By Micki Wendt
There is no one more deserving of a little free publicity for her business than Conchita, the Blanket Weaver. You've probably already passed by her - patiently sitting and weaving, in the ancient tradition of her people, at her special spot down by the lake in Ajijic. Many days go by when she doesn't sell a thing, as other weavers/sellers like Elena in the Plaza also tell me.
I first met Conchita during my first trip here around 4 1/2 years ago. After walking along the Ajijic beach at dusk, then turning up Calle Ramon Corona, I saw her pulling her huge, heavy load of all her blankets and weaving, packed into large plastic bags and loaded onto a rickety old furniture dolly, laboriously plodding up hill after a long day. I was shocked that any woman would be doing such heavy work all alone, so I got behind her and just started pushing until we reached the place where she stayed. Then, we chatted a little in broken Spanish, that being a second language for both of us. She seemed remarkably cheerful for someone who toils so hard every day. I asked her if she couldn't pay a boy a few pesos to help her, and she said no.
Another time, she invited me into her place. She had a barren room devoid of furniture or decoration save for her bed and a set of metal warehouse-type shelves where she stores all her work. She appeared to own practically nothing.
It also happened that, at that time, I met one of Ajijic's most notable artists who had been here for around 20 years. She filled me in on the tragic story behind Conchita's present state, and how she came to be here. She and the other Blanket Weavers in this area were marginalized from their ancestral lands in the state of Oaxaca years ago, and came to Ajijic as very poor refugees. When I say poor, I mean a family of 10 living in a chicken coop.
I encountered Conchita again in my short stay, wanting to show her some kindness and help. Her picture or portrait was coincidentally featured in two publications that I came across. Chatting with her a little more, I came to see that she has a most marvelous inner strength, presence, and light, despite her extreme hardships of her life. Having been filled in on her story, I marveled at how she was even able to still laugh and smile...and continue to work so hard...day after day - then often selling nothing at all. Getting to know her, I felt I was in the presence of a true saint. Everybody's looking for something, and sometimes that elusive inspiration surprises you by coming from a very unexpected place.
If you are passing by, please stop and buy something from Conchita. Her beautiful wall hangings are only $100MXP, and are mounted on a light bamboo pole, making it easy for you to mount them on your wall. She also has a lovely array of blankets and purses, all at a very low price. Don't bother to haggle unless you buy several items. And if you are really in the mood to do a good deed, you could pass by around dusk after she packs up all her things, get behind her heavy load, and just help push.