Last week, we introduced you to Margarita and Benita, two sisters who are dedicated to keeping ancient weaving traditions alive, while generating opportunities for the future. Today, we want you to hear from Benita—in her own words.
My name is Benita Aguilar Sánchez, and I am from the town of Miguel Alemán in Sonora, but with Oaxacan roots, since my parents are originally from there, belonging to the Triqui ethnic group.
Ever since I was little, my parents knew that I liked school. I enjoyed attending classes and while they made sacrifices so that their daughter could continue studying, they never could have imagined that she would finish university. Thanks to the unconditional support of my family I was able to achieve it. I sought help with scholarships, working weekends and vacations, thus generating income for transportation, food, and school enrollment payments.
And so finally, three years ago I graduated as an Agricultural Engineer at the University of Sonora. For two years I worked in the field, gaining experience, and now I am working as an internship teacher at the Technological Agricultural Baccalaureate Center in Miguel Alemán.
My inspiration was my family, my parents, to make them feel proud that they had a daughter who went beyond what they imagined, what they would believe that a Triqui could reach. I know that I am not the only person who has achieved it, but I am the only one in my family so far. I say “so far” because the younger generations are coming and I know they will also achieve it.
I want to be an inspiration for them, for them to say, “I want to study and finish university like my aunt.”
Two years ago my parents returned to their hometown in Oaxaca, and last year I went to visit them. When I first arrived in Oaxaca, it was love at first sight. I loved the plants and animals, the food, and especially the people and their love for their traditional customs. I was coming from a place where indigenous people are denigrated, but here I was now in a place where indigenous people are proud. It was a powerful and surprising paradigm shift for me.
Oaxaca is not how they paint it, as a place that’s just poor. If only they knew that in Oaxaca, they have everything.
When I returned to Miguel Alemán, I had come to the realization that Triqui people have to leave a bit of their culture and traditional customs behind in order to adapt to this place that “is not theirs” and find a way to survive in this different Sonoran land. It’s not all bad, though, because thanks to the efforts of the Triqui authorities here, we now have two primary schools specifically for Triqui children, some government support in the form of scholarships, and now the recognition of Triqui women.
One of the key parts of our identity as Triqui women is our clothing, especially the huipil (blouse) and beautiful bags.
We say that the huipil is made through weaving, but technically it is called a backstrap loom. This weaving technique is passed from generation to generation. Designs include representations of important items in our culture, like butterflies and corn. And with bags, these are usually created in order to generate income for the family.
Generally, Triqui women are the ones that make these huipiles and bags. That is significant, because through 1MISSION’s weaving workshop, women are able to obtain some economic benefit for their children.
So many of the women involved are single mothers. They are the most vulnerable people in the agricultural fields, sometimes because they don’t speak Spanish very well, and in other cases because with their husbands having been the ones who worked, they may not have the same skills to bring to the job market. So this project is for Triqui women, to sustain them and their families.
At the same time, it is often men who buy these items, since they are the ones who handle finances in the community.
My hope is that with the sale of these huipiles and bags, my fellow citizens will feel proud of their people, of their origin, of the cultural richness that exists here in Mexico. And for people in the United States and elsewhere, I hope they will be surprised, that they will fall in love with Mexico and its people. I hope they see and recognize that the indigenous people can work wonders with their hands, that they are hard-working people struggling to move forward.
When you buy these items, you aren’t just getting a souvenir from Mexico. You’re also supporting the local economy, which translates into food on tables and children being able to attend school.
As for the workshop itself, I hope that within a year more women will join and commit to keep the program going. In five years, I hope that the work we are doing here is recognized far and wide, transcending borders. And why not, I hope we can create a teaching course for even the youngest girls among us, laying the foundation for a more solid future for them.
And as I dream, fifty years from now, I hope this project will have grown into a booming brick and mortar business. Most of all, I hope that we’ll be able to say that neither the language nor the culture and customs of the Triqui people have been lost. That’s my dream.
Our Artisan Marketplace pop-up store—which closes tonight—features exclusive, one-of-a-kind Triqui designs.
Proceeds from the sales of these items will benefit the artisans themselves while helping us continue to expand our community development work in Miguel Alemán. Supplies are limited and going fast, so shop today!