Ana Rosa Gonzalez de la Cruz heads up El Camino de los Altos A.C, a project by women for women located in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, which weaves household textile products using a traditional backstop loom. El Camino de los Altos A.C was born from a deep-seated conviction and desire to eradicate inequality. The 130 Mayan women weavers of the Mexican civil association El Camino de Los Altos and the women designers of its French counterpart, El Camino, have been weaving a remarkable "institution" for the past twenty years. At the heart of their partnership is a collective desire: to preserve and transmit the ancient Mayan art of backstrap loom weaving while improving the living conditions and leveraging the value of Mayan women weavers through a thoughtfully-conceived professional and personal growth plan.
The ethos of the association is rescue and preservation of an ancestral heritage. The backstrap loom technique is an ancestral tradition of the Mayan women of Chiapas. In Chiapas, this trade is a female trade and is transmitted from generation to generation. From a very young age, girls are given a backstrap loom with which they begin to learn this trade. The backstrap loom is tied to the end of a tree and the other end is held at the waist of the artisan with a rope. It is made up of a series of wooden rods used to achieve the width of the fabric and to weave the threads. The rods serve to lift the even threads and create a "hole" or space between both sets of threads into which the weft is inserted. The dyeing is done on the wool with natural dyes that are collected around the community, such as seasonal plants or flowers. To obtain the dye, the plants are boiled together with the wool and then left to rest for a couple of days. Finally, the wool is washed and allowed to dry.
The association works to provide a regular and sustainable financial activity for fellow weavers. To guarantee fair remuneration, following the principles of fair trade, transparency is at the centre of their concerns. Therefore, all parties actively participate in the setting of product prices, as well as in the entire process, from the conception of the design to the marketing at the points of sale.
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