Jose Avila Soto, known to his friends as “Pepe,” lives in a small community called Donaciano Ojeda, located outside the city of Zitacuaro with his wife, Justina, two daughters, and his parents. The family participates in many activities to sustain themselves including bread baking and avocado harvesting. However, the job that provides the most financial support for the family is basket weaving.
About 10 years ago a group of nuns came to Pepe's small town to hold various workshops and teach the community members skills such as basket weaving. Since learning this trade, a majority of the town residents now weave baskets as a means to sustain themselves. Unfortunately, since the whole town is skilled in the same trade, they are unable to sell their baskets locally, and therefore have to make long treks to other cities to sell their baskets.
The baskets are woven from pine needles collected in the surrounding forest, which give the them a refreshing smell. Unlike traditional basket weaving, these baskets are constructed by “sewing” groups of pine needles together. To create different colors and patterns, the family uses pine needles that are at different stages of dryness and thus have different colors. The family also uses different color thread to sew the baskets and create colorful designs. The time spent to make each basket ranges from a few hours to make the smaller baskets to about 30 hours to make the large fruit baskets.
When they are not baking, harvesting avocados, or collecting pine needles for the work, the family enjoys sitting on their front porch weaving baskets together.