A Canadian gal in Stuttgart, Germany, who loves nothing better than crafting by the seat of her pants. See her snip, sew, knit, knot, glue, sculpt, splatter, spin, and of course, talk about herself.

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Friday, June 27, 2003
apologies for my lack of postage, but i've been out in the reserve for the last few days. went to see Rosa in Cuzalapa and showed the ladies up there what i managed to make out of the interviews i did. i also got in another interview of the group that makes jams, preserves and the like. the project all started with a girl who came up to do her masters thesis on tomatoes and started a project investigating how people in the area traditionally preserve their fruits n veggies. from there they decide to hold a workshop to get an idea of what other traditional knowledge they, not only have, but still use, like natural remedies. they examined three groups of women: grannies, moms and kids of about 12 or so. the older women still retained heaps and heaps of knowledge about stuff, like the best way to keep your tomatoes, what to take for cramps and how to cure a hangover :) their daughters had only learned about half of all of this, and the children knew nothing. it's horrifying. now that the rains have come, everything has turned a lush green and in every direction you can see hundreds of different plants, flowers, and fruit. Rosa tells me that there is hardly a single plant that someone doesn't have a use for, and many have several. i can hardly imagine how many generations it took to accumulate such knowledge. the trial and error to discover that this plant over here that smells kinda funny is great for certain bug bights if you boil the leaves and mash them up with lime, or that fruit will give you diarrhea if you don't cook it. years of trying one thing or another, remembering what each plant can be used for, and in the end it only takes two generations for it all to disappear.
but students keep coming to the centre to work with Rosa and little by little they are helping the women there hang on to their traditions, and have a little pride in their culture, which is key. although it's a rural Mexican town of only maybe 300 people, they dress much like people back home, wearing jeans and t-shirts. they used to wear manta, or a light cotton calico cloth that they embroider with flowers, animals or traditional designs. but when they went in to the larger towns to buy things, people would look down on them for being indigenous. shopkeepers were rude, and would charge them more for things. they got the idea of borrowing clothes when they went shopping that allowed them to blend in and not have to pay the raised prices they charged the 'indios'. although this partially solved their problem, the greater damage had already been done. they had begun to be ashamed of their culture and who they were. soon after they stopped wearing manta altogether, and i have yet to see anyone wearing it on my visits to Cuzalapa. although there is a group here that makes and sells embroidered clothing, it took a long time for them to be able to sell and promote their products, because they were too embarassed. they have no comprehension of the worth of what they have. their traditions and customs give their little village a beauty that rivals any metropolis. it pains me to think of them becoming uniform and faceless, just a few more consumers of the american dream. giving up their culture to be like the people on tv.
posted by tatjana @ 6:49 p.m.  
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