Master Weaver Antonia Navichoc Cholotío
Antonia met us at the door with a gracious smile, interrupting her tortilla-making for photos, an interview, a weaving demonstration and an apology. The apology was because she rents her home instead of owning it. And that she wasn't living with her parents because they already had a houseful. Cristina explained to me that it was a point of pride to own your home and that Antonia was a little embarrassed to be receiving us in a rented house.
Antonia is a 40 year-old single mother/grandmother who never stops working to keep her family fed. In the mornings and sometimes the afternoons, she cleans houses for the ancianos who aren’t able to and with what’s left of the day, she tends to her own family and to weaving. She is unable to read or write and finds it difficult to sign her name. She left school around the age of 8 since her family could not afford to send her and being the oldest child she was expected to look after the house and the younger children. She started working in the coffee fields as a young child alongside her parents and at 10 years old began working by herself, returning home at night to be with her family. At 12 she began weaving when she wasn’t outside working and at 15 she was married to someone she barely knew because, as was the custom at the time, her parents chose her husband. She went to live with her husband’s family and soon became pregnant with her first child. She returned home with her parents’ permission after 8 months because her husband had begun hitting her.
Antonia’s warmth and kindness were apparent in her welcoming manner and open conversation about her life. She spoke mainly Tz’utujil, the Maya language of San Juan while Cristina translated into Spanish. When asked what she liked about weaving, she laughed and said, “Well, it’s really the only work available for women, so please buy my weavings!”
Although silk & cotton scarves with jaspe panels are Antonia's specialty for the Quetzalli Cooperative she weaves a large variety of textiles including the table runners depicted in the above photos.