By the time we reached the small wooden house, speeding up mountainous curves and over washboard speed bumps, my face had sickened into several shades of green. My husband and I were visiting friends in San Cristobal de las Casas for Christmas, nestled at 7000 beautiful feet in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit ibu women an hour and a half deeper into the mountains, already weaving up colors and stories for you this spring.
Mute and glassy-eyed, I got out and followed Cessie straight up a dirt mountain path. The fresh cool air began to revive me. Halfway up, I saw large white swaths swaying from a tree at the top of the hill. Then it hit me: these were weavers creating on their back strap looms. Creating . . . ibu! I went flying up the mountain; completely forgot I was sick.
A dozen weavers of San Andres Larrainzer gathered from all over the mountainside to meet the ibu who loves their beautiful work. Indigenous women who still wear their own colorful handwoven garments carry in their bones the intricate, local language of cloth.
I recognize the patterns and colors that I had chosen weeks prior - fresh white bedroom pillows with the brocade patterns for which they are renown in soft, sophisticated palettes; cocktail napkins of similar subtlety and grace.
Our Aid to Artisans product manager translated my questions, their frank answers — our shared laughter needed no translation. When I showed them our latest ibu Lookbook, their faces glowed to see with the breadth of the movement to which they belong.
As the afternoon light faded, the group’s able leader, Alicia, rose and spoke - we all stood to listen. She talked of her love of weaving on the back-strap loom, her pride in their textile heritage, her gratitude that we had come meet them. Moved by her articulate words and strong voice, I wanted to respond - to tell them how we are all doing this together, rising up into our fullness, shaping our own destinies. I wanted to tell them how elevated I am by their work, inspired by their creativity, how I am smitten with the beauty that they carry . . and live.
So, I did - I tried to speak with half of the eloquence that had just moved me. I tried to find the spacious place in me that is also the spacious place in them where we are all women of respect. I don’t remember the words I used, but I will never forget the way their faces glowed. ibu was there.
When we finally parted, my head was cleared, my heart was light. My trip back to San Cristobal wound through the mountains like a single thread, bright against the dying light, carrying us into this new year.