TRAMA Textiles weaves lives back together

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:11 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Oralia Chopin weaves threads together before a backstrap loom weaving demonstration begins in Stamper Commons at Stephens College on Monday evening. Chopin, 34, has been weaving since she was eight years old. She said that her 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Carla, is already beginning to learn how to weave. This was translated by Catherine Withrow, a liberal arts instructor at Stephens College who volunteered with the women last summer and helped organize their visit from Guatemala to the U.S.

COLUMBIA — Two vibrantly dressed, petite Guatemalan women are weaving away on their looms, intricately intermingling threads to create an elaborate pattern.

The lives of these women are as complicated as the tapestries they were weaving.

Another event

What: "Empowering Women Through Weaving: The Story of the TRAMA Textiles in Guatemala"

When: 7 to 8 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Historic Senior Hall Recital Hall, 100 Waugh St.

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The two women, TRAMA Textiles President Amparo de León de Rubio and Vice President Oralia Chopen, demonstrated their craft Monday at Stephens College's Stamper Commons.

TRAMA Textiles was started in 1988 in response to the civil war that had ravaged Guatemala. Families were ripped apart. Many of the husbands and sons in the area were killed or kidnapped. Women were left to fend for themselves and what was left of their war-torn families.

The two women were victims of that era. León de Rubio teared up during the telling of her horrific memory of soldiers ripping apart her house and holding her at gunpoint.

León de Rubio's husband was taken away and killed.

Chopen's grandparents were burned alive in their home.

León de Rubio and Chopen created new lives for themselves, and they founded TRAMA Textiles to help other women who had felt the same despair as they had.

“It’s why we are supporting these women,” León de Rubio said through a translator.

TRAMA was started to give hope to women to be able to provide for their families. Getting it off the ground was no easy task — it took a lot of persuasion. In the traditionally patriarchal society of Guatemala, the idea of women running their own business wasn’t a popular notion.

Today the group has 400 weavers — all women — in Guatemala.

The Global Ethics class at Stephens College taught by Catherine Withrow brought the women to the college Monday. Withrow worked with TRAMA last summer and wanted her students to know these inspirational women.

“TRAMA grew out of a civil war, something dark and horrible," Withrow said. "They have a message of survival.”

Ashley Harrison came to the demonstration to hear about the art of weaving but left also learning about the courage of the women of TRAMA and the strife they had to overcome.

“They are amazing, beautiful, bright women," said Ashley Harrison, costume designer for Stephens’ theater department. "I think their spirit is amazing,”

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