The 16th annual Feria Maestros del Arte, which took place in Chapala this past weekend, was “an unparalled opportunity to learn about the process, value, and meaning of generations-old Mexican folk art.” The most fascinating of all the enchanting things I learned about was Tixinda, an ancient purple dye. This dye, which requires no additional chemicals to set permanently, is milked from the nearly extinct purpura panza mollusk, a snail in a handsome shell that lives only in a deep bays along the coast of Oaxaca. The milking must be done right where the snails live; otherwise the dye does not ‘paint’ the hand-spun skein of cotton thread. And the snails are then immediately returned to the sea, alive!
The seasonal work is handed down as a family tradition to the men of mountain villages that are an eight day walk away from the coast. It is difficult work due to the dangers of the sea, and it takes the milking of 300 snails to dye one skein of thread spun by the women of the village!The dyed skeins are then returned to the village women to use in weaving and designing a stunning array of one-of-a-kind textile art.
In the community of Pinotepa de Don Luis in Oaxaca, Tixinda is also the name of a weaving cooperative. Over 60 women of Mixtec origin are passing down the 3,000-year-old tradition of spinning and weaving with the tixinda-dyed thread. It takes about two weeks of preparation and spinning to produce one kilo of cotton thread and approzximately three months to weave a traditional huípil using four kilos of thread. The cooperative is looking for your support to keep them weaving a spinning in their own homes, instead of cleaning in ours. All purchases and donations are tax deductible.