Guest speaker gives talk on weaving, empowerment

Wes Scarborough

Celia Santiz Ruiz spoke at an event hosted by the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies on Friday and shared her experiences as the president of Jolom Mayaetik, a women’s weaving cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico.    

“Jolom Mayaetik” is Tsotsil for “Mayan Women Weavers.” The cooperative was formed in 1996 with 250 indigenous women who wanted to gain a better price for their woven work. Ruiz said, as president of the cooperative, she focuses on keeping younger women out of trouble in Mexico by teaching them the art of weaving. 

“We, as mothers, also have to be careful about our daughters so that they don’t take the wrong path,” Ruiz said. “We want to keep the cultural heritage of the weaving so that they don’t lose that ability.” 

Josefina Castillo, program director for Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, said many Chiapaneca women experience domestic violence. According to Castillo, younger women are encouraged to seek out education at the high school and college levels in cities such as San Cristóbal in the Chiapas state. There they are able to properly learn about domestic violence and realize they are being mistreated. 

“They come back and see the conditions and rebel against it,” Castillo said. “They become empowered as women because they are able to access education.” 

Ruiz said she has made it her mission to promote the cooperative’s work for fair profit, while also allowing women to gain social justice against domestic violence.

“Traditionally, [men] have to give you permission,” Ruiz said. “But we have learned that we can manage ourselves.”

Ruiz also shared her personal decision to leave her husband.

“I feel good being by myself because I have the opportunity to go places,” Ruiz said. “If I was still with my husband today, I wouldn’t be here right now.”