Juana Patishtan

For Juana, wool making is a craft of love.

Photo by by Erick Astudillo for Fundación C&A

Juana Patishtan, Bautista Chico, Chiapas, Mexico

Juana Patishtan is the representative of a group of women who work the waist loom and embroideries in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico. On a typical day, Juana rises early and starts her morning making tortillas. She cleans and sweeps her home, prepares food for her family, and tends to her chickens and her sheep. When everything is in order, Juana turns her attention to her crafts: making wool and stitching embroideries—both of which she has practiced for years.

Juana lives in Bautista Chico, a small mountain town in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. She first learned embroidery when she was 25. Mrs. Maria Patistan, a woman from a nearby village, taught her. Juana described Mrs. Patistan as a taskmaster, strict and anxious, but a good teacher. She first taught her to make a little zigzag of chains and some flowers. From there, as Juana worked diligently, her facility in the craft blossomed.

She learned to make wool even before she learned embroidery. Her grandmother taught her when she was 12. For this reason, wool making became not only a means for generating an income, but also a craft of love—one which connected her with her grandmother. Now, she is teaching the crafts of embroidery and wool to her own children.

Juana said she was motivated to learn embroidery and wool making because she has eight children, and she needed a way to support them. But she has since learned to appreciate her art, because it introduced her to the process of the products of her region. In order to make wool, for example, you first have to care for sheep. Then you remove the wool, wash it, comb the wool to make it fine, spool it into yarn, mount it and loom it into a fabric. Over the course of mastering her craft, Juana has learned to complete each step.

Before joining La Red Niu Matat Napawika, Juana said she used to go to town to get many of her materials. Thanks to the efforts of La Red, a material fund was established and set up in her own home. Artisans from her community come to the storehouse in Juana’s home to get materials rather than traveling several hours to the nearest city. The time saved in travel is time spent with friends and family. Juana said she likes to live in Bautista Chico, because “she lives very happy and calm,” and it is where her family, her work, and her community reside.