Located roughly 37 km from Oaxaca de Juárez, the community of San Miguel del Valle boasts brick family homes, sweeping hillside views and most notably, streets awash with women in distinct outfits that combine intricately embroidered aprons over lace-collared dresses. These aprons are the focus of the business that 27-year-old Epifania Hernandez García has grown with her first interest-free loan through Fundación En Vía.
A seamstress by trade, Epifania learned how to sew at the age of 13 from her mother, however she is self-taught in embroidery. She has a secondary school education, a husband and two young sons. Given her busy family life, Epifania normally begins work at 6am and continues until 7pm, while also caring for her children and household.
After cutting the pieces for the apron and lightly drawing in pencil on the fabric, Epifania uses a machine to apply varied stitches to create the designs. She does not use printed patterns, but rather works from memory with each stitch unfolding into delicate floral designs, birds and scalloped edges. It generally takes around four days to complete one large apron, along with an entire box of thread. Epifania particularly enjoys creating elaborate peacock designs.
Around the age of one, the local women in San Miguel del Valle begin wearing these aprons every day. Each woman owns a varied selection – some are heavily embroidered and richly embellished for holidays and special parties, while some possess simple designs for daily use in the home. With these traditions, visitors are sure to experience a veritable rainbow in every pocket of the community, and the beautiful work of Epifania shines through in every arch of color.
Words and photos ©Ehren Seeland