Hartwick College Professor of Sociology Katherine O'Donnell in Chiapas, Mexico

Mexican Weaving Cooperative’s Textiles on Display Locally

February 8, 2012

The textiles of Jolom Mayaetik Mayan Women's Weaving Cooperative, of Chiapas, Mexico will be on display at Oneonta's Upper Catskill Community Council on the Arts thanks to the longstanding solidarity work of Hartwick College Professor of Sociology Katherine O'Donnell and her students.

Since 1998, O'Donnell has worked with the indigenous women's cooperative to support their work and bring it to market in the United States through fair trade events. She has led scores of January Term excursions to Chiapas, exposing generations of Hartwick students to the realities of life and economics among the indigenous communities there. The textile show will be hung at UCCCA's Wilber Mansion gallery at 11 Ford Avenue in Oneonta. An opening event will be held On Friday, February 17 from 5-7 p.m.

Three students from O'Donnell's "Fair Trade: Human Rights" class assisted in hanging the exhibition.  Emily Piedigrossi '12, Stefan Bishop '13, and Alaina Shires '15 also researched fair trade textile items and their availability on campus. The group's work will continue. Students interested in recreating a Fair Trade Club will host a meeting during the beginning of the spring semester.

In fall 2010, O'Donnell published Weaving Transnational Solidarity from the Catskills to Chiapas and Beyond from Brill Press, The Netherlands. It will be on display at UCCCA. O'Donnell has worked on human rights and justice issues throughout her 30-year Hartwick career. She transported her interests in poverty, women's human rights, and social movement organizing to Chiapas for comparative organizing work and analysis.

The book, a product of those years of ongoing work, examines the grassroots, economic justice efforts of three groups: two Mexican organizations, Jolom Mayaetik, Mayan women's weaving cooperative, and K'inal Antzetik, NGO in the highlands of Chiapas, and an informal, U.S. solidarity network.

In the context of economic and political destabilization in Chiapas, Mexico, O'Donnell's organizational partners, Jolom Mayaetik and K'inal Antzetik, a multiethnic non-governmental organization, have been working since 1995 to create justice through the empowerment of young, indigenous women, the development of an autonomous women's cooperative, and the creation of a Center for Women's Training & Development.

"The women created the cooperative themselves," she explained. "Their mothers, their grandmothers created cooperatives. They are teaching me about collective practice."

By supporting Jolom and K'inal's development, fair trade textile sales, education, and health initiatives, O'Donnell and others work with them to alleviate poverty, develop young leaders, promote sustainable business practices, and preserve the unique, Mayan cultural heritage of weaving. O'Donnell said, "Our work is very much a co-learning about the different systems we're operating in and learning something together and working together to address underlying structural problems."

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030