Rachel Patricio Candelario

“It is a part of me. It identifies where I am from."

Rachel Patricio Candelario, San Nicolas Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, Mexico

Rachel Patricio Candelario is the representative for Las Joyas Preciosas, a group of women who have mastered the craft of embroidery in San Nicolas Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, Mexico. For Rachel, making embroideries touches on something more meaningful than simply stitching thread into fabric. 

“My family has been embroidering since my great, great, great grandmother—that I can remember,” said Candelario, an artisan from San Nicolas Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, Mexico. “A lot of our culture is represented in our embroidery, like flora and fauna and agriculture. Right now, for example, we are incorporating alters into our embroideries, and our alters have been part of our culture for many years…”

To hear Rachel say it, embroidery represents not just artwork, but family, tradition, culture, and community. Hidalgo embroidery patterns—such as those made by Rachel and her fellow artisans in  the Joyeras Preciosas group—are known as Tenango. The distinctive patterns include colorful plants and animals, with flowers typically growing out from the animals’ bodies.  “A lot of the embroideries come from my imagination,” Rachel said. “You draw up the animals from your imagination; afterwards, the embroidery process begins.”

In San Nicolas Tenango de Doria, many people still speak the native language Otomi. Along with Tenango patterns, the language remains an important keystone of a dynamic and living culture. “My community has its own cultures and its own languages,” Rachel said, “and it is very important that we don’t lose these cultural traditions and languages. That is why our native language Otomi is being instilled back in our community and with our young ones.” In this way, both embroidery and her native tongue make up aspects of her personhood, Rachel said. “For me, it is very significant to speak my native tongue, because it identifies me and it identifies my community,” she added.

Since joining La Red Niu Matat Napawika and making jorongos for Wondor, Rachel has noticed a resurgence in the appreciation she and others in her community feel for their traditional crafts. “Before we did not value it,” she said. “Before we would sell our embroidery very cheap, but now I am learning about the value of my work, and learning that it’s a craftsmanship. For me to know that it is being exported into international markets gives me great joy.”