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A Day of Brown Cotton Spinning with a San Juan Colorado Cooperative in Oaxaca
Moments before we arrived at this San Juan Colorado weaving cooperative, the wrapped skirts (pozahuancos) were the only clothes the women were wearing. Normally bare-chested when working together, they donned their handwoven tops just for us. The pozahuancos are worn by the Mixtec women along the Oaxacan coast. The traditional ones are hand woven of natural dyes–murex shell-dyed purple cotton, combined with red silk and indigo-dyed cotton.
This cooperative of 400 members is called Jini Nuu. It’s a Mixtec name meaning “head of village” because the town hall is next door to Allegoria’s home—the meeting location for the coop and where we met with the weavers. Jini Nuu has been in existence for about 40 years and, while many of the original members have passed away or are no longer a part of the group, it is the largest coop in this village. There are about seven or eight other ones but Jini Nuu is the only legally constituted group. Most of the women weave at home and just come to Allegoria’s house for training, meetings, and for special sales. Allegoria is the group leader and is quite charismatic. Her daughter, Yuri, is also a talented artisan, charming, and poised to lead the group in the future.
Helping Prep the Brown Cotton (Coyuche)
In recalling our trip, we all agreed that this was our fondest day–sitting with the women, helping them clean brown cotton. Plus some of us took turns beating the cotton, called “golpear” which means banana leaves because that’s what they beat the cotton on top of. Watch this video to see this whole process. And, of course, we spun too.
Our fellow travelers had some silk/wool sliver with them that they were spinning. They shared this fiber with the women, all of whom immediately tucked it into the top fold of their pozohuancas. In exchange, the women shared their cotton rolag with us. Then Anita showed the women how to spin using a top whorl spindle—so different from the Oaxacan traditional support spindle. One of the women tried the top whorl spindle, but she was so used to using a support that she just couldn’t spin without putting the tip into the gourd. (Plus the gourd bowl had a bit of water in it. We were told they used a bit of water in the gourd because they spun so fast they didn’t want to cause a fire!)
The Makeshift Store
All during the morning cotton preparation, we were eyeing the little makeshift store tucked away behind a plastic curtain; it would be our afternoon treat to enter. After a delicious lunch of soup, tamales, and hibiscus ice tea, all prepared right there on the premises, we were able to peruse the lovely handweaving and stitching created by these very women. We did find these naturally-dyed servilletas (wrapping cloths for the tortillas), woven by Allegoria, for the ClothRoads store. We thought they’d be lovely as table mats or hand towels. You decide.