Isaac Vásquez García, the eldest living member of one of the best-known weaving families in Teotitlán del Valle, pioneered the renaissance of pre-Hispanic Zapotec and Mixtec natural dyes and the use of pure wool that better absorbs these colors. Isaac and his three sons and five daughters and their families all take great pride in doing so, despite the more time-consuming and expensive nature of these methods, when compared with chemical dyes and acrylic fiber. They guarantee their rugs for 40 years, in great contrast to the mere six-month life expectancy of synthetic work that is far less costly in time and money. Each member of the family creates personal patterns and weaves his own pieces, although there are many shared designs.
Isaac Vásquez García
Isaac is famous for reviving the use of natural materials – such as dried and ground “cochineal,” an insect that is found in a type of cactus called “nopal” – to create red dye. He has also devoted himself to conserving the carding and weaving methods introduced in colonial times. Although not of interest to most of his fellow villagers or to the tourists who did not appreciate the superior qualities of natural dyes, Isaac found support for his research into the re-creation of pre-Hispanic colors in two famous Oaxacan artists. One was Francisco Toledo, the most famous living Mexican painter, and Rufino Tamayo, the (now deceased) famous painter who was a native of Oaxaca. Isaac’s signature designs derive from ancient sources. He creates “estelas” (figures seen in stone carvings in the famous majestic Oaxacan ruins of Monte Albán) and “codices” (manuscripts) also from Monte Albán. These styles have been copied by many of his fellow villagers, but he was the artist who introduced them. Isaac weaves in a wide range of other styles: patterns from pre-historic cave paintings, reproductions of Diego Rivera paintings, geometric stepped fret patterns from Mitla and the like.
Ernesto Vásquez Gutiérrez (son of Isaac)
Ernesto is an extremely successful weaver in his own right. He and his wife have their own home, a stunning piece of architecture consisting of high rounded white stucco walls with brick arches. Attractively suspended from the voluminous wall space are innumerable examples of his many creations. In one room there is a display of pre-Columbian and pre-Hispanic designs for which the extended family is famous. Another houses more traditional patterns that incorporate elements of the Zapotecs and the archaeological site of Mitla. At the same time Ernesto produces more modern representational designs such as birds, and reproductions inspired by artists such as Escher, Matisse and Diego Rivera. To demonstrate the viability of his family’s work, Ernesto showed us fabulous family heirlooms. One was 150 years old and the other 90 years old.
Aida Vásquez Gutiérrez (daughter of Isaac)
Aida and her husband Manuel Alavéz live and work in the prominent house across the street from that of her brother Ernesto. “Tapetes” (rugs and wallhangings) are displayed everywhere. They occupy all the walls of the patio where the family’s looms are located and in the enormous showroom on the second floor of their home. Aida and Manuel are best known for their original Zapotec designs. However, they are also dedicated to preserving more traditional patterns. In addition, they produce lovely reproductions of works by Diego Rivera and Escher.