Friday, October 07, 2011

These question were ask by Alexandra a PHD canidate in Rumania

I will post this on Facebook maybe there will be comments

Are there many communities that still keep traditions like weaving alive?

1. There are a number of ethnic groups that continue to weave for both personal and commercial reasons. In many of these communities other economic opportunities do not exist and they are weaving to sell to local and national markets.

Among the most prolific weavers of "traditional" textiles are the indigenous groups of Chiapas. Here is one of the oldest weaver collectives  snajolobil
The Amusgo of Guerrero and Triques of Oaxaca.

Zapoteca blanket weavers , while not traditional have made a name for themselves from TEOTITLAN DEL VALLE

In many other communities there exist a limited number of weavers that supply local needs. Such as Tepetzintla, Puebla both Nahua and Totonacan weaver are abundant. They serve a local market.

As modernization and globalization has its effect on younger people in these ethnic groups they no longer wear the traditional costume but may still weave as a way to make money. However in general they do not follow the weaving traditions.

What are the main problems of those communities?
I am going to refer you to a link to my home page , there i have a detailed article about the loss of traditional dress
Are new generations willing to perpetuate and revive traditions?
3. In many cases "traditions" referring to the belief systems and traditional fiestas and customs linger long after the textiles have disappeared. The revival of "textile traditions" is a new idea here among many of the "progressive Mexican class" its results are often limited and temporary. Much depends on a market since I know of no villages that has returned to traditional costume after losing it.

4. If not, why not? I am going to answer this question for "textile traditions" this is fading at an accelerated pace as more and more indigenous people leave there homes, become connected via television or go away to school. In many cases the younger women may have pride but have little use for grandmas way of dressing. Racism in Mexico against the indigenous people remain a big problem and changing cloths often helps. A few years ago the leader of an embroidery collectives daughter stooped wearing the traditional dress of the villages. Her mother , leader of the collective , said to me " she thinks that by changing her cloths she will stop being Nahuatl, but inside she is all Nahutal and everyone knows it". That sums up what is happening. The pressure to conform with Mexican modern society is very strong.

How can we help revive traditions? + Why should we?

5. There are many well meaning people that work very hard at preservation and rescue of traditional in Mexico . There is an army o of anthropologists and others that are attempting to document and rescue traditions some musical, some textiles and other social and communal in nature. All of these efforts are valuable in terms of creating a record of what was. As the demographic of the specific population changes the probability of revival diminishes. This can be seen in the festival dances which in many areas are now "dance troupe" which are hired to "perform" traditional dance.
 The basis for much of these visual traditions is the  agriculture cycle and as agriculture become a smaller and smaller part of the indigenous communities focus, the meaning behind the customs fades. Word of its meaning is passed down but it begins to lose its depth and character.

 I believe the question is more " what can we learn" because if we continue to view the indigenous population as objects of study and economic development the true richness of the agrarian cosmovision is lost. One could say that in all of the villages the traditions are the same but different. Meaning that in the grand context the cosmovision is the same and in the specific there is great richness and diversity. We can learn and understanding of our place on earth and a different view of our relationship to it from indigenous peoples. The textiles is part of the expression and not a separate part .

 SO many people in Mexico spend endless hours worrying and thinking about how to "save" the indigenous peoples which continues to be paternalistic view point. I personally know that I can never be or completely understand indigenous traditions but what I can do is give it true value and try and pass on its meaning.

Do craftsmen earn a decent income?

6. No,  while there is great interest in using crafts as a way of promoting economic growth the need is so great in the villages and the market so small and competitors so numerous that while crafts peoples can earn money I would leave out the word "decent"  now middle men often can make a decent living and there are examples of certain places like Teotitlan de Valles, San Bartolo Coyotepec and many others of a great influx of money, the majority of the artisan are trapped in a cycle of poor pay .

Can they support their families?

7.Crafts are often a supplement not the primary way money is earned. The men of the villages and towns often leave to work in the US or other parts of Mexico and send money back. In my experience village after village has been evacuated by the men who can no longer make a living on the land and the women try as hard as they can to sell some sort of handiwork. This is not to say that there have not been great successes in the past , the rug knotting collectives of Temoaya, State of Mexico probably are a good example of how a craft can work to bring some wealth to a community. At one point there were 400 people working in the collective, a few months ago I visited there and the collective had 10 people. Rugs continue to be produced but mostly for internal Mexican consumption the cost at a nearby mall of Indian, Iranian, Afgan, Pakistani and Chinese knotted rugs made the international market impossible.

 So often the success bring failure over time, the wood figures of Oaxaca , began with some guy ( many claim to be that guy) carving a nd painting a piece of wood for decoration in his house, someone saw it and bought it , mmm he makes another ans WOW sells that also. Soon he and his neighbors ar making them. They soon make there way into local markets and other villages start to make them too... as production rises prices fall and when the fade slows there is a rush to the bottom. A few "artists" remain and the market never really goes away but the "decent living part is lost.
This is an over simplification of the issue but as a handicrafts buyer I have seen it happen many times.

8.Do NGO's really help or the benefits for communities are only few?

Yes and no - If they have money to spend , they help until the money runs out, if they make promises then no.

From your experience are tradition condemned to be forgotten in museums?

Just as all cultures , these cultures will continue to evolve and changes and will probably blend with Mexican society.