After a long and winding road from Mexico City through the state of Hidalgo, we arrived at a rural village where the women of Ya munts'i greeted us with freshly picked pomegranates. Over 200 women in the cooperative work together to develop economic strategies for their community while their husbands are gone to work for most of the year. The women manage the maguey farm and create products from its fibers.
The maguey is an ancient crop that grows in the arid regions of Mexico, such as el Valle del Mezquital. It is called “arbol de las maravillas” (tree of wonders) because of the many products that can be produced from its leaves, juice and fibers.
Creating the ayates is a laborious process of chopping down a penca, a tall maguey leaf, roasting it to soften the exterior skin, beating it to release the fibers, washing it and drying it in the sun to bleach it and finally weaving or crocheting the fibers into useful scrubbers and mini bags. It is a marvel to see the efforts of the women and thrilling to use their products.