Joel Samuel Luis Vazquez, the third of seven children, is a gifted Zapotecan artisan. He is excited about learning to make hammocks at the Nizaa Rindanni center. "When I get older," says the confident 10-year-old, "if I don't have a job, hammock making is going to help me to get one!"
Joel Samuel Luis Vazquez moves his brown hands swiftly as he pulls the canary-yellow and lime-green fibers taut across the wooden loom in front of him. The 10-year-old is weaving a hammock. When he finishes this project, he will have his own bed to sleep in!
Compassion Mexico's vocational training classes exist to offer impoverished Mexican youth job training opportunities tailored to local economic and cultural needs. The Nizaa Rindanni Center (ME-809) in Juchita de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, exemplifies Compassion Mexico's innovative job-training programs. The project offers a hammock weaving class in a community that counts selling handicrafts as a primary source of income.
A Popular Local Craft
Nizaa Rindanni is in a community of about 150,000 in southwest Oaxaca State. The community is home to the Zapotecan people an indigenous people group that lives chiefly in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Zapotecan artisans create beautiful silver jewelry and leather goods, baskets, ceramic pottery and embroidered textiles. Handmade hammocks, however, are especially in high demand. That's why Nizaa Rindanni project leaders implemented the hammock training class in August 2004. Joel is among 13 boys who participated in the new class.
"In just a short time, the children in this class will be able to make their own hammocks and sell them," says local artisan and class trainer, Tito Hernandez. "It will not only help the boys to support their families but in the future, they may even establish their own hammock-making factories."
Special Qualities Needed
Not just anyone can be a hammock weaver. Tito says he looks for certain character traits among his potential students, especially one characteristic many little boys just do not have.
"With no doubt, the main quality that they must have is patience," he says firmly.
Once students are chosen, they attend classes every Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m. Boys, ages 11-12, typically attend. Since making hammocks is considered a male occupation in Juchitá® de Zaragoza, girls are trained to hand embroider huipiles (a colorful, traditional blouse worn by Maya women), which are also in high demand.
Weaving a Promising Future
Currently, students are learning to weave twin-sized hammocks, which require little more than two pounds of thread. In the future, they will learn how to also make medium- and large-sized hammocks. Within a year's time, says Tito, the students will be able to make hammocks on their own.
Joel's mother, Doñ¡ felia, is thrilled with her son's opportunity.
"I'm very proud of my son," she says. "Hammock-making is a very good job. It will sustain my son in the future and he can also teach this skill to his future children."
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