When Juana Gutierrez stops in front of a tree looks much more than a trunk and some branches. You see colors. Soft brown in the walnut, different shades of yellow in the tarragon and moss, black on the shell of the pomegranate or intense blue in the floor of the indigo.

Since she was a child, he learned from the zapotec tradition behind the leaves of the trees is a myriad of colors for you to discover. Since then he has dedicated his life to experience and investigate the different tones that can be extracted from the nature.

he Began learning ten pigments to decorate the mats that were sold by their parents in the small town of oaxaca to Teotitlán del Valle, famous for its textiles. Today already has 200 colors registered in the family workshop, where you fight to preserve a technique that is on the brink of extinction.

“We we continue to maintain the ancestral, the heritage left to us by our grandparents, and we are doing it with a lot of respect to continue the tradition,” says this woman of slow way of talking, that is before the words in zapotec or Spanish.

Juana Gutierrez grind indigo to dye their textiles. Teresa Miguel

Juana extends the palm of the hand and crushes a cochineal, which stains red-purple skin. Know that this aphid is a tiny that came up to the paintings of Velazquez, Zurbaran, and Van Gogh is also key to keeping alive the tradition of natural dyes in the community.

although this custom dates back to more than a thousand years in Teotitlan del Valle, currently less than 5% of the craftsmen of the people use natural dyes in their textiles.

“you could say that this goes against the principles of the mentality fast, the technology, the western mind”, says the Piabet brother of Juana, Porfirio Gutierrez. Both are so concerned about preserving the tradition as the environment, affected by the widespread use of chemicals in the community.

In the 60s, the rugs of the town achieved international recognition and started selling abroad, so the need to produce more promoted the use of chemical dyes, much easier and quicker than the natural.

Juana Gutierrez grind indigo for its textiles. Teresa de Miguel, The Country

Like so many others in the world, rural mexico, Porfirio was very young to try his luck in the united States. He spent 10 years without returning home, but when he saw from a perspective other than your family workshop. “Being away helped me to rediscover my culture,” he said.

from then on, it became a kind of ambassador of the natural dyes, giving conferences in the united States, United Kingdom or Canada and showing the sole of your family in such institutions as the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.

In 2016, got a residence from the Smithsonian Institute to investigate the history of these techniques in Teotitlán del Valle and the re-organised in your community-a workshop for youth in which they showed the processes that use Juana and the rest of the family.

“For this to survive you have to teach to the next generation,” he says. Their hope is that initiatives such as that of your workshop to achieve preserving these ancient techniques for which not disappear forever. In the meantime, Joan will continue to experience in search of more colors.