Luís Rodríguez Martínez, Tenancingo, Mexico

Luís Rodríguez Martínez, Tenancingo, Mexico

Luis Rodríguez Martínez, age 43, is the son of Federico Rodríguez Mejía who after learning the trade of a rebocero (weaver of rebozos), was not satisfied with what he was being taught. He was determined to become one of the best reboceros in Mexico — he has certainly achieved that goal.

Weaving rebozos has been in Luis’ family since the end of 1800s. Now in its third generation, Luis has taken his craft to new heights participating in competitions where he has received award after award at the national level.

In 1994 Luis started Association of Artisans of Reboceros Tenancingo AC (a cooperative) with his fellow artisans in hopes of achieving together what was almost impossible to do separately — find a dignified place in the world marketplace to sell their rebozos and keep their folk art alive. It has taken this cooperative 15 years to achieve recognition from their state and municipal governments, but they now have a small space at the Tenancingo Sunday tianguis (market). However, Luis is still not satisfied and continues his struggle to improve the conditions of his peers through their association.

His work has been recognized by the Banamex Cultural Foundation, publishers of the landmark book “The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art,” and in 1995 he was sponsored for a study and exchange program with the artisans of Guatemala to learn new weaving techniques. In 2006, he was invited by the Asociación de Cronistas Municipales del Estado de México to deliver a lecture on the progress of Association of Artisans of Reboceros Tenancingo AC. Later that same year, he was invited to participate in the Simposio-Taller Internacional (International Weaving Symposium) in Hyberadad, India, where he gave a workshop on using natural dyes.

Luis is an innovative craftsman and works diligently to retain the cultural history of the rebozo in his work. The cooperative is attempting to make their work appealing to the modern-day fashion world without losing its ethnicity.

The rebozo is historically and presently a universal garment in women’s Mexican dress, worn by many social classes in Mexico. This ubiquitous garment has been identified as a syncretic garment, that fuses indigenous elements of the pre-Hispanic tilmatli (cloak/cape) and the Spanish mantilla or shall with origins in the Orient, that came to Mexico via the Manila Galleons that hauled/plied trade between Manila and Acapulco.

The addition of fringe to the basic garment shape (cape) is believed to be one of the primary embellishments from this outside influence. The ikat, dye resist traditions are believed to have entered Mesoamerica via the Andean cultures of South America. Numerous indicators in metallurgy, architecture and other reference points indicate that a South/North trade and influence was present in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. This theory points to the fact that ikat technique and dress/clothing types were not just influenced from Asia and Europe, but in addition from South America.

Further to this discussion is the point that it is highly unlikely that such a complex technique as ikat could have easily been adopted in Mesoamerica if SOME knowledge of this technique did not already exist. Therefore, the theory states that this technique had to be indigenous to the region in some capacity, in order for it to have been adopted/adapted in the manner in which it was. According to Virginia Davis, “It is important to note that the design of the ikat patterning of the Mexican rebozo has very special properties. The resist patterning is created by vertically in a warp-faced textile, but after dyeing, the motifs read horizontally in the finished weaving.”

Master dyer/weaver José Luis Rodriguez said, “You have no idea how important it is to me, my children and my community that you come and take interest in our traditions. Sometimes we think no one cares or is interested. When we see that you are interested in learning about how we tie our thread bundles, how we dye them, untie them and weave them to produce patterns, we are deeply honored and motivated”.

All rebozo centers in Mexico deserve our respect and attention. In life, we take many things for granted, and when we don’t acknowledge and express our admiration and respect for these traditions, they may just go away, leaving us with clothing from Target, Walmart and Kohls. What a sad, depressing world this would be!

Melchor Ocampo #316

Tenancingo, Mexico

722 429 0162