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Mexican Rebozos Wonders in Weaving

10 | 02 | 2009

Feria Maestros del Arte, November 13-15th 2009, Chapala Yacht Club

Editors Note: November 13-15th 2009 lakeside welcomed two Mexican textile experts, renowned anthropologist Marta Turok and cultural tour director Stephanie Schneider of Tia Stephanie Tours. These two women assisted Marianne Carlson to organize a Feria Within a Feria, a special event which brought rebozo artists from different regions of Mexico to lakeside where they demonstrated their craft and sold their wares. It was a wonderful show with many works of art.

By Harriet Hart

Woman weaving at Lake Chapala

“In the beginning of the world the Goddess of the Moon taught women to weave,” writes Walter F. Morris, Jr., an expert in the textiles of Chiapas. This November lakeside will welcome two Mexican textile experts, renowned anthropologist Marta Turok and cultural tour director Stephanie Schneider of Tia Stephanie Tours. These two women are assisting Marianne Carlson to organize a Feria Within a Feria, a special event which will bring rebozo artists from different regions of Mexico to lakeside where they will demonstrate their craft and sell their wares. The 8th annual Maestros del Arte Feria will be held November 13th to 15th at the Chapala Yacht Club; this is the first time a specific type of Mexican folk art will be featured.

Why single out the rebozo for such an honor? According to Stephanie Schneider, the rebozo is a universal garment in women’s Mexican dress, worn by many  social classes. Ms. Schneider calls it a ubiquitous garment, “a syncretic fusing of the indigenous elements of the prehispanic tilmatli (cloak/cape) and the Spanish mantilla or shawl.” The mantilla came to Mexico on the galleons that plied their trade between Manila and Acapulco. The addition of the fringe to the basic garment shape is believed to be one of the primary embellishments from this outside influence.

Marianne Carlson, founder of the annual Feria, is very excited about this event and describes it asWeaving rebozos “an opportunity to see the different styles of Mexican rebozos right next to one another.” The rebozo artists who will present their works include award winning Cecilie Bautista from Michoacan who makes the traditional Purepecha black and blue striped rebozos and adds beads and feathers to the fringe; Escuela de Reboceria from San Luis Potosi which creates hand-woven silk rebozos using a back strap loom and making copies of 19th century designs as well as modern innovations ; Adolfo Garcia Diaz from Mexico with his handwoven cotton palmeado (or palm leaf) version; Camelia Ramos Azmora, Don Isaac Ramos Padilla and Jose Mancio from Mexico with their hand woven work;Luis Rodriguez Martinez from Mexico with rebozos typical of the ones made in Temancingo; the Sociedad Cooperative Textil Artesanal from Michoacan and Ernestina Tomas Silva, another prize winning textile artist.

The two textile experts helping organize this event have interesting backgrounds. Stephanie Paola showing her shawlSchneiderman was born in Havana, grew up in Mexico City and has lived in Miami and Phoenix. She earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations and a certificate in Latin American/Caribbean studies from Florida International University. She also has a master’s degree in International Management. She has traveled extensively in Mexico, is fluent in Spanish, and has a passion for this country and its culture which she shares by leading special interest tours. These include trips to Oaxaca and Chiapas with a focus on textiles and folk art and upcoming tour to Mexico City in March 2010 with an emphasis on The Mexican Rebozo: Techniques and Heritage. How lucky lakesiders are that we can learn from her right here at the Feria.

Marta Turok, whose family originates in Massachusetts, was also raised in Mexico City and remembers feeling at home there but also being torn between two identities: American and Mexican. She attended Tufts and during college she grappled with three identities: Mexican, American and Jewish, complicated by her desire for a career in anthropology. She was fortunate in being able to design her own program of study at Tufts and specialized in Rebozos for sale at the FeriaMexican folk art. Preserving traditional indigenous crafts became her passion and life’s work. She conducted doctoral research in Chiapas where she discovered that textile designs had a meaning, that there was continuity between pre Columbian Mayan culture and contemporary practice. She opted to share her knowledge with the people of Mexico, practicing a type of “practical” anthropology.

In 1988 Marta began a foundation that publishes books about folk art and reaches out to hundreds of isolated communities, supplying fabric, embroidery thread and needles to promote the creation of textile art. In 1989, realizing that markets are necessary, she created the Asociacion Mexicana de Arte y Cultural Popular which has grown, prospered and succeeded in getting folk art to the marketplace. Her outreach efforts on behalf on Mexican folk artists led her to assist Stephanie Schneiderman in organizing the Rebozo Feria this year at lakeside.Woven Shawls

Both Stephanie and Marta will be on hand at the rebozo booths during the Feria where they will share their knowledge and expertise. Marianne Carlson says “the Feria is there to educate the public about what they are buying. If people could watch a rebozo being made from beginning to end, they would be astounded. It takes months of intensive work.”

Marianne knows that the indigenous folk art of Mexico is in danger of disappearing and that artists need outlets for selling their work. Textile art is the most endangered of all due to modern technology and the availability of synthetics. “It breaks my heart,” she says, “to think of these artists being forced to abandon their art. I think it takes part of their souls when they give it up.”

Woman weaving at FeriaThis year’s Rebozo Feria is a unique opportunity to meet all three of these special women and the artists they are working so hard to assist. The weavers’ booths will be together; some will demonstrate using the back strap loom and rebozos will be modeled at noon as part of the larger Feria’s fashion show. Speaking of fashion, shawls are big this year on the runways of Europe. What sets Mexican shawls apart is the knotting of the fringe, not to mention the beauty of the designs and the quality of the workmanship. This is a chance to own a piece of wearable art that will last a lifetime, something you can pass on to your children and grandchildren and, at the same time, to meet the artist and learn more about Mexican culture.

Want to know more about the Feria?

Feria Maestros del Arte's website  gives information on all aspects of the Feria. Each artist has their own webpage allowing you to read about them and see examples of their work before you meet them at the show. If you are interested in volunteering or have questions, contact Marianne Carlson at (376) 765-7485, email, or Donna Williams at (376) 765-5937, email


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