We are the woodlanders who walk in the hills gathering dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees, collecting firewood without chopping down the forest. We come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of wood, of pitchpine and split encino, for the hearths of the Royal City of San Cristobal de Las Casas. We walk through the mist, leading our burros, selling firewood from house to house. We knock on people ’ s doors, offering pine needles as well, to spread on the floor, moss, flowers of bromeliads and orchids for manger scenes.

Thirty years ago we rented an old adobe house in San Cristobal and we planted a little avocado tree in the patio. The sprout took root and grew and now it’s as tall as the tree where the Moon showed the first Motherfathers how to weave. The house shrank under the shadow of the leaves and filled up with dreams and we called it a «Workshop,» first «of Dreams»and then «Woodlanders’» Something between theatre and witchcraft.

Over wood fires, in the patio, big kettles are boiling full of corn-husks, gladiola stems, heart of maguey, palm leaves, recycled women’s cotton huipil blouses, banana trunks, and who knows what other raw material to make paper. There are baskets full of papyrus, liana vines, lichen and moss. We beat the fibers in a mill which spins by bicycle power. We spread the paper in the Sun, and while it dries, we print poems on oak leaves and pansy petals.

Our silkscreen alchemists work from Sun to Sun, from Moon to Moon, transforming natural light into bougainvillea-color images. We cut, fold, sew, glue, bind and wrap. We publish a literary magazine, a rustic codex known as La jicara, «The Gourd», which includes translations from Native languages, testimonies, foreigners’ journals, xylography, petroglyphs and odd things. And a book of spells including one «To Live Many Years» from the book Incantations By Mayan Women. Conjure-women sing at the foot of the avocado tree.

Loxa Jimenes Lopes, Xunka’ Utz’ Utz’ Ni and Maria Tzu paint amid the odor of the honeysuckle.

The Woodlanders come to door of the Workshop. They bring a load of madrone-wood to feed the fire. They bring withered flowers from the churches, and pine needles trampled in yesterday ’ s festival. They carry rattan, lichen, banana-leaves, corn-husks, bridal-veil, mahagua, bean-pods, maguey-tongues, reeds, coconut-shells, gladiola-stems, palm-fronds, grass, papyrus, cat-tails, pampas grass and bamboo, along with recycled paper and old clothes; the raw material of dreams is nearly always something «useless.»

Ideas and images come to us in dreams. That’s how it is with the Woodlanders: the Moon and the daughters of the Lightning give us dreams to light our way. We recycle our visions to turn them into art; we also reproduce the dreams of others: images from the ancient codices, from prehispanic clay seals, motifs from Mayan embroidery and ceramics. The Earth also inspires us: we photocopy the fossil of a tropical leaf, the texture of a seashell. We relearn hand-printing techniques: xylography, basketography, petalography. We reinvent the unicorn so that its horn will perforate a cardboard pinhole camera, as found in 12th-century Arab documents discovered by the Chiapas alchemist Carlos Jurado, ritual master-counselor of the Woodlanders.

Taller Lenateros is a cultural society, an alliance of Mayan and mestizo women and men, founded in 1975 by the Mexican poet Ambar Past. Among its multiple objectives we ’ ll mention the documentation, praise and dissemination of Amerindian and popular cultural values: song, literature and plastic arts; the rescue of old and endangered techniques such as the extraction of dyes from wild plants; and generating worthwhile and decently-paid employment for women and men who have no studies, no career, no future.

We have created a multi-ethnic space for artists and becoming-artists. We foment artistic creation among the most marginalized communities. The Woodlanders invent, teach and exercise the arts of hand-made paper, binding, solar silkscreen, woodcuts and natural dyes. We benefit the ecology by recycling agricultural and industrial wastes in order to create crafts and objects of art. Taller Lenateros survives thanks to the sale of artist books, postcards, posters, and printed shirts.

We cultivate a group environment in which all the members of the Workshop participate in decisions, contributing ideas, solutions and work-proposals in order to benefit the individual and the group. Although we are not all from one same culture and we speak different languages, we are putting together a common project. We were once servants, washer-women, wandering vendors and unemployed, and now we own our own business.

Little by little, without subsidies or capitalist partners, pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, we have been able to buy and construct the minimal equipment with which we work. We have managed to construct our Workshop with our own hands. The only resource we have had, and the most valuable, has been ourselves and the ideas of the collective, our rural-indigenous folk-wisdom.

We record and translate the songs we sing, and from our own voices the most ambitious project of Taller Lenateros was born: the publication (1650 copies) of the bilingual book (Tzotzil/Spanish, 200 pages with 60 original silkscreens by Tzotzil and Tzeltal women artists) Conjuros y ebreiedades, cantos de mujeres mayas. In March of this year we finished the first edition of Incantations By Mayan Women, a 295 page Tzotzil/ English version of this book. The fruit of the work of 150 people across 30 years, these are the first books written, illustrