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A LOOK UNDER THE RUG

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In the beautiful village of Teotitlán del Valle twenty-five minutes outside of Oaxaca City lives one of the state’s finest rug weavers. Though Andrés Hernández Gutiérrez learned the generations-old craft from his father, this artisan is putting a new spin on traditional Zapotec designs and is considered among the best of them.

While his designs are original, Gutiérrez’s craft is steeped in the Zapotec weaving tradition. His rugs are made of pure wool and the vibrant colors are sourced from dyes made from natural local materials like witch hazel, indigo, marigolds and pomegranate shells. In colonial times, traditional dyes were highly appreciated in Europe, and along with gold and silver, were some of Mexico’s most important exports.

One dye, Cochineal, is used to make the color red and is harvested from a plague that grows on the nopal cactus. The color comes from an insect bearing the same name - a parasitic bug indigenous to Oaxaca that makes its home on the cactus in tiny white, igloo-like shelters where it feeds on nutrients and moisture. Only the female Cochineal carries a substance known as Carminic acid, which is the bright red pigment used to deter predatory insects. When harvested, the bug yields a deep opaque burgundy color akin to a rich red wine.

Like every other adult male in Teotitlán, Gutiérrez devotes a substantial amount of time each year to village administration and service. A warm and welcoming man, he helps his community while his family helps demonstrate his process and educate visitors about natural dyes. If you are looking for high-quality, locally produced craftsmanship, original designs and a genuine first-hand experience, Gutiérrez’s work cannot be beat. For the quality of the work, the prices are very reasonable.

Gutiérrez’s work can be seen at “Arte la Benedición,” located at 88 Juárez St. The adobe workshop sits just up above the road on the right hand side, and is marked by a solo tree about two kilometers from highway 190 as you head into the center of Teotitlán del Valle.

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