generation to generation. How many years do you think? So many, we can’t even remember, we couldn’t say because we don’t know, my mother showed me, and she was taught by her mother and so on. I’ve now taught my own children, and they theirs. And so the tradition is passed on.” – Isabel Antonia, age 74, Santo Tomas Jalieza