The Circle of Women

The Circle of Women is a non-profit organization which supports the self-sufficiency of indigenous Mixteca women in Oaxaca, Mexico. Through their connection to other women, women gain confidence and opportunities to participate more fully in the decision-making process in their families and communities.
Mar 6, 2012

Spring 2012 Update from Miramar

children's Mixteco literacy class

Hola to the friends of The Circle of Women!

This comes with greetings from the women of Miramar. I’d like to update you on all the happenings here in Oaxaca. I’ve been to Miramar three times and the women have been here twice, so we have indeed spent a lot of time together assessing where we are and planning for the future—a time of closeness and real sharing.    

We have discussed several possibilities on how to go forward, including turning over the Oaxaca non-profit organization to the women. The decision the women made was not to take on the non-profit at this time since it would mean a great deal of responsibility for legal matters and financial matters which they are not prepared to assume. This was the strong feeling of the older women, less so for those who are younger. We will watch how things develop.

Lynne Rowe, the Marketing and Education Director, and I with the women’s lead have already begun program planning for the rest of the year. We plan two more visits this year and lots of Skype!

So, here are the plans for 2012: As you know, we have three programs (literacy, health, and microenterprise) and the women are proposing another for themselves.

LITERACY—This Saturday, teachers Edith and Augustina are starting to teach two classes for children aged 2 to 10 in Mixtec to Spanish. They will do the reverse as needed.  In addition to language writing and speaking there will be a focus on culture.  This will involve bringing older people into the classroom who are knowledgeable. The kids will interview their elders and write journals in Mixteco.  This sharing of stories is known to be a very important and traditional way of passing on culture. The program is being done at the teachers’ and community request resulting from a pilot project with kids three years ago. THE CLASSES ARE FULL!

Edith is also continuing her adult program which was interrupted by her pregnancy and is conducting the Mixtec to Spanish class with literacy in both languages.

MICROENTERPRISE— The WEAVERS  are back at their looms from their coffee break   (picking, not drinking) and busily producing  their beautiful cotton shawls with the long fringes. The marketing committee, Edith, Marcellina, and Edith Inez spent a weekend at our home getting ready for a sale on that took place on Feb. 25. They sold many weavings, dolls, and even some books!—over $1000 in total. So, they headed back to Miramar with smiles!

They are scheduled for a three day sale at El Museo de textile in October and of course we will bring new inventory of rebozos to Boston. Cotton rebozos are $225, please contact me ( or 617-889-8177) if you would like to purchase one! 

HEALTH— The health project was completed in December but after going over the evaluation by the women we were asked for a family planning program for mothers and early teen-aged daughters who are vulnerable to early pregnancy, a common situation in the village.  

FOLK ART DOLLS—Women who have graduated from our literacy program have been continuing to learn by attending a book club. During the past year of the club, the women decided they wanted to make dolls to sell. It is clear these dolls are very special treasures and the weavers have taken on the responsibility of selling them with their weavings.  

We expect the women will be able to continue the literacy program by training new teachers and grow the weaving program through expanded marketing efforts. One of the health promoters we have trained will continue the health program as she is receiving a good deal of support from the Indigenous Women’s Council in the village.

Every one of you who have helped bring us this far and it is a time for celebration. We’ll keep you posted with plans for a fiesta!


Judith Lockhart-Radtke
children's Mixteco literacy class
Feb 13, 2012

Winter 2012 Report: New Directions

As is so often the situation in development work, our literacy program underwent some exciting changes in direction.  Because of the pregnancies of both master teachers, Augustina Garcia Lopez and Edith Espana, it was decided it was not a good idea to move the program yet to additional villages because of the extensive walking required and the danger long travel might pose to pregnancies. The plan to expand the literacy program has been delayed until the Fall of 2012.
This decision resulted in the women of the advanced program (22 women), the Book Club, who are in their fifth year of the literacy program, deciding to develop a microenterprise on their own with some support for materials. During their initial two year literacy program the final project was the making of dolls which they wrote stories for.  These dolls were shown in an exhibition at The Textile Museum in Oaxaca in the winter of 2010.  People were eager to buy them, however since many of these women had never had a doll before they were not happy to part with them.

The women in the Book Club run by Edith and Augustina, between reading of Like Water for Chocolate, thought they might be able to make more dolls and sell them.  To date, they have produced 23 dolls which will go on the market this winter.  They are presently using their newly acquired skills to write stories for each doll, which is tremendous as five years ago most of these women could only sign their names with an “X” or a fingerprint. The Book Club allows the women to practice their literacy skills in a supportive environment.
After the birth of their daughters, the master teachers, Edith and Augustina, presented The Circle of Women with a new program. This involved the teaching of Mixtec to Spanish and Spanish to Mixtec to young children in their communities.  There are children who are totally Mixtec speaking who enter the first grade in the state schools where only Spanish is used and have some difficulty adjusting at first. On the other hand children who do speak Spanish are faced with losing their Mixtec.  Both of our teachers are bilingual and have been teaching both languages to adults.  They have also done a pilot Spanish program with children.
There are two classes (15 children each) of 6-8 year olds being taught by Edith and Augustina, one Spanish to Mixtec in Miramar and the other in a more isolated village is in Mixtec to Spanish.

Aug 2, 2011

Summer 2011 Progress Report

Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop

We all in Oaxaca are in a transitional process, thinking about the future and looking back on the history that we made together. This is a very special time, the women in Miramar are more and more independent and strong, they are speaking out about  what they think and  what they want in the future. 
Weavers have set up a team for marketing their products, they now are very clear about the importance of having a market in USA and also expanding the market in Oaxaca and Mexico. They are going to dye the wool later this year, in September, but we are going to try an experimental process from Brazil to get red and purple in cotton.

The literacy program is at a very interesting point. The current teachers are writing about their experiences with the project with the guide of Dr. Patricia Tovar to be included as a chapter for the literacy manual. This is going to be very helpful for  new teachers. In September and October, Patricia Tovar is going to train more teachers in the Mixtec area.

We also are doing a doll-making workshop, this is the second part of the first project which was part of the exhibit at the Museo de Textil in Oaxaca. Now the new dolls are more complex, they have symbols on their bodies that express the relation with nature in Mixtec culture. The next step is to write short stories about these symbols. This is a very advanced exercise of the reading program.

Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop
Doll-making workshop