Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Sara J. Kadolph
This study documents silk production in Oaxaca, Mexico, and how the families and communities have changed and embraced new technology without sacrificing their culture, adapting to economic situations over time by changing their income sources. Because agriculture no longer generates a viable income, people have revived the production of silk. Many families plant produce for their own consumption and have another source of income in addition to the silk. However, many of the older women spoke of always having their main income from silk.
Silk has been a means of income in Oaxaca since silkworm graine was introduced by the Spanish in the 1500s. There have been times when silk production almost disappeared, but each time it was revived. The current expansion of silk production has been assisted by the Mexican government in its recognition of the importance of indigenous crafts. The government has implemented programs to assist organized silk producing groups by offering loans and grants to purchase equipment and hire teachers. The government supplies mulberry trees in the spring and silkworms twice a year to all individuals and families producing silk. These hybrid silkworms spin larger cocoons that have more fiber than the criollo silkworm cocoons brought to the area by the Spanish, but almost all of the people still raise the criollo in addition to the hybrid. The only requirements for receiving silkworms is that the individual or group have enough trees to feed the silkworms and that they make a profit.
Most of the silk is woven into rebozos (shawls) with one or more members of the family involved in the spinning, weaving, and dyeing processes. Electric spinners and floor looms have been introduced by the government to enhance the spinning and weaving process, but many people, particularly the older women, still prefer to spin by hand using a malacate and weave using a backstrap loom. There are debates between the people as to which methods produce a better product. However, there is an agreement that it is better to use natural dyes and the people in the communities have brought back this almost forgotten art.
Careyn Patricia Armitage
Armitage, Careyn Patricia, "Silk production and its impact on families and communities in Oaxaca, Mexico" (2008). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 11150.