Photography and narrative by Alex Scott
Interpretation by Erika Gómez
Translation by Mateo Acevedo
Alex produced a picture story about Julian Rivera Ayala, a weaver who works in Luis Gallegos’ furniture workshop. Click on the image below to see the slideshow.
He takes a leaf and weaves it over, under, over, under — takes another leaf — twists, pulls, turns the chair, and begins again.
“Old people have customs here,” said Julian Rivera Ayala. “Sowing corn, beans, broad bean, chopping firewood, weaving, it’s the same life.”
Julian works in the light of the courtyard at the furniture shop, Muebleria El Salto. As the owner, Luis, and the other workers pass into the shadows of the workshop, Julian weaves silently, incessantly. He has only worked there for three years, but he began weaving at the age of six.
“All the members of my family do it. I started when I was six, and I learned and now I can’t do anything else.”
Weaving is a tradition in Tenancingo. Located within the mountains in the heart of Mexico, furniture was one of the first industries in the town. The surrounding forests harbor both deciduous and tropical trees; a natural contrast that provided wood for the chair frames, and the palm fronds for the woven seats. But as the town’s economy slips into modernity, the chair making business is declining.
“Many years ago, it was the way to support the town. All people did this kind of things, here it was a place where we started to do this. We had to do something when we were kids, we started by little things like this. We were paid 50 cents for a chair, It was little money, but everything was cheaper, now it is not.”
Julian’s mother fled from Tlacotepec in 1909 to escape the fighting in the Mexican Revolution. She met Julian’s father in Tenancingo and while they worked in a textile factory they had Julian and his four siblings. Julian and his wife have two grown children of their own.
“I have a son at home, he is 47, five grandchildren and a daughter with 4 children, and those are who I live with. We all, family Rivera, are about 300 people. We are a lot.”
Before beginning to weave at Muebleria El Salto, Julian was a waiter and also had a milk route. He enjoyed the interaction that his current job does not provide. But he can no longer work as a waiter, nor ride a bike. He used to enjoy walks, but now he struggles to walk home.
“I had an accident, I was run over by a truck. I was on my bicycle, and I was going on a delivery. A drunk man was driving his truck, and he ran over me. I flew off and fell as a dead man. I was about to lose my leg, but I went to Adolfo Mateo’s hospital and they saved my leg.”
After his shattered femur, his employment options were limited. Luis gave Julian the job as a weaver, and the job has allowed Julian to support his family. Julian weaves in the traditional style that he learned as a child. Although the quality is praised around town, the industry as a whole is failing.
“It has decreased a lot; in fact this is not a business as before. People don’t come to get their furniture. We are now old people, and we are tired.”
Julian sits in the bright white of the courtyard. He wets the palm fronds and begins pulling leaves apart, one by one. He goes over, under, over, under — takes another leaf — twists, pulls, and turns the chair.
A video piece produced by Ethan Healy with translation by Erika Gómez. See more…
Narrative written by Alex Scott. Read more…