Category Archives: San Pablo Etla

Thanks for a Great Year From All of Us!


Happy New Year to our friends and supporters of ABRAZOstyle/ Latin Threads! As the year closes we’d like to thank you for your ongoing interest in our work in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico and give you a short update of what we’ve been up to.

My blogs have been painfully few his last year due to all the attention we have been giving to creating a market for our artisans’ work here in the States, but I will endeavor to post more in the coming year…A good New Year resolution, I’d say!

We are very excited to report that we’ve had a fantastic year with very positive growth in the company and in our circle of  artisans.  Our hand crafted , socially responsible clothing and accessories for the worldly woman are now found in boutiques, specialty gift stores, museum stores, high end garden stores, and even zoos on the west coast, parts of the southwest, the midwest and east coast,  but there is still much to be done!

Plans for 2012 include continued growth in the communities we work with in Mexico as well as expanding into larger markets in the US.

The embroidery classes we started in October in our village of San Pablo Etla, Oaxaca have been going extraordinarily well. (See pictures) The group is now up to a maximum size of 15 members with our most advanced students producing hugely improved, beautiful work. Thank you Ayuda (the NGO sponsoring the classes). In the coming year we will be working with the women to help them to create their own designs and products to market through ABRAZO in the States.

We are also continuing to expand our work with families of women in small villages in the highlands of Chiapas.  Look for some their new and traditional blouses this spring on our web site along with new designs and colors in our totes and scarves. Lots of surprises coming!

We appreciate your sharing what we do with others and, as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions!

If you are interested in following us on Facebook, just click on this link and you’ll get the latest updates as they happen!

Thank you once again for your interest and encouragement. Abrazos (hugs) from all of us and best wishes for a bright and successful year!

Adele and the ABRAZOstyle Team

Oh, I almost forgot. If you are interested in joining us in Oaxaca this year on a socially responsible shopping tour, please let us know.



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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, embroidery, Fair Trade, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Market Bags, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de Las Casas, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, travel/shopping in Mexico, Uncategorized, Women Artisans

The Practice of Stitches, Patience, and Cooperation

The first meeting of the group.

Several months ago, with the support of a small non profit group called AYUDA, the ladies of San Pablo Etla began embroidery classes. It was their decision. The non profit asked me what the group needed and I had my own idea. I thought it would be fantastic for the women to learn to sew on sewing machines and to create clothing (as well as embroidery) to sell. More skills, more income, right? Well, I was pretty off base. When my assistant, Celina, and I had a meeting with the group to discuss the modest funding AYUDA was offering, I gave them my suggestion of what we could do with the money. They nervously looked at one another until one of them spoke up. “What we really want to is to be the best ‘bordadoras’

Abigail, Marta's daughter, joins in the class for fun.

“(embroiderers). They said they “had so much to learn” and wanted to improve upon the skills they were building. Only later would it come out that they were also intimidated to take this on for fear of failure.

What has transpired over the past months has been very interesting. The teacher for the group (a young and very congenial local woman) who has an impressive repertoire of stitches, started the group on some of the more difficult stitches (at their request) and they are moving through them with great enthusiasm. Of the 8 or so women we started with, several have dropped out due to jealousy and envy (a common theme in my blog), but others have made remarkable improvement and are now taking on more difficult embroidery projects. Though their work is not yet at the level of the women of Chiapas who have embroidered for generations*, they are developing a beautiful, consistent style which we will be introducing online this spring in our new beach cover up.

Word has it that a few of the women are interested in trying the sewing machine now but they remain intimidated by the machine and are afraid of breaking it. We will see what develops on this front.The challenge remains to continue to supply these women with work so that they can continue to develop their skills and provide for their families.

On a parting note, Marta, our star of San Pablo, actually paid for the addition of a bedroom to their home from the money she earned embroidering. Humble though it may be (made from corrugated metal with a dirt floor), the pride in her face was obvious when she showed us around. Of course, for fear of shaming her husband, she didn’t mention who paid for it. Celina just whispered the great news to me as we were leaving.

*In fact, a number of the families we work with in Chiapas actually have 4 generations of women sewing in the family.

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., Chiapas, embroidery, Fair Trade, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Mexican women, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, Women Artisans

The Best and the Hardest Part

A Meeting With the Ladies of San Pablo Etla...

The people I know in the small villages down the back roads where we work in Oaxaca and Chiapas are truly the heart of Mexico…They are the dedicated, hard working families that have carried on the traditions of their ancestors: weaving, embroidering and farming with the same commitment that has existed for generations.


We meet artisans like Juana and Marta, Emiliano and Catalina passing through markets, poking our heads into open doorways and in our own pueblo of San Pablo Etla. In some cases it is the quality of work that turns our heads and draws us into relationships with the artisan, in other cases it is the story… Many of the women we work with are single mothers struggling to support their kids, unable to take jobs outside the home because they have no one to help them care for

The new "Mati" blouse, compliments of the ladies of San Pablo!

their children. In our pueblo, a rural village outside of the city of Oaxaca, the women we work with are committed to creating better lives for themselves and their children, despite the challenges of sometimes not having enough to eat or sufficient money to pay for their children’s needs.


The BEST part is to watch these amazing women in action. Cristina, Marta, Juana, Miriam and others have worked hard master to their craft and take great pride in what they do and in earning a real income. The transformation I have witnessed in these women over the last year is my inspiration.

