Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at “Textiles and Settlement: From Plains Space to Cyber Space,” Textile Society of America 12th Biennial Symposium, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 6-9, 2010. Copyright 2010 Textile Society of America.


Oaxaca’s diversity may be appreciated in its geography, people, and food. Therefore, artistic expressions throughout the state are truly rich in their variety. Textiles are one of the major expressions that have transcended through time and among the vast offer of materials, cochineal has been one of Oaxaca’s treasures. Capable of producing many different shades, cochineal has been widely used for dyeing since Pre-Columbian times. After reaching a point of extraordinary production as an exporting good, the cochineal cultivation started to decrease as the use of synthetic dyes started to spread. The Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Textile Museum of Oaxaca – MTO), in its reach of documenting traditional textiles and collaborate with artisan communities, will look for producers of cochineal in the state, register the techniques used to grow this insect, and compare the results found with historical documents. Cochineal obtained from different producers will be used to dye wool, using the same recipes, and will be tested for light fastness through an accelerated aging method. The outcome of this research will help us evaluate how much methods for growing cochineal have changed, and the repercussion, if any, of each process on the dye quality. Therefore, we will be able to suggest ways of improving the quality of the cochineal cultivated in Oaxaca. This will also help us to create an updated database of cochineal producers in the state that will be available for the museum’s audience.