San Mateo del Mar
The village of San Mateo del Mar, on the southern coast of Oaxaca beyond Salina Cruz is home to some of Mexico’s most incredible weavers. In this small fishing village, Huave women have been weaving on backstrap looms for generations. Traditional huipiles from here are finely-woven cotton decorated with motifs of the beach and sea: turtles, fish, crab, palm trees, shrimp, birds, butterflies, stars, fishermen, dancers.
San Mateo del Mar is a humble, isolated village, dependent upon fishing for mojarras (a type of fish) and camarones (shrimp), which is sold in the local street market and exported to Tehuantepec and Juchitan. But mostly, the catch of the day provides food for the family. An aging population implies there has been a migration to bigger cities for education and job opportunities not offered here. This is a simple, and by all appearances, difficult life. This small group of Huave are at risk of being absorbed into the larger culture.
Formed in 1990, Cooperativa MONDIL-SAP refers to a group of cotton weavers. President of the Coop is Victoria Villaseñor Oviedo. There is a risk in this small Huave village of losing the craft. Most women are no longer weaving, and if they are, the quality of process and product are generally basic. The goal of the cooperative is to continue keeping alive their unique and exquisite weaving traditions.
Currently, there are 12 women members from the Huave culture – Huave is also their language. None of these women work at the coop full-time. They all have other daily chores they need to do, but they are always looking for little bit of time to do their backstrap weaving because for them it is their passion.
The women make huipiles, rebozos as well as table runners, placemats, napkins, bags and coin purses. The beautiful design they use is the legacy of Justina Oviedo Rengel who received many awards for her work before she died on September 22, 2013. Justina was the weaver who discovered how to weave a textile that had two completely different images and different colors on each side. Her daughters continue to carry on this tradition. When they weave a huipil, they use natural dyes and it can take two months to complete.