CUETZALAN, Mexico – Lupita was born among skeins of cotton threads and grew up watching how her grandma and mother wove them into fabrics reflecting their indigenous culture. She proudly speaks her native tongue, Nahuatl, and wears clothes whose embroidery unmistakably identifies her region.
Maria Guadalupe Pizarro Lopez, known to one and all as Lupita, is the craftswoman who this year will receive the Presidential Prize, the highest honor in the category, at the awards ceremony of Mexico’s 42nd National Grand Prize Contest of Popular Art, organized by the National Fund for the Promotion of Handicrafts (Fonart).
Her work and dedication to Mexican textile crafts are being honored in her 32nd year after competing with a single work that took a year to make and hand-finish with embroideries of the tree of life.
Her own story is woven into that of the Cuautamazaco community in Cuetzalan del Progreso, a small town often hidden in the haze of the Sierra Norte mountains in Puebla state, where ancient customs withstand the passing of time.
Faithful to their roots, the locals preserve their indigenous language and traditional dress.
Lupita was absorbed by her mother’s work from the time she was little.
“My mom worked at weaving so we could eat, study and have clothes; so we learned and later expanded the crafts we practiced,” she said in an interview with EFE.
At age 9, she started weaving with a backstrap loom, a traditional Mayan instrument on which women weave their fabrics.
Her mother and grandmother taught the children all kinds of techniques and embroidery patterns, until gradually Lupita and her siblings became quite accomplished.
“It’s complicated work,” she said from her workshop. Precision and patience are key when it comes to embroidering, because one garment can take days, weeks or months.
Making a huipil, the traditional woman’s blouse, requires two months of working seven days a week, eight hours a day.
“If only everyone appreciated the work of artisans,” Lupita said while embroidering a shirt that had already occupied her for several weeks.
“Foreigners are the ones who buy the most. They come, they ask for an article of clothing and they buy it “without trying to knock down the price,” she said.
Lupita has four brothers and a sister. “They all learned to embroider when they were little,” she said.
Together with their mother they launched the Mazatzin crafts workshop in their community.
“One of our goals is to experience our culture and pass it along in the form of textiles and embroideries,” Lupita’s brother Pedro Martin told EFE.
For him and his brothers and sisters, textile art goes way beyond simple embroideries. “For us, it’s like we keep writing those tales left us by our grandparents: in the myths and legends that are in the textiles we present mother Earth, the mother of maize, the mother of man,” he said.
All this is done out of a desire to preserve the pre-Columbian era and essence.