Tucked away in San Cristobal de las Casas’s quiet Barrio de Guadalupe is Taller Leñateros, a unique bookbinding and papermaking workshop that’s been operating in Chiapas’ cultural capital for more than 40 years.
Taller Leñateros (the Woodlanders’ Workshop) is a collective of female Maya artists (though some men have joined in recent years). It’s also Mexico’s first and only Tzotzil Maya bookbinding workshop.
The collective was founded in 1975 by the Mexican-American poet Ambar Past to document and disseminate the endangered Tzotzil language, culture, and oral history. It does so environmentally, using only recycled and natural materials for its publications (leñateros alludes to those who get their firewood from deadwood, rather than felled trees).
The world’s first book written, bound, and published by Maya in over 400 years—Incantations: Songs, Spells, and Images by Mayan Women and Mayan Hearts (also the first of its kind to be published by Maya women)—was conceived here. Other groundbreaking Tzotzil Maya texts, such as Mayan Hearts and the soon-to-be-published Mamá Luna Nene Sol, were too.
Know Before You Go
The workshop is open to visitors Monday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The small wooden gate is always kept unlocked—just push it open and let yourself in.
Visitors can watch the Woodlanders dye fibers over fire-hearths, bind book covers, and print posters using techniques passed down from their ancient Maya ancestors.
There’s also a small gift shop where, subject to availability, visitors can buy Maya books that are produced on-site, including Incantations: Songs, Spells, and Images by Mayan Women and Mayan Hearts. There’s also a large collection of hand-made notebooks, postcards, and fine-art prints for sale.
(You may find second-hand copies of Incantations and Mayan Hearts on Amazon, but please note that the best way to support the collective is to buy directly from the Woodlanders. Please note that the collective only accepts cash.)
If you wish to make a donation, commission a special work, or order a book, email Javier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Expect at least 48 hours to receive a response.