Chamita, New Mexico: 18982000
Born in 1898, Agueda Martinez lived in Mendanales, New Mexico, near Santa Fe. When she was twelve years old, she first learned to weave with cotton rags. She married a weaver/
schoolteacher when she was eighteen and had ten children. When she was in her early twenties, her uncle Lorenzo Trujillo, a respected weaver and merchant working in her town, taught her to weave wool rugs and blankets with elaborate designs. By selling her weavings, she supported her family throughout her long life.
She attributed her talents to her mixed heritage. She could trace her roots back to the Navajo and also to the early Spanish settlers along the Río Grande in the sixteenth century. Her tapestries reflect both influences, from Mexican Saltillo serrate diamonds and the variations introduced by the settlers to modified Navajo stepped motifs and also to Pueblo patterns of solid, alternating stripes.
"Some people call this [pattern] with lines 'Río Grande,' some with more detail are called 'Colonias,' others are 'Chimayó' and others 'Mexican,'" Agueda said. "Mexican or American--call it what you want. . . . I don't call my [weavings] anything. I put my initials on it and it's mine."
A woman of multiple talents, Agueda was an able rancher and horse handler. Over the years she also learned to grow a bountiful garden. She once had a neighbor who owned land but didn't cultivate it, so she struck a deal with him. She planted corn, wheat, chilies, and alfalfa on his land, and then gave him half the harvest. Agueda's family helped her with her gardening. "They follow me like doves, spreading alfalfa seeds, picking the chilies and everything. . . . I'd call them my devils at hand," she said. She made her dyes for her weavings from the colorful plants and flowers in her beloved garden.
For the first seventy-five years of her working career, Agueda created a weaving everyday. She passed on her skills and enthusiasm for weaving to her daughters and sons, who work within the family tradition, but are also innovative in their approach. Some members of her family, including Cordelia Coronado, Eppie Archuleta, and granddaughter Delores Medina, are also famous weavers. Eppie Archuleta lives in Colorado and has received many awards.
In her weavings, Agueda Martinez often used cotton cloth instead of wool yarn. She collected pieces of fabric of all sizes. To make materials suitable to weave, she first ripped the fabric into long, thin strips, then twisted the fabric on a spindle, so that the strips became tight and compact. Then Agueda used these materials to make a tapestry. Tapestry Weave Rag Jerga is an example of an artwork made from cotton cloth. The weaving is called a “jerga”because it is coarsely woven.
Note: The quotes are taken from interviews conducted with Agueda Martinez by Andrew Connors in June and July 1995.