Taller Leñateros, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Taller Leñateros, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

Taller Leñateros (The Woodlanders’ Workshop) is an artisan society of Mayan women and men who produce handmade paper, artist books, silkscreen and wood block prints, pansey graphs, natural dyes, and magic spells.

Thirty years ago the cooperative of individuals rented an old adobe house in San Cristobal and the coop began. Using madronewood to feed the fire, they bring withered flowers from the churches, and pine needles trampled in yesterday's festival. They carry rattan, lichen, banana-leaves, corn-husks, bridal-veil, mahagua, bean-pods, maguey-tongues, reeds, coconut-shells, gladiola-stems, palm-fronds, grass, papyrus, cattails, pampas grass and bamboo, along with recycled paper and old clothes; the raw material of dreams is nearly always something "useless."

Taller Leñateros is a cultural society, an alliance of Mayan and mestizo women and men, founded in 1975 by the Mexican poet Ambar Past. Among its multiple objectives is the documentation, praise and dissemination of Amer-Indian and popular cultural values: song, literature and folk art; the rescue of old and endangered techniques such as the extraction of dyes from wild plants; and generating worthwhile and decently-paid employment for women and men who have no career, no future.

In their group environment, all the members of the Workshop participate in decisions, contributing ideas, solutions and work-proposals in order to benefit the individual and the group. Although they are not all from one same culture and may speak different languages, they are putting together a common project. Once servants, washer-women, wandering vendors and unemployed, they now own their own business. Some are also inventors - the photos above show a bicycle that has been turned into the power for a mixer.

Little by little, without subsidies or capitalist partners, pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, we have been able to buy and construct the minimal equipment with which they work. Their only and most valuable resource is themselves and their indigenous folk-wisdom.

Flavio A. Panaigua 54

Barrio de la Guadalupe

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas

967 678 5174