Tarahumara Basket Weavers
By Malcolm Callister
We were in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, it was late March, yesterday it had snowed on this mountain top. Rosie our guide was leading us to a village of the Tarahumara indigenous people. She led the way on foot from the carpark across course mountain grass and the carpet of pine needles. When Rosie stopped, it was in a quiet clearing. Around us women sat on rocks or by tables surrounded by small children, dogs and goats, they were weaving baskets.
But if this was the village? Where were the homes?
We wanted to know why they weave these baskets. Baskets that have now been recognized as an indigenous art form.
The Village Shaman
These women in their colorful skirts and tops talked to each other in their native language. At the sight of strangers, the small children pulled fretfully on the women's long quilted skirts and watched us with sideways glances
Walking past snow sculptures created by children during yesterday's snowfall, Rosie introduced us to the village Shaman, Catalina.
The Cave Homes
Catalina was a short, sturdy woman. She wore a flowing yellow skirt and a type of woolen hoody. Her long black hair was in a single braid. Her dark eyes sparkled in her weather-beaten intelligent face. It was easy to see how she could lead her village.
“The Shaman” Rosie explained: “is the village spiritual leader, and doctor. We will start Our tour must start with her.”
Catalina leads the way to her cave house. A nerve shaking experience, we followed her over the rim of the canyon, then along a fifteen-foot-wide ledge, with a four-thousand feet drop that was far too close.
Continuing interpreting what Catalina was saying, Rosie explained, the baskets and bowls are made of local grasses and pine needles dyed to the required colors. The women weave the different inside and outside surface patterns simultaneously. A highly complex double wall form of weaving that is recognized as an indigenous Mexican art form.
Catalina maintained that Tarahumara women are born with the skill, but the process is passed from grandmother to granddaughter; it has always been like that.”
These women are the backbone of their community, and their fierce independence can be seen in their intricate and colorful baskets and bowls. Weaving and the sale of these baskets help these women support their families and a lifestyle that is literally on the edge of our world.
M&L Tip of the Week.
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