While aimlessly surfing the web in hopes of finding something to blog about, I came across a fascinating little publishing collective called Taller Leñateros. It is located in a little town in the state of Chiapas, Mexico called San Cristóbal de las Casas. It consists of a group of modern Mayans who are keeping their traditions, and the Tzotzil language, alive.
Their website is equal parts delightful and confusing. It lists their extensive catalog of books, postcards, and posters. They make their own paper and ink in the traditional Mayan way, so each item in the catalog is a work of art. Indeed, some have won awards. If you are interested in a specific title, you then have to (unfortunately) write it down, and then go to the “sales” page and check it off. The prices are only listed in Mexican Pesos, so you then need to find a currency converter to figure out what everything costs. I have no idea how they determine shipping and handling, or if they can even ship internationally, because I have yet to purchase anything, but I plan to, if possible.
Their books are full of Mayan poetry, songs, art, incantations, and stories, and can be purchased in English. Each one is beautiful and intriguing. Published by hand, I’m sure they will be collectors’ items.
Here is a tiny taste of the first few paragraphs of their beautifully written “about” page:
“We are the woodlanders who walk in the hills gathering dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees, collecting firewood without chopping down the forest. We come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of wood, of pitchpine and split encino, for the hearths of the Royal City of San Cristobal de Las Casas. We walk through the mist, leading our burros, selling firewood from house to house. We knock on people ’ s doors, offering pine needles as well, to spread on the floor, moss, flowers of bromeliads and orchids for manger scenes.
“Thirty years ago we rented an old adobe house in San Cristobal and we planted a little avocado tree in the patio. The sprout took root and grew and now it’s as tall as the tree where the Moon showed the first Motherfathers how to weave. The house shrank under the shadow of the leaves and filled up with dreams and we called it a «Workshop,» first «of Dreams»and then «Woodlanders’» Something between theatre and witchcraft.”
I hope you will take the extra effort required to support this collective, because according to this article, they’re struggling to survive. Their headquarters are on a dusty little side street in a dusty little town in Southern Mexico. And while they’ve been there since 1975, someone is trying to push them out, and they’re mired in lawsuits. I hope they find a way to keep going. I hope someone helps them improve the website and ramp up their online sales. I think if the world really knew about them, they would not only survive, but thrive. I wish them Lekuk me avo’ra. (Good luck.)
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