Shop Reps Indigenous Women In Fair Trade

Selling very upmarket merchandise, not trinkets
BY: ANITA JOB

We’re going to tell you about a Mexican craft shop, not a trinket shop. They sell leather bags, leather shoes in up to the minute styles, leather hats, and various textile clothing.

Maria del Mar is the drive behind this project. She began in México City, where she started with the first store located in the hip area of La Condesa, calling it Toco Madera.

“This is a 100% project in which Maria serves as the deal maker who approaches Mexican remote communities in search of activities and values that reflect the lifestyle of the people, “she explains.

Now Maria has opened another store in Cabo San Lucas, in a unit on the bottom floor of the hotel Breathless, right on the marina front, also called Toco Madera. Loosely translated, it means knock on wood. It is actually touch wood, but the intention behind the name is knock on wood.

In her real life Maria used to work in the marketing department of Cabo Adventures, (the dolphin people). Now she works in her real life in marketing at the development El Encanto de la Laguna. This Toco Madera store is a labor of love, and she passes on the result of sales to the women who make the products.

For the textile part of the store merchandise, the women employ back strap weaving, a technique frequently used in Oaxaca. It is a tradition among Mexican tribes such as Zapotec and Mixtec. It’s a simple loom that looks complicated because there are so many sticks going across the piece. It’s called back strap because instead of working on a loom, the piece is attached at one end to a stationary object like a door or a wall, and at the other end to the weaver, always a woman. A strap goes around her back, or more accurately, her hips. This back strap keeps tension on the piece. The reason for the contraption is it’s portable and inexpensive. But it must be a knee killer.

One would think that such an arrangement would produce crude weaving, but no, exquisite works of art are produced this way.

Only women do this, and when they start a piece, they have to finish it; if not, it´s considered bad luck. All these communities are matriarchal, and the women are in charge of leading the projects, they have their own parties, they dance with each other (other women) and have social/financial control. When you buy Mexican artisan design piece of Toco Madera you are actually helping those women to sustain themselves.

The leather is just as interesting, but for that story you’re going to have to swing by the shop. Or go to www.Tocothewood.com.