The Zapotec Indian Weavers Of Teotitlán: The 21st Century Meets Ancient Mesoamerica

A Visit to Teotitlan

by John Lamkin

Two Women in Teotitlan Market, Oaxaca Mexico
Two Women in Teotitlan Market, Oaxaca Mexico ©John Lamkin

Nearly 40 years ago, I bumped along the pot-holed highway south out of Oaxaca City, Mexico to get to the Zapotec Indian weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle, an enclave of dirt streets and meager houses–with earth floors, outdoor kitchens and outhouses. The only school had but three grades, and there was very little electricity.
Less than half a century later, Teotitlán del Valle is a modern, successful village that keeps its fascinating Zapotec heritage alive through its ancient traditions and celebrations. The art of weaving, for instance, has been practiced for centuries in Teotitlán del Valle, dating back to the pre-Hispanic era, a time when the village paid tribute to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan through offerings of woven cotton products at the end of the XV century.

Today, an easy drive directly into town from the Oaxaca highway leads to many shops boasting vibrant displays of weavings in many sizes, colors and designs—from ancient to modern—including Frida Kahlo. We passed large new houses, most of traditional style and incorporating a weaving store, and at least one a concrete-and-glass modern, an Internet café, a small hotel, and Tlamanalli, a world-class restaurant famous for its Zapotec cuisine. Many streets are now paved and many of the houses are bigger and have better facilities, including electricity, indoor plumbing and telephones. There are more schools, a health clinic, sports fields, streetlights, and improved roads that won’t rattle your teeth loose. Read more here.

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