|Cuanajo, Michoacán 2004|
We hadn't seen Nati for a couple of years, when we brought our tour group to her house in August of 2011. As soon as we turned into Cuanajo, there she was, walking down the dirt road towards her house. Nati stands out from all the other Purepecha women in the village, because of her crutches. We stopped and offered her a ride, and after kisses and happy exclamations of "que milagro", we soon notice how the diabetes has taken its toll on this woman who has already suffered so much. Though we were sad to see her health failing, we treasured that visit and were happy to see that our group also found Nati and her family special, as they enthusiastically bought weavings to take back home.
Then came February and the Art of the Americas in Marin, a show where we’ve exhibited for several years and did pretty well. I remember selling a faja at the first show we did -- might have been 2006. Folks who attend this show have good taste and also spend their money on unusual indigenous art. So this looked like our last hope for Nati’s fajas. As I carefully arranged them on the wall of our booth so they would not be missed by customers passing by, I thought of Nati and her spirit and the positive energy her pieces evoke. Though the show officially opens on Friday night, few people attend then and rarely do we have sales that night. But about an hour after the doors open, Ross and Nancy, a couple who attend the show every year, came by our table and spent some time with us. They bought two fajas after hearing our stories about Nati, and at the end of that Friday night we were amazed when they returned to buy two more. Excited and grateful, this sale was not only an affirmation of Nati’s talent, but our faith and trust in each other and the way I have chosen to run my business. It turned out to be not only a good night, but overall was a successful show for us as well.
A couple of weeks later I received an email from Beth, my wonderful customer in London, wanting to order some earrings she saw on my Facebook page. She also wanted to know if I had any fajas available. Are you kidding me? You want to buy fajas? I wrote her that I’m all sold out except for a small one that I bought a few years ago, plus a very large wool table-runner that I thought we might use ourselves one day, but could let go. After seeing the photos I sent, she bought the two pieces and asked me to please buy more fajas on my next trip to Mexico.
I also received a brief note from Nancy--the angel who bought the four fajas at the Marin show-- “Peggy- please let Natividad know how much we treasure her weavings and let us know if you bring more back.”
It's July 2015, and I'm in Michoacán buying. As we approach the entrance to Nati's house, I wondered what we would find this time. It had been two years since our last visit, and it turns out, Nati was well aware of it. As we cried out "buenos dias", and upon realizing that it was us and we had indeed returned, Nati immediately burst into tears. We had never seen her so sad, and as I hugged her as she wept, she began to untypically share her troubles with us. Her foot had become infected and they had to remove a toe. It was obviously very painful and scary for her. Nati's mother was sick with lung cancer, apparently from all the wood smoke she had breathed in their traditional Purepecha cocina. It was a hard visit, one I won't easily forget. We listened a lot and we of course bought some of her work. Actually, the money we spent there should sustain the family for several months. And generous as always, the women insisted on serving us corundas, proudly explaining that they were made entirely from the corn grown there in their small family parcel.
My daughter Jenny, who is a chef and had accompanied us on this visit, clearly appreciated watching and learning about the process of making corundas. She had heard us talk about Nati before, had seen photos we had taken of her twelve years ago, and knew that her courage and strength was an inspiration to Doug and me. Jenny is now seeing that the once beautiful, smiling woman in our photos who has endured so much over the years--is still teaching us important life lessons. The time we spent with Nati and her family reminded us to be grateful for all that we have, and for me especially, it was affirmation that my yearly purchases of this endangered work is making a difference, at least for a few families. Though I'm filled with sadness about this last visit, I'm glad that we were able to show Nati that she has not been forgotten, and that we and our customers will continue to value her beautiful creations.
Woven fajas and morrales by Natividad are available for purchase on www.mexicobyhand.com