Master Weaver Micaela Yójcom De Bizarro
70 year old Micaela Yojcóm Hernandez De Bizarro is the youngest of 7 children, and being the youngest, she admits she was loq' (Tz'utujil for spoiled)! She didn't learn to weave until she was in her early teens; she just didn't want to sit at her mother's side to learn the art and so being loq', she was indulged.
Eventually, at the ripe old age of 13 she began weaving. As a teenager she mostly wove lienzos which are lengths of fabric that can be sewn together lengthwise to make a bedspread or a table cloth. These were then sold to a woman who in turn would resell them for the markets in Panajachel (across Lake Atitlán) or Antigua. The middle-woman who purchased the lienzos would bring her the pre-warped yarn to weave and for every lienzo Micaela would make about $1. The process of weaving one lienzo takes 2-3 full days. Micaela also wove her own huipiles and fajas for her traje tipico but the corte was purchased from a floor loom weaver.
Although two of her three brothers had the opportunity to attend school, Micaela (and her sisters) did not and she neither reads nor writes. As a child she really did want to go to school, but her mother required her to stay at home to help with the household chores. She remembers the school teacher going door to door hunting for school age children. Whenever her mother got wind of the approaching teacher, she would hide Micaela under the bed until the danger had passed. Like many of the San Juan women of her generation she understands and speaks just a bit of Spanish but is, of course, fluent in the local Mayan dialect, Tz' utujil. Cristina and her wriggly 1 year old daughter acted as our translators.
I asked Micaela if her parents chose her husband as was sometimes the custom then. Her face immediately transformed into that of a teenager and she began to blush. No, she said. She and her husband were quite enamorados. When she was 15 her soon-to-be husband came and stole her away from the family; they eloped. Although some parents would have come and reclaimed their errant daughter, hers did not. It was interesting to learn that Micaela and her husband weren't officially married in the Catholic Church until they'd had a couple of children, and that this too was a common practice.
Micaela and her husband had 10 children, 6 of whom survived, and all of these went to school. Her daughters are all backstrap loom weavers. Eleven years ago her husband died leaving her a widow. She continues to live in their marital home with one of her daughters and son-in-law and when she dies, as is the custom here, the house and land will pass on to this daughter. (Cristina told me an interesting aside. Sometimes a parent will transfer ownership to their adult child while they are still living and that once in a while the child, upon obtaining the title will then turn around and evict the aging parent from his or her family home! She added that it is much safer to make the transfer legal upon the death of the remaining parent.)
Micaela's son-in-law works with honey bees and has a large honey extractor on their patio. When I saw it there I asked if he also sold the beeswax, but as is the manner of bee-keeping in Guatemala, the wax is mysteriously returned to the bees. Instead, she brought out a bit of honeycomb for us to try. Really delicious.
Although within the last year her hands have begun to give her pain, Micaela continues weaving. This is how she contributes to the expenses of living, of buying beans and corn and sugar. She'd like to be able to try something a little simpler but selling her weavings is the only way she knows to generate an income. Retirement as both a concept and a reality does not really exist here.
Micaela's weaving style is off the beaten path. She loves to experiment with color and weave beyond the traditional designs. The results of her creativity are the original and beautiful combinations in her impeccably rendered weavings.
We're proud to introduce Micaela as our lucky 13th MayaWeavings Partner!