Posted by: efsacco | June 26, 2007

Working with the living and the dead

I’ve been intensively involved in lace and genealogy for the last five years. In order to learn about the women and men who create lace and the tools used to make it, I’ve had to learn about families, and in order to learn about this local history, i’ve immersed myself in genealogy.

Moca, and PR in general, as i’ve mentioned in a previous post, have a 200 year history of lace. I am also fascinated by how racial dynamics are also involved, as among the earlier generation of women who were master artists, some had slave ancestors. Abolition was declared in PR in 1873, and as in other places, aside from being freed, things didn’t change all that much for poor folks in an agrarian based society. This is how lace is connected to more than just a decorative element. There’s a political history to mundillo as well.

Despite lace’s connection to the rich and famous in the past, often overlooked is its connection to exploitative work practices. What’s different about Moca is that mundillo instead offered a way out, a means of earning a little more beyond the factory.

Posted by: efsacco | October 23, 2006

Mundillo en Puerto Rico / Bobbin lace in PR

I am currently working on a study of traditional Puerto Rican bobbin lace making, known as mundillo.

Mundillo is a practice with a two-hundred year-old history that involves invasions, migrations and social changes that impacted society, gender and technology. Moca, a small town on the west side of Puerto Rico, is considered El Capital del Mundillo.

What I enjoy most about the history of mundillo is that it affords a means of making the labor of women visible, not only through text, but through the oral histories that I have been collecting. It involves narratives of survival, skill and of knowledge passed on through family members or associates.

This practice is not restricted to women, however. There are men who make lace, just as there are women who are instrument makers (guitars, cuatros, etc.) or santeras, carvers of saints. Often, mundillo is a family affair, with women making lace on mundillos using bolillos- the lap boxes and wooden bobbins used to create the lacework- made by men. Often, women (or men) were taught by their mothers, grandmothers or aunts.

In the 18th-19th centuries, needlework was the purview of accomplished young women, and in Puerto Rico, needlework was taught in private schools run by nuns of the Catholic Church. Mundillo also became part of this education by the early 2oth century. The waves of immigration to Puerto Rico brought many people from countries with a lace tradition– Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Corsica, Malta, Germany among other places. During the late 18th century, the slave uprisings on Saint Domingue, and later, the Real Cedula de Gracias of 1815 brought many persons from France who settled on the west side of the island. Mundillo was also practiced in Cuba, and while the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and Santo Domingo were under Spanish rule, administrators and their families moved from one island to another to undertake government appointments during the nineteenth century. The blending of traditions continued.

There is a Museo del Mundillo in Moca, of which I am the Curator. You can visit the museum’s webpage at http://www.museodelmundillo.org

 

It’s estimated that some 9,000 persons across Puerto Rico make mundillo.

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