Zeferino Gaona Hernández

Community: Akgmuxni community, Adolfo Riuz Cortines, Coxquihui, Veracruz, México
Organization: House/School of the World of Cotton, Center for the Indigenous Arts
Position: Student and professor
Techniques: Single sided cotton designs on the Backstrap loom
Zeferino was born in the Tononaca region of México to a family that worked in agriculture and that promoted local culture. Zeferino learned Tononaca before Spanish, which allowed him to understand in greater depth his Tononaca heritage. Beginning at five years of age Zeferino began to observe his mother embroider, weave on the backstrap loom, and cultivate cotton. At eight years old he began to learn the entire cotton production process, the backstrap loom, and embroidery. Thanks to his mother’s patience and his natural aptitude, Zeferino learned quickly. By the time he was an adolescent he was planting, de-seeding, beating, and spinning cotton in order to then dye, crochet, weave it on the backstrap loom, and embroider it in cross stich. Zeferino realized that “learning the backstrap loom is more than just learning a technique because it is a way to see and understand life from the moment you enter in contact with cotton, to the exact position to make cloth on the backstrap loom that symbolizes the connection between mother earth and the universe.” With the goal of preserving Totonaca culture a space had been created for reflection, investigation, and practice of cotton based art, called the House/School of the World of Cotton, a project which integrates the Center of Indigenous Art.
This space serves as a school and as an instructor to teach children and adolescents on the cotton process. In Zeferino’s community there is also a group of students from various communities that are learning the cotton process, beginning with sowing to production, spinning, knitting, and weaving on a backstrap loom. Currently Zeferino participates actively in reunions and sessions of both house/schools of cotton in the region, but also continues with his academic studies. He is currently working towards a career in pedagogy at the National Pedagogical University.