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461. Many Looms, One Town, One Cooperative

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Coop Name: Teotitlan Cooperative N° of Employees: 36
City: Teotitlan N° of Members: 36
Country: Mexico Year of formation: 1987
About this coop:

Teotitlan is a cooperative made of 36 weavers. The members pool resources in order to reach a larger audience and receive a fair price for their work.

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“It’s my brothers and sister and cousins and then a few people from our town. We are all family. We all live in Teotitlan.” Surrounded by stacks of thick, vibrant, hand woven rugs Louis Martinez describes the members of Teotitlan Cooperative. “In my family we are the third generation of cooperative,” he explains.

Martinez’s Zapateca family has been weaving since before Pedro de Alvarado invaded or Benito Juarez was born. “They passed down the patterns and styles, though my sister sometimes makes very modern designs,” he points to a rectangle of deep reds, a circle of yellow blazing in the center. “Sunset in the mountains.” The majority of the work in the store, however, is variation on beloved patterns.

Organizing into a cooperative structure allowed the people from Martinez’s community to open a store a few miles away in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, a large city that thousands of tourists visit every year. Following the idiom of location, location, location, the group opened up a few blocks from the center of Oaxaca’s historic district, the Zocolo. The space looks out at Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, a church who’s foundation was laid in 1570. Over the past decade the tourism industry has grown and, while the monastery is no longer active, boutiques, restaurants and quaint bars catering to a wealthy clientele now surround the Teotitlan Cooperative. The store maintains a home-grown feel, the walls lined in rungs and a loom in the back nearly hidden by piles of weaving that grow up around it.

“We are looking for venues to export our work,” Martinez says when asked about the future of the cooperative. The members are excited to share their history and their present with people outside of Oaxaca and the surrounding mountains. Martinez knows that each piece in the store, and each piece coming into being on the looms of cooperative members, represents hours and hours of labor. He also knows it is artisanal work that deserves to be seen and used and admired.

Author of this story
Kathryn Kruse
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