Hooked on hookers

Pueblito and quilt

By Pat Hirschl

Careful, you can get hooked on these hookers: the women and their work come alive in Bellas Artes at the PEN lecture-slide presentation by photographer Charlotte Bell on Tuesday, January 28.

PEN Lecture
“Hooked on Hookers”
Tue, Jan 28, 6pm
Bellas Artes
100 pesos
lucina.kathmann@gmail.com, 152-0614


Georgeann Johnson discovered the women and convinced Mujeres En Cambio to sponsor the weavers in 1998. A year later, she asked Bell to photograph the rug hooking project for the Mujeres En Cambio website. Charlotte’s introduction to the hookers had unforeseen consequences: When she visited Agustín González community, the weavers captivated her not only by their work but the spirit that inspired their banding together to help each other.

The 20 or so women spend what little free time they have hooking rugs. They work late at night by kitchen tables after children are asleep. Sometimes, they sit under a tree in the hillside tending the cows and working on their rugs. Their subject matter is the life around them, mountains, cactus, cows, horses, burros, flowers, a small house, a church, ducks, rabbits, chickens, roosters or fish. Many of the women are the sole support of their families. Each art piece is entirely unique as is the skill of rug hooking in Mexico.

Charlotte is a photographer, writer and world traveler who resides in Austin, TX and San Miguel de Allende. She has helped the Agustín González weavers open markets in the US and Canada and market their work on the Internet. She encourages Bonifacia Tovar (Boni), a leader in the cooperative, to attend the conference of the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists (ATHA) in Long Beach, California last October. Boni rode her first escalator, had her first boat ride, taught a class in hooking without a frame and learned punch hook technique from a master teacher at the California event.

Boni will join Charlotte Bell at the lecture to represent Las Rancheritas, the official name of the rug hookers, now an official Cooperative with the help of Yolanda, a representative and teacher from the Center for Global Justice. Forming a cooperative will provide them with a legal tax-free status and connect them to government assistance programs. The group’s work will also be on display and for sale.

Founded in 1979, San Miguel PEN is one of 150 centers of PEN International, the largest worldwide writers association, dedicated to the promotion of literature and the protection of freedom of expression everywhere. The 100 peso contributions at the PEN lecture series makes possible interventions on behalf of writers in trouble around the globe all year long. For more information: www.sanmiguelpen.com or 152-0614.


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