In every meeting with our Community Archivists, we talk about what we’re scanning and documenting. Last week, we held one of the most beautiful meetings I’ve attended. Each community archivist brought samples of what they had been working on and shared them with the group. Each photo came with a story and each story was revelatory as the last. It confirmed my commitment to this work and to this project. It also reminded me of some of the things I learned from Beatrice Maestas-Sandoval, my cousin and master weaver/colchera.
Since I began as the Manitos Community Memory Project Director five months ago, I have realized that this project works like a rug. Threads come up through the warp and show themselves. One of of the most prevalent of these threads has been the tradition of sheepherding and the significant place sheep hold. When Beatrice began to teach me how to weave and how to do colcha almost ten years ago, I had no idea how deep the tradition went not only in my family but in the families of so many of us. In census records, I had seen that my great-great aunts were WPA weavers and that my great-great grandmother had made a living by making rag rugs but I did not really know the degree to which sheep would make themselves known to me. Returning to the census, I learned that relatives on both side of my family (my dad’s in Guadalupe and San Miguel counties in New Mexico and my mom’s in Val Verde county in Texas) made a living through shepherding. This led me down the road of learning how to weave rugs and how to colcha. I have never quite gotten the hang of spinning and I’m terrible at warping but there is comfort in knowing that these are traditions that come down hundreds of years.
And that is something I saw in our group meeting last week and in the myriad conversations I have had over the last few months. Yes, we are carrying traditions and we are reworking them into something new — a story that never ends. Like the warp on the loom, the threads of the story are there and our words are the shuttle that move between, plotting the designs. Each time we share, the design gets more intricate and more complicated. New things emerge; new landscapes reveal themselves and places we thought we knew inspire more questions and require more care.
I’ve seen looms that are the size of rooms and I’ve seen looms that are a quarter the size of a regular dining room table; yet, I always wondered what about those big, huge rugs — those that don’t look like there could be a loom big enough to hold them. Granted, I am no expert on looms but what I learned from Beatrice was sometimes two pieces are sewn together to create a bigger piece. Simple concept, I know, but it had never occurred to me that one rug could be two sewn together.
A few weeks ago one of the Manito Community Project designers Natasha Vasquez sent me an animation she had created for the project. As with so many of our stories, it features the borrego and sets the stage for the kind of work we hope to continue to do and that we hope you will feel inspired by. Click the link below!