Weaving in Teotitlán dates back to 500 BC. The earliest weavings were done on back strap looms using cotton and ixtle. Today, the weaving is done on peddle looms and the fabric of choice is wool. This change took place in 1535 with the arrival of Dominican bishop Juan López de Zárate. He introduced wool and the first loom, shipped from Spain across the Atlantic. The use of natural dyes and weaving predate the conquest, but it was the European invasion which jump-started a cottage industry producing serapes and tapetes or rugs. Slowly the town grew, and began specializing in rugs which were initially sold within the state and to a certain extent, in different parts of the country. Now, exports from this town reach foreign shores too.
For centuries the families of the Zapotec weavers of Teotitlán have handed down the weaving tradition to their children with the art of weaving in many families going back six and seven generations.
The town has more than 100 workshops showcasing a large selection of handmade products, including tapetes, serapes, jackets, ponchos and dresses. Almost all the guided tours make a halt at the town’s weaving workshops giving visitors an opportunity to see a brief demonstration of the weaving techniques and at the same time, purchase some of the famous products.
Brightly colored tapetes (rugs) are my favorite– some with traditional Zapotec glyphs, others imitating twentieth-century designs. Most of them feature representations of Zapotec diamonds, rainfall, maize and mountains.