In a small dusty town near Oaxaca, Mexico you can find an old heavy wooden door that opens onto a world of its own. It is the home of an all women cooperative in an indigenous Mexican community with centuries of weaving culture and heritage.
Once you are through the wooden door, a world of colour, wool, humility and generosity opens up in front of you. Colourful rugs meet the eye everywhere you look; women are washing, combing wool and spinning yarn, while pots are simmering with natural pigments dyeing the wool.
Defying cultural and gender norms in Teotitlán, Pastora started this cooperative over 20 years ago together with her mother, grandmother and a small group of women. They opened up their home for the cooperative to have a place for their meetings and a base for their workshop.
For decades Teotitlán has been known for its handwoven rugs, but the women were being exploited and forced to sell their rugs through middlemen who wouldn’t pay enough for the weavers to breakeven. The women gathered a small group of weavers to find a way to break free from the middlemen and they heard about a government grant for rural farming women, which after a trek of 20 miles to Oaxaca, they managed to get. The grant meant that they could buy their own wool and sell rugs directly from their home.
The women in the cooperative can work on their crafts at home so they can still carry out household tasks while earning an income. They come together once a month to decide how often they want to work and how much they want to sell their work for, with the profit going directly to that artisan.
The cooperative was created out of need for women who had limited opportunities to support their families either because they were single, widowed of their husband had migrated abroad for work. Pastora remembers the struggle when they first started as they were faced with the idea that women shouldn’t work but stay at home to perform household tasks.
Pastora and the cooperative have achieved something fantastic by creating a cooperative that has given them economic independence, affected social change and created opportunities for generations ahead.