The HARD part is the work has only begun. There are still stories of  hardship, of abuse and of desperation. But with their spark of hope, determination, and their newly perfected skills, I believe anything is possible. The women have a dream of a sewing cooperative they want to start with  a couple of used sewing machines, a place to work, and the skills they have already mastered…. Sound interesting? Let me know if you would like to become involved.

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Filed under Fair Trade, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, WBTW, Women Artisans

The Assumptions We Make

A wedding in or pueblo of San Pablo Etla, Oaxaca.

Embarking on an experience living abroad is full of surprises, to put it mildly. I for one, LOVE surprises. My husband always gives me a hard time when life gets complicated living abroad, chiding me when things get rough with comments like ” yes, you are the one who wanted to experience “real” Mexico”…but, to experience the true texture of a place, one needs to be ready for the inconvenient, the embarrassing, and the unknown.

The thing is, we arrive with expectations and an uncontrollable personal “ruler” with which we gauge our lives against those of the people who surround us. …It is hard to avoid, and a little ridiculous to assume, that we can shed our histories to participate in a “new” culture without comparing life to what we know. Even after years in Mexico I catch myself making assumptions about people and life in our village. I assume there will always be running water.  I assume people have a cell phones or email addresses. And as for the children, I assume they all can attend school.

The real privilege of living abroad is to experience daily life first hand, in its most raw form, be it  good, bad, or ugly. There is no greater way to appreciate every moment of living than to spend time in a foreign culture where even a trip to the grocery store can be full of challenge and gratification!  I invite you to seek new experiences in life, to build bridges between the familiar and the unknown, and to know a culture other than your own.



Filed under Living Abroad, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, travel/shopping in Mexico, Uncategorized, WBTW

Pepé and His Scarves

Pepé, Marta and their two children, Josecito and Abigail.

The most remarkable thing happened the other day. I was checking over a recent delivery of our handmade scarves with the ladies from San Pablo Etla, and as we were chatting, I commented to a woman in the group how one scarf in particular  was embroidered in an especially beautiful, lyrical way, as if the chain stitched line of embroidery on the scarf were the trail of a butterfly. Marta, one of the ladies there, looked down and giggled. She said no, it wasn’t her work but the work of her husband, Pepé, who is a mason. I was shocked and delighted as I had never heard of a man in the pueblo embroidering! She said he actually liked to do this to help earn money for the family and that in fact in addition to embroidering, he draws a lot of the designs on the scarves the ladies embroider! In his honor, we have named the new scarf the “Pepé”!

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., embroidery, Fair Trade, Living in Mexico, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, travel/shopping in Mexico, WBTW

Stitches and Decisions

A sample of the samples of embroidery from the ladies. Which would you choose?

How hard can it be to design a blouse and put some embroidery on it? HA!
You have no idea….(well, maybe  you do, but I didn’t!)

As I contemplate the mountain of new blouses that surrounds me which I will take to Chiapas on Thursday for embroidery, I find myself a bit queasy with all the design decisions needing to be made. Take a look for yourself at the photo above which represents a sample of the embroidery choices for our new “Mati” blouse (Still a secret!) Not easy, no, so many great choices.

I  asked the ladies of San Pablo Etla to use their imaginations to come up with some ideas for different embroidery stitches we could try. Well, they blew the doors off the possibilities, creating, unique and beautiful figures.

The region of San Pablo, where these ladies live, has no historic textile tradition from the pueblo. Many know how to embroider, and do it well, but there is no recognizable style such as the fine floral blouse of San Antonino in Oaxaca or the chain stitch style of Chamula in Chiapas.

This is where the fun begins because we are creating style here, using references to their Zapotec roots and fostering their own unique textile vocabulary.

Off to Mitla and my favorite weavers tomorrow. More pictures and perhaps some video to come!

Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under About Latin Threads Trading Co., embroidery, Indigenous Mexican women, Mexican blouses, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, travel/shopping in Mexico, Women Artisans

Reunions and Tamales

The Talented Ladies of San Pablo Etla.

My first day in Oaxaca was very full with lovely and inspiring meetings with the ladies of San Pablo Etla. They brought a mountain of absolutely delicious tamales they had made for the occasion and we laughed and caught up. They also brought with them lots of our new, embroidered scarves for spring, each one a unique and special signature of the woman who made it.

One thing that struck me about our meeting was the sense of collaboration that I hadn’t seen before in them. As we sat and talked, suddenly Marta, the young woman who was my inspiration for Latin Threads, said  “You know, there are women coming to my house now who want to embroider. When I show them what we do they say ‘but that is too much work, we don’t want to do that.’ They are women who are used to being taken care of by a man and expect everything to be given to them. We are poor, but we take pride in working because I know that if I buy a plate or a bowl for my house it is because I earned the money to do it and the more I work, the better we can live.”

Marta had brought another family member with her to our meeting who had done a lovely job of embroidering. And as Marta spoke, she told of how she allowed Miriam to join the group because she works well and that she (Marta) could personally stand by Miriam’s skills. To me, this meant that she takes pride in her work.  As we parted, there was much talk of succeeding “together”.

I could not have been more inspired because amongst these women, all have suffered hardships in their lives, all live on the edge, but there is light and hope that these  women carry inside…a beautiful thing.

Lots more meetings in the next few days, and more stories.

Thanks for reading.

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Filed under Fair Trade, Indigenous Mexican women, Mexican blouses, Mexican textiles, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Pablo Etla, Textiles Oaxaca, Women Artisans