Los Telares / The Weavers
So as I´ve mentioned in previous blogs, Kerry and I have been working with a family cooperative of weavers during our down time/free time. We met this family of weavers our second week here in Leon and it´s safe to say that our experiences with them will definitely be one of the highlights of the trip.
This family of weavers, or Telares(weavers in Spanish), started their cooperative, Textil La Fe, in 2006. The products they weave include Blankets (of various sizes), towels, scarves/shawls, table runners, rugs, and much more! Each product is made of 100% cotton and wool threads and are made with varying vibrant colors—all ecologically friendly! The machines they use are also eco-friendly and were constructed by hand by the weavers themselves. The family works in an open workroom/area behind their house(s) where sunlight and breeze can pass through.
Their story begins with Dona Daniela, the grandmother, some time ago. DonaDaniela had been a textile worker in El Salvador and learned the art of weaving there. In El Salvador, Dona Daniela was exploited—she worked long hours and received little to no pay. After years of this type of abuse the company either went under, or she left (I forget which of the two it was, or possibly both). So anyways, Dona Daniela decided to take one of the machines with her because she thought the art was so beautiful that she didn´t want to see this art die. Her employers had allowed her to take her machine with her but made sure to strip it of all the threads upon leaving. Not one person helped her move the machine, and this poor tiny lady brought it back by herself. Dona Daniela left El Salvador and came to Leon , Nicaragua with nothing but her weaving machine. Where they live today is where Dona Daniela and her husband had bought a small amount of property and boy has it grown since then. Dona Daniela worked for years on her machine to make products to sell. She taught the craft to her kids and soon they began to help as well. The cooperative started because they knew that the products they were making were of high quality materials and of value. They believed in the art and its beauty, in themselves, and in their friends, that they would be ok. In 2006 Dona Daniela alongside her daughters, sons, and daughter in-law started the cooperative to sell textiles to anyone who placed an order. As one of the weavers , Lillian, recounted their beginnings she explained that when they started they agreed to never make any loans—they did not want to ever be in debt to anyone. The weavers were extremely careful with their money, and would often choose to buy quality materials for their products over food. There were times where they´d go hungry and the only clothes they had were what they were wearing, but they looked at their products and the art as their priority.
Over time they received more business and things got better. When there was more money to be shared they would use it to fix machines, make more machines, or improve the quality of their workroom. Lillan and Dona Daniela thank God and thank their friends for the help and support they have received. Their cooperative, Telares La Fe means weavers of hope because when they started they had hope in the art and that it would be appreciated and passed on, they had hope in God that business would come and that they would be okay, and they had hope in their friends, that they would purchase and share their art with others (everyone who purchases or visits the telares is immediately a friend of theirs whether they buy a product or not).
The day we met the telares, was a few days after they had lost a loved one. We had stopped by unannounced, but they greeted us with open arms and joyful smiles. Despite having lost a family member the Telares were positive and as Lillian said, ¨It is very hard and tragic, but we have to look ahead, for ourselves and for our kids¨. They had the most positive reaction and outlook which is something I admire. The weavers stopped working to share their work with us and let us try out the machines, then sat down with us for 40 minutes just to talk! It was so relaxing and not forced at all.
After our first visit Kerry and I returned and now after 6 weeks we´re going there around 4 days a week! For me going to the telares is relaxing and I feel so at home. Whenever we go we go to work and spend time with them. From the get go the telares told us that we were their family and to come over whenever and as often as we could. Each time I walk over (mind you it’s a 45 minute walk if you´re struttin´ on over aka walking fast, face past, and homebound) and I always arrive sweating.. but they great me with warm hugs and kisses as if they hadn´t seen me in months. They ask about my work and my family and we all share stories and a good laugh. It is so amazing because I am always SO happy and at peace when I´m there. They´ve taught us the art of weaving and I´m now making scarves and napkins. I also have been put to work on a sewing machine and given blankets to make knots on. The weavers have invested their time in both Kerry and I and for that I am forever grateful. I know that no matter how good or bad my day is I can walk over to the weavers and things will simply be better. I have loved working at the preschool and tutoring in English, but it´s only natural to have a tough day (be it the heat, a rushed start to your morning, or just being in a funky mood) and going to the telares always makes me feel better. I kind of feel like I´m Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love sometimes..
Each time we complete a new product I have a renewed appreciation for their work, or better yet our work, and am in awe of the beauty of weaving. The way each of the telares speaks of the art is beautiful because you can tell how passionate they are about the work they do. Each product is done with love and as you can imagine, the work is very time consuming! Although the weavers have had some large orders placed for more products Kerry and I are trying to figure out how to go about making brochures or advertisement flyers to post in and around Leon (in hotels, shops, and touristy places). This work we are trying to do is kind of like PR work and we are all excited about it.
So far the weavers have a catalog of their products but what would be really neat is if we could expand their business to more U.S. retailers, dontchathink?!