José Sántiz Ruiz y Lorenzo Sántiz Jiménez, Aldama, Chiapas
José Sántiz Ruiz was born and raised in the town of Aldama, also known by the name of its saint--Magdalena. It is a Tzotzil village located in the mountains between San Andres Larrainzar and Santa Martha. The men in this village are dedicated to agriculture and the women are famous for their wonderful weavings and ceremonial huipiles.
Around 2004, some of the men in the village decided to take advantage of an opportunity from CECATI San Cristobal de las Casas to take metalworking classes to increase their income. Metalworking is a trade that was brought to Chiapas, and to San Cristobal especially, by the Spaniards, who taught the indigenous people how to work with metal. It was an extremely important trade in those times that today is becoming a lost art, as now only a few metal workers remain.
This group of men opened a small workshop in town called the Tree of Life Workshop. The workshop consists of 18 neighbors and relatives who work together in an informal setting. There are three representatives and each man takes his turn as a representative. All decisions are made by consensus in the workshop and all money from sales goes into a common fund. This fund is used according to the needs of the group and the individual members. This is a "true" cooperative effort.
The men usually work in the workshop the first three days of the week and in the field the rest of the time. They are engaged in making decorative and utilitarian pieces. Some examples of the decorative pieces they make are crosses for roofs, and trees of life. Some examples of the utilitarian/practical pieces they make are towel and clothes hooks, and mirror frames. These utilitarian pieces are decorated with figures of the sun, corn, eclipses, animals, and other important symbols of their culture.
The area where these men work is remote and sometimes there is no signal. If you would like to visit the workshop, please make an appointment in advance by sending a Whatsapp message before your visit. Also note that several of the men do not speak Spanish (their native language is Tzotzil) and the workshop is only open three days a week.
Tree of Life
Mexican Revolution Street
967 169 8473 967 169 8473 (it is preferable to leave a text message as there is almost no signal in town)