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"Rescuing techniques and designs that had disappeared is said to be difficult or impossible to do. But I had already learned to not let myself be defeated, so I decided to learn them."
"I'm Pedro Mendoza Gutierrez, a master weaver and dyer. I was born in 1975, the oldest of nine brothers, in the town of Teotitlan del Valle. It was my parents, Bulmaro Mendoza and Raquel Gutierrez, from whom I proudly learned the art of weaving.
"Being the oldest child has been hard, especially being at the head of everything since I was 23 years old when my father passed away. Helping my mother guide my brothers and sisters and teach this work that we inherited from our ancestors has been and is a very great satisfaction. My challenge was to make larger rugs. I eventually made one that was 15 feet wide and 46 feet long.
"I began experimenting with the art of weaving rugs when I was eight years old. My first work was a two by three foot rug I named 'Fretwork.' I was in third grade and crafted it under the guidance of my late father. It was sold to buyers in our town.
"When I was 18, I began researching and rescuing natural dyes, and today I have new ones, too, but I am faithful to our ancestors' knowledge. From a very young age, I worked at perfecting and implementing new techniques for weaving rugs, as well as using natural dyes.
"I began with this, because I heard to my father and grandfather talk about dyes with regret because they didn't learn these techniques very well. 'We let them become lost,' they said. I saw them dying yarn with plants and flowers, but I never saw them use cochineal or indigo, even though they did talk about it, how our forefathers did use them. There was a time of silence, from the moment aniline dyes appeared.
"It all began like a game. We'd go out into the countryside with my father during the planting season. On the paddles of the prickly pear cactus, I saw something white like cotton that covered them. Curiosity led me to tear one of these white balls open. I was amazed to see that they were a bright, intense red inside.
"I had no idea that was a cochineal insect. I began asking questions here and there like a child in kindergarten. There were some who gave me an acceptable answer and there were also people who lied. Some even asked why I wanted to know because that would be a waste of time. For a while, I thought about quitting because it was so hard – and perhaps impossible! But I learned this – difficult and impossible exist only in the dictionary of cowards.
"Rescuing techniques and designs that had disappeared, like the Saltillo style sarape and the twisted feather technique of weaving with bird feathers, is said to be difficult or impossible to do, according to books that say these techniques are no longer in use. But I had already learned to not let myself be defeated, so I decided to learn them and was able to, thanks to the support of my wife and children. For this, I received several acknowledgements at the national level for rescuing old techniques and making new designs, and I was named one of the Great Masters of Popular Art in Oaxaca.
"In 2007, I received an award for my dedication, research and rescue of natural dyes. In 2008, I received the Benito Juarez award for rescuing the technique of weaving bird feathers. For applying natural dyes, I won a prize organized by the Instituto Oaxaqueño de Las Artesanias in coordination with FONART from Mexico City. I received the national Gran Premio de Arte Popular 2009 and on March 19, 2011, the State Government of Oaxaca and the IOA gave me an award as an outstanding craftsman.
"Love is the basis of everything… so let's love our home… our planet."
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