An artisan in Oaxaca wears one of the face masks made from palm leaves. An artisan in Oaxaca wears one of the new masks.

Artisans turn to making face masks from palm leaves

The coronavirus has put a dent in sales of hats, fans, baskets and other goods

Indigenous artisans in Oaxaca are making face masks out of palm fronds in order to make a living during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The native Mixtecs from the town of San Miguel Huautla normally use palm leaves to create hats, fans, cords, earrings, baskets and other handmade products, but demand for such items has dropped during the health crisis.

While conventional face masks are either impossible to find or severely overpriced — selling for 50-100 pesos (US $2-$4) a piece — Juana López and her fellow artisans are selling theirs for only 5 pesos (US $0.20) each. They appear to fit loosely, but are washable, reusable and easy to disinfect.

Such informal workers depend on tourism, mobility and lively public spaces in order to make a living, but the coronavirus pandemic has drastically diminished these activities over the last 45 days.

Selling palm products is the only source of income for these artisans who work daily to cut, dry, mature and form the leaves into various items.

With a little help from the government’s mandate to wear face masks in public, their initiative has taken off regionally, and López and her fellow artisans have found customers in nearby Asunción Nochixtlán, Huajuapan de León and other neighboring communities.

But she and friends aren’t the only innovative Oaxacans to have contributed beneficial products to the fight to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Zapotec artisans in Juchitán de Zaragoza are making face masks adorned with the embroidered designs from the traditional blouses called huipiles worn in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region.

And earlier this month, 12-year-old Jorge Martínez of Oaxaca city designed and produced plastic face shields with a 3D printer to support health workers treating patients infected with the virus.

Meanwhile, Governor Alejandro Murat posted a video to Facebook in which he and his wife demonstrate how to make a homemade face mask out of a scarf and rubber bands.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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