GUADALAJARA, Mexico – A group of women in the Mexican city of Guadalajara are weaving mats and blankets from recycled plastic bags as a donation to people displaced by the earthquakes on Sept. 7 and 19 in Mexico.
With patience and “much affection,” some 50 weavers prepare long skeins of plastic string to form thick cloth that will provide warmth for those who lost everything in the quakes that shook the central and southern parts of the country, Eren Gonzalez Mascorro, coordinator of the project, told EFE.
She said the mats and blankets, besides being environmentally friendly, will protect people from the cold, provide a little warmth and dry easily in case they get soaked with rain, unlike ordinary cloths.
The project was begun by a group on Facebook that decided to donate food and medicine to victims of the quakes, which left more than 460 dead and thousands of families homeless.
One of its members suggested weaving thick cloth, which would also protect the environment with recycling, Gonzalez Mascorro said.
In just a few hours, dozens of people gathered “mountains of bags” of every size, and the weaving began.
“We all have plastic bags at home so we don’t have to buy anything. The group grew exponentially because people want to help,” she said.
Most women who volunteered as weavers didn’t know each other until the day they started producing. That didn’t stop them from setting up shops and teaching others the right way to string skeins of plastic material.
Small volunteer groups gradually organized in at least 20 suburbs of Guadalajara and collection centers had to be opened where people could donate the bags, since weaving a mat or blanket requires some 600 of them.
The tragedy of the earthquakes “moved us as a nation, but in Guadalajara it moved us to take action,” Gonzalez Mascorro said, adding that though the emergency is over, it’s important to find a way to “lend a hand” to those who lost everything and have to make a home from nothing.
The work of weaving requires time and patience. Once the bags arrive at the collection centers, they are cut in pieces that are then tied like a chain to make skeins.
The weavers’ clever hands intertwine the plastic strings with the help of big hooks to form thick squares of woven chains that they then tie together. After working continuously some 20 hours they make a piece some 180 centimeters (70 inches) long and 1½ centimeters thick.
The final touch is given by each weaver at the head of the mat. With conventional thread or with ink they add a phrase that reflects the warmth with which the work was done: “Be of good cheer, all this will pass.”
The group plans to send the first 50 mats and blankets in late October to the most remote communities in the southern state of Oaxaca, which have been hit by two powerful earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks.
The project is also on the point of spreading to other states in western Mexico, where other groups of weavers have volunteered to help with this work.