Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns.

Watch the video here ↓

If you are interested in the crafts and artisans of Mexico, Teotitlán del Valle, a small Mexican village near Oaxaca city is a must visit.

Teotitlán del Valle is known for Zapotec weaving, using traditional techniques, tools, dyes, and patterns.

We were able to watch and learn about the whole process at Casa Don Juan and, I’ll tell you what, the art of natural dye is impressive, and so is the weaving and machines used to produce these beautiful pieces.

From woven clothing to traditional wool rugs, you’ll find It all in this community.

Zapotec weaving rugs

There is roughly 400,000 Zapotecs, known as the “cloud people”, around Mexico, but they once mostly inhabited the Valley of Oaxaca, where they built ancient cities such as Monte Alban and Mitla.

The Zapotec weaving process

Preparing the yarn 

Most pieces are made from wool – sheep, yak and alpaca but historically agave fibre and cotton were also used. To prepare the yarn the wool is brushed using paddles with wire prongs to get the fibres all laying in the same direction. Once it’s been thoroughly brushed, it is spun on a wheel into a usable yarn.

Natural dye process

The bundles of spun yarn are dyed using a mixture of plants, minerals and bugs, including marigolds, indigo and cactus parasites. After dying the yarn, it is washed in the river to ensure the colour doesn’t run on the final piece.

No two batches will every be the exact same colour adding to the beauty of this technique.


The majority of the townspeople work in the weaving industry, and the families usually form co-ops by working on their pieces in their own homes and selling them from a central location. Each family or co-op has their own style, process and patterns when it comes to weaving. They all use Zapotec symbols, which hold special meaning, but the way they are combined is unique to the family. These patterns are blended into every piece from memory, and the techniques have been passed down through the generations!

Popular Zapotec weaving symbols used in the patterns are: 

  • Zapotec Star 
    The four points of the diamond represent elements of earth, air, water and fire.
  • Mountains
    A reminder of the transition of the Zapotec through the mountains, all of them sacred. 
  • Rain water
    One of the most vital elements for the sustenance of life. Signifies renewal, fertility and change. 
  • Cycle of life
    The geometric spiral represents the life cycle according to the Zapotec worldview.

    Each step represents a stage of life, beginning at birth and moving through youth, maturity and then decay, followed by the other world.
  • Clouds
    Zapotec Indians are known as people of the clouds.
  • Agave
    The agave or the maguey as it’s locally known is integral to the central valleys of Oaxaca.

    Both wild and cultivated, this plant offers sweet nectar that can be enjoyed as is or fermented into the local alcohol, mezcal.
  • Leaves
    Leaves of life are collected and help with health, respect, purity and healing.
  • Butterfly 
    The butterfly represents the spirit of the ancestors. When someone dies the spirit becomes a butterfly.

The whole process is time consuming but the finished product is not only beautiful but also helps to preserve the Zapotec tradition, culture and history.

Pro tip: We recommend you stop off at Teotitlán del Valle on your way to the Tlacolula market day.


Zahn is a travel junkie born and raised on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand. Zahn spent two years in South Korea where she met Addison in 2018. She has visited 17 countries and is on a mission to literally work her way around the rest.

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