Although she wouldn't mention it herself, Veronica was born with a crippling spinal defect. Pain, spasm and difficulty walking (she uses two canes) are part of her daily life.
by Veronica Genta
I arrived in San Miguel from Chile 7 years ago with $200 in my pocket. I intended to stay for a while and travel back overland to Chile, but, like so many of you, San Miguel spread its wings for me and I fell in love with the city, with its people who are the soul of this beautiful architecture.
I arrived just in time for the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. When I saw the dancers flying the Papantla together and just at that same moment heard the bells of the Parroquia ringing, everything happening at the same time, I cried and from the bottom of my heart I felt I had arrived at the place where I had to be, the heart of Mexico. I felt that I was part of this place, that I was also a dancer in other cosmic times. I felt at home.
It was a beautifully but tough period. On one hand were the wonders of art and crafts in our fair city. On the other hand was my difficult personal finances economy. How was I to generate money to support myself and my 10 year-old son?
Veronica Genta ***
I started working in a store painting dresses. At the same time I again took up my study of weaving, this time at Bellas Artes. For me one of the most beautiful and heart-filling things is the loom. I have learned different loom techniques. The one that has enriched me the most so far is the wuitral, Mapuche loom. This technique speaks of autonomy and territory, that territory that we inhabit every day, our body. When the Mapuche woman weaves, she should not be interrupted, because she is leaving the history of the town and her family. The loom is a form of writing.
I feel similarly. I have this autonomy in my thought, speech and deed. I learned it from the Mapuche, but, before them, also from my mother. My mother is a professional seamstress, a dressmaker. She never had to answer to anyone because, working for herself, she is independent. She does have accounts with designers, but she always works at her own pace. Thanks to her we never lacked for food and clothing. I also wanted to be independent, but how was I to start a business if I didn't have any capital?
Studying weaving at Bellas Artes I met a man, Margarito. Margarito is traditional weaver here in town. His family has for generations been weaving in the tradition of San Miguel. I had only spoken with him a couple of times, but as they say, "there's no harm in asking." I made up my mind. I asked him if he could loan me some wool, telling him that I would pay him when I sold what I had woven with it. To my pleasant surprise he agreed without any hesitation, further inspiring me with his wonderful confidence.
Once I had the wonderfully colored wool in my hands, I asked myself, what do I do with it now? I didn't have my looms on which to weave it. It occurred to me to make necklaces of wool. Selling those I could capitalize my business, repay Margarito and buy new wool.
After some time I started a relationship with Alan Goldfarb, a fine artist who turned his considerable talents to woodworking. He taught me some woodworking techniques, technigues which I apply in my classes with children at the Arbor de Vida Waldorf School. He showed me how to make buttons for my pieces. In his workshop together we made my first looms. With those I continued my journey in design to where I am now weaving shawls, vest, ponchos and more in both cotton and wool. Alan also taught me much about color combination, knowledge which I also apply in my weaving. Learning acquired with a person, is a live, ongoing relationship, despite whatever physical distance comes between you and that person.
A table by Alan Goldfarb ***
Making money from art is not usually easy. It has been a long journey, weaving nonstop, raising my now teenage son. It was been a lot of work with little rest, But I have fulfilled my dream of independence.
Five years ago I met my current boyfriend, David. He has been a great help promoting my business. I remember, his telling me, very early on in our relationship when I was discouraged about making a living (he is Jewish), "Honey, don't worry, the Jews can sell clothes; they wouldn't let us do anything else; we got very good at it."
Our most versatile, best selling item, 12 pieces in 1. ***
This has proven to be true. Perhaps you have seen us in the Saturday Organic Market? I went ahead and found a young mother to help me weave and replenish what we were selling in the market. Business got better and I employed first one then two of her sister-in-laws. In our small company, three young mothers work from their homes weaving. We meet one time each week when they deliver what they have woven over the last week and I give them more material for the week to come. I choose the colors, but often they have room to exercise creative freedom in how they put those colors together.
So it was until the pandemic started. We were among the artisans who could not continue selling because we were not essential. And anyway, tourists stopped coming to town and residents were in quarantine. So it remains.
I understand all this, but now after three months of closure my needs and those of my weavers are acute. Nancy just had her second child a few days ago. Emma also had her second child a month ago. They are very happy, but also worried about the current situation. Dolores, tells me how much she misses weaving, now spending a lot of time in front of the television instead. I have stayed busy, continuing my studies as a Waldorf teacher (I teach crafts, weaving and carpentry, or did, until school closed for the term) and setting up a school garden. But the question does arise, what do we, my workers and I, do with this new normal?
My weavers, Dolores, Nancy and Emma and their children ***
I am not afraid to strike out and do something different. During this period I have thought a lot about changing my business. I am restless and I am interested in everything. But when my weavers call me for work I realize that I am not alone in this. I am a part of my weavers' lives. Ours is a sisterhood and I am the elder sister. On their weekly visits, their former weekly visits, to drop off and pick up, they express to me how important their work has been to them. Learning the traditional art of weaving and having their own income has empowered them. Their role within their family has changed. Their role with their husbands has change now that they too have achieved a greater degree of autonomy and independence.
Our little company has helped three women to recover their territory, to redefine their space within their families and the larger society. I am very proud to have contributed, through textures and colors, a weaving of new pattern and form into their lives. It seems that not only I, in these three or four years that we have worked together, have been transformed. My self-sufficiency has been infectious.
It seems to me that we are always facing a "new normal." As human beings we have a great capacity to transform ourselves, to leave behind our resistance. We can allow a part of us to die so that something new is born. Sometimes we have no choice.
Maybe it is an autonomy that I inherited from my mother, but I want to decide what my new normality is. I want to decide how to rebuild my life in relation to this pandemic. I know that, as extreme as the pandemic has been, this is not the first time that human beings have gone through such a situation. Our capacity to adapt has been a long-standing normal. Returning on another pass along the great spiral brings me back to a place where I meet the question again this time in a larger form; How do I generate money for my team? I am no longer alone. I am Nancy, Dolores and Emma and they are me. How can I create work for our company?
The answer comes back, "Do it online." I invite you to visit my page and see my textiles, our woven fashion creations. There are videos that show how it is woven. If you like and know someone who might be interested, please share. If you are in San Miguel we can make an appointment online or you can come to my studio. If you are out of town, we can ship your order. Please and thank you.
Veronica Genta in her first search for life's answers discovered the tarot. She studied the tarot intensively with a grand master Jaime Hales, whose great confidence in her way of reading caused him to refer many people to her.
Veronica developed an extensive relationship with people of the indigenous Mapuche culture of Chile. The Mapuche allowed her to access the knowledge of their worldview through the study of textile art and practice with medicinal plants. Thus began Veronica's dedication investigating various techniques of textile art. She has also managed cultural projects related to Mapuche textile art financed by public funds.
Veronica has training and experience in the field of theater, both in the Teatro de los Sentidos (Theater of the Senses, Spain) during its residence in Chile, and also as a member of the Rumel Mülen Artistic Collective (Chile) which is dedicated to the revaluation and validity of the Mapuche culture through experimental theater.
Veronica teaches at the Arbol de Vida (Tree of Life) Waldorf School in Atotonilco. Associated with this she is involved in numerous teacher training programs, as well as other Anthroposophical trainings. The mother of a 19 year-old son, Veronica is also an avid gardener.