Jun 13th, 2003 @ 12:04 pm | Author: J. Russell
When she was eight years old Celerina Garcia Lucas began learning the art of palm basket weaving from her mother. The art of palm weaving has been passed down for generations from mother to daughter, and Celerina learned these skills in the village of San Luis Amatl*n, located approximately 150 km from Oaxaca near the coast. Today she lives with her husband and two children in a village located approximately 15 minutes from the center of Oaxaca de Juarez, the capitol city of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

From the outside, the family home appears modest and quiet. Inside an age-old process of preparing and then weaving narrow strips of palm leaves into many different shapes is taking place. The process begins with a trip to one of Oaxaca's largest markets, Sola de Vega, where Celerina and her husband Panuncio Maya Garcia purchase leaves of the palmera tree and various brightly colored dyes.

Once home, Celerina separates the inner and outer layers of the leaves and then carefully tears them into the narrow strips that will comprise the weaving material. It takes most of two days to prepare the leaves for dying. Next, she boils some of the leaves in water with dye to create the colors such as bright pink, purple, and yellow. After the leaves are dyed, they must dry for several days to hold their color.

While the dyed leaves are drying, Celerina works with the natural colored leaves, separating them and preparing them for the weaving. She works in a darker, interior room of the home for most of the process in order to minimize sunlight and keep the leaves moist enough to manipulate. If the leaves are allowed to become too dry, they will break during the weaving process.

As Celerina begins the construction of a basket, she uses the "ixtle" to anchor the layers of palm fibers. The "ixtle" appears to be a strong, light-colored thread that is sewn into an "X" pattern to create the basket's base. Actually, the thread is a fiber from the maguey cactus, the same cactus used to make mezcal.

At this point the weaving begins. All of the weaving is done by hand, and while Celerina makes the weaving appear to be quite simple, manipulating the narrow palm fibers, designing color schemes and various patterns, and giving the basket a definite shape and size are time consuming and complex. From start to finish a large basket takes approximately sixteen hours, or four, eight-hour days. The patterns that are created in the weaving are inspired by a number of sources, some ancient patterns such as those from the ruins of Mitla and Monte Alb*n. Celerina can also weave people's names into the designs, personalizing such pieces as eyeglass cases, place mats, and coin purses. Other products include tortilla baskets, flower baskets, pencil holders and toys.

The palm baskets have significant advantages over other baskets such as might be purchased at Wal-Mart or some other discount store. These baskets are sturdy and flexible. When not in use they can be rolled or folded in a drawer. When they are needed, simply take them out, and they resume their original shape. Also, each is hand-made by Celerina. Celerina participated in Fiesta Mexicana 2001, and she is currently preparing for her visit to Valley City for Fiesta Mexicana 2003. Be sure to attend the Fiesta and greet Celerina in the City Auditorium, September 25, 26, and 27, 2003.
Visit the Fiesta web page for more photos and information: www.fiestamexicana.org
Celerina Garcia Lucas