Northeastern New Mexico Feature

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Tapetes de Lana

There are few fairy-tale stories of revitalized rural economies in America. Tapetes de Lana is one of them.

Tapetes de Lana ("Wool Tapestry" in Spanish) started as a vocational-training program for weavers in Las Vegas in 1998 with a small grant and the sheer determination of its founder, Carla Gomez. Gomez had supported herself and her three children with her weaving for years and wanted to extend the skill to her community in the hopes that others could do the same rather than leave the area to find work or take minimum-wage jobs in one of the large national chain stores that have begun to populate the area.

What started out as a small group of women working in an old, one-room schoolhouse on the outskirts of Las Vegas has blossomed—considerably. Gomez now runs two weaving centers (one on the Las Vegas plaza, the other in the center of Mora), oversees 40 employees, and is supervising the construction of a spinning mill, theater-arts complex, and commercial kitchen on the Mora property.

The weaving centers offer more than the promise of a new economic base in these relatively sleepy areas—they also represent a revitalization of a traditional art form that in many areas of the country is dying out entirely. Weaving has been a mainstay in New Mexico since 1598, when Don Juan de Oñate brought Spanish colonists and Churro sheep from Spain. Despite struggling to stay vital since the late 1800s, New Mexico's weavers retain a reputation for high-quality, uniquely beautiful products. Tapetes de Lana has become an essential component of that living tradition.

And the result of all this industriousness? Gorgeous, handwoven shawls, scarves, rugs, and heirloom jerga blankets. Custom-made pillows, coasters, and yarns are available. Silk and alpaca, mohair, wool, and chenille textiles all hang gracefully from the walls and racks in the studios. Weavers study and practice their skills in the same studio where the work is sold.

When you're in Las Vegas or Mora, stop and visit the bustling shops and studios of Tapetes de Lana. You're witnessing rural revitalization in action.

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