After receiving my B.A. in Spanish & Hispanic Studies in 2016, I embarked on my U.S. Fulbright year as a recipient of the ETA (English Teaching Assistant) award to Argentina. Receiving this wonderful teaching opportunity through the U.S. Department of State was contingent upon the work I had previously done in school.
For about two years in college, I volunteered as a private English teacher to María Eva, a Oaxacan woman that I met through a Latino center in my school's town. I would take a shuttle to her house twice a week and teach free one-hour English lessons while she tended to her children. As we became closer friends, I learned of her story of how she moved here at a very young age with her husband to seek a better life and to support her family back in the town of San Juan Yuta, Oaxaca. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEG), only between 25.5% and 31.8% of the female population (older than 12 years) of San Juan Yuta are economically active. Moving to the states with her husband was María Eva's best option for supporting her mother and father back home as well as creating a supportive life for her young children in the states.
Many small towns in the state of Oaxaca, similar to that of María Eva's hometown, San Juan Yuta, are known for their artisan products made of wool, palm leaves, wood, recycled plastic and more. The techniques they use have been passed down through generations but are at risk of fading out as older generations pass away and younger generations choose work in other cities.
Behind agriculture, the artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world, leading the way as a 32 billion dollar industry. About 60% of the world’s poor consists of women, yet women make up the majority of the artisan sector. Often times, the work that they do is overlooked, as many world governments do not regard artisan work as a real means of gaining an income. Many of these artists live in rural and isolated parts of their country where the job market is very scarce.
This fall, I will have the opportunity to research indigenous artisan techniques in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, where 50% of the nation's indigenous population resides. During my trip, I will be visiting the towns of Teotitlán del Valle, Magdalena Peñasco and San Cristóbal Amatlán to learn about indigenous rug and palm basket weaving techniques from women in these communities.
Your support will allow me to share with the global community what I have learned from these women about the past, present and future of indigenous art, as well as the vital role that they have in their communities. With this knowledge, I hope to plan a sustainable and fair model that would economically support these women who live in rural areas where they have little to no access to a global market.
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