|a cochineal painting of Oaxaca de Juaréz|
When the Spaniards first came to Mexico, they were amazed by the brilliant red colour of the blankets of the Aztec nobles. They learned that the dye for these blankets was paid as tribute by some people who lived to the south. The source of the colour was a type of cactus beetle that produces carminic acid as a means of protection. A few weeks ago, I was able to visit a site where the cochineal is produced.
|Today there are very few cochineal plantations.|
The beetle lives on nopal cactus that grow in the desert areas of Oaxaca state.
|The cacti are cultivated on the plantation.|
|The eggs begin to hatch and leave the nest.|
|The nopales are infested.|
|The cochineal must be cleaned and sorted.|
|The pink and scarlet wool is from cochineal.|
|This wool has been dyed with natural dyes.|
There has been renewed interest in natural dyes in the last few years. Most Oaxacan dye is used locally but Peru exports cochineal that is used in printing, art and cosmetics.
As for me, although I have resolved to buy little during this visit, there is a beautiful scarf in the Museo de Textil store. Perhaps, I will go and take a picture of it!