Ndavaa, the handmade shoe that enhances Oaxacan textiles

October 4, 2017
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At this moment, somewhere in the world, a person is wearing a pair of sandals, sneakers or boots from “Ndavaa”, the collective of indigenous artisans of Oaxaca that turns the textile wealth of the state into the perfect company.

From San Dionisio Ocotepec, a town located in the central part of the state, shoes that have astonished countries such as the United States, Spain, Israel, and Germany arise due to their originality and craftsmanship that uses traditional Oaxacan textiles.

Despite the success they have in other countries and artisan fairs within Mexico, the greatest pride of this group led by the women of the Garcia family, Graciela and Clara, is to have made synergy with indigenous communities of eight regions of the state, creating a fair trade chain.

They make the textiles used in sandals, tennis shoes and booties created by Ndavaa, a word in the Zapotec language of the Valley that means “my sandal”.

The founder and artisan, Graciela García, said that they collaborate with artisans from communities such as San Antonino, San Dionisio del Mar, San Jose del Progreso, Teotitlán del Valle, Santa Ana del Valle and even with Yucatan embroiderers.

“We have a range of craft textiles where each community prints their feelings, that’s why we have this wonderful diversity. The artisans are given the raw material to create the embroidery, with this we create a fair trade chain, where every part of the work is valued,” she said.

This work has made the collective creditor of the seal of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) “Manos Indígenas Calidad Mexicana”, which is a distinctive symbol of indigenous groups that make handicrafts for the benefit of their community, according to the website of the agency.

Like any success story, the beginning was not easy for the Garcia family, since life had prepared them a challenge that based on a lot of effort, they could overcome.

With the pride and ability to overcome the harsh adversity, Clara, mother of Graciela, remembered in a conversation the challenges of 12 years ago when starting this project.

“We worked leather tanning to make typical huarache, but by 1988, with the arrival of synthetic, Chinese huarache and immigration, sales were falling and my husband served in the village three years and when he left he told me that there was no money and that he was going to the United States. Then my daughters told him that they left school and left their homes to work so that he would restart the work with the workshop, but he didn’t want that, they had to study to be someone in life and have a profession, but time passed and my daughters began to design some sandals,” she said.

It was here when Graciela and her three sisters, went to work and showing off their magnificent creativity, made three pairs of shoes and went to sell them at the Sunday market of Tlacolula, the result? A resounding success.



“At night my happy daughters arrive and they said to me ‘mami mami, what do you think? We already sold our huarache. At first the neighboring post made fun of our sandals, but after a while a designer arrived and she loved our huarache,'” the proud mother recalled.

Since then and until today, the Ndavaa group has taken their footwear to national and international fairs such as in Mexico City and Israel, where their products are very well received. They have also worked in collaboration with US and Spanish brands.

As far as the elaboration of the sandals, the footwear that they have manufactured over the years and of which they have more than 250 prototypes, Clara explained that the first ones to intervene in its creation was her husband and son who dedicate to tan the leather of res that is used for the template of the huarache.

From there the leather is taken to a cutting machine that cuts the insoles according to the size of the foot. Subsequently, according to the design to be made, small cuts are made to the sole where the textile used to decorate will pass through.

Once this is done, it is placed on a machine that crushes the leather template to stretch it and leave it as smooth as possible.

To conclude, the García women along with other young people of the town, combine the colorful textiles with various geometric designs, flowers and embroidery that the craftsmen made. The sole is placed, and ready, you have a handmade sandal.

The tennis shoes that have had a resounding success in the market, are also designed with Oaxacan textiles and its sole is made with recycled PVC.

In spite of the success they have had with their original and innovative designs, in talking with both women, it is notorious for its majestic humility of character that enchants to all its clients, since they are the ones in charge to transmit the gratefulness of the indigenous communities that collaborate in the collective.

“Our goal is that many communities integrate, that change the way they live. Being a craftsman does not mean being poor, on the contrary being a craftsman means that we can have quality and warmth in life, this is the dream that I have,” she said with a huge smile on her face, the brave and hardworking Graciela.

NTX – By Ashlei Espinoza Rodríguez