Biology to Textiles, Everything Is Connected

“Everything happens for a reason.” “Nothing is a coincidence.” “Everything is connected.” I really don’t like platitudes such as these (even if they are somewhat true), but sometimes they just seem to fit.

Back in April, my son Day, the biologist, was in Belize searching for a particular species of turtle, the seriously endangered hicatee. That’s just what he does. He happened to be there over the Easter holidays, a time when hicatees show up on the menus of just about everybody. Just like we have turkey at Thanksgiving, Belizeans have hicatee for Easter. It’s hard to argue with an ancient, much-enjoyed custom like hunting the wild hicatee and making hicatee fricassee for family and friends. Except for that endangerment problem.

My son Day in Belize with a pair of hicatee turtles.

At the same time, the very same time, I received a donation plea from the Mexican weavers’ cooperative, Tixinda. This group of sixty or so women on the Oaxaca coast weave all manner of textiles, but their specialty is the pozahuanca, a vivid, boldly striped skirt unique for the splendid handspun cotton dyed with purple from the sea snail, Plicopurpura pansa, locally known as tixinda. This sea snail, like the hicatee turtle, is severely endangered because of human predation. It makes a tasty snail cocktail, popular in the tourist resorts and restaurants along the coast. And as this sea snail vanishes, so too will vanish the livelihood of the fifteen or so men who still have the knowledge and skill to harvest the dye from the snails—without killing or otherwise harming the snails themselves. The nonprofit Mexican Dreamweavers is seeking funds to send members of Tixinda to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market this July. With money they earn there from selling their textiles, they can mount a campaign back in Oaxaca to educate people to not eat the snails.

A woman from Pinotepa de Don Luis wears a traditional Pozahuanco. From our book Oaxaca Stories in Cloth, photo by Eric Mindling.

Turtles, snails. What’s the connection? Well, the aforementioned Day sits on the board of a nonprofit that has just given a grant to Mexican Dreamweavers to help cover much of the cost of getting Tixinda members to Santa Fe. You can make your own contribution to this cause with a donation to this GoFundMe effort. And while you’re at it, consider a donation to the Turtle Survival Alliance. After all, everything is connected.


Learn more about the purple dye from snail, cloth in Oaxaca, and the Dreamweavers from these Thrums Books

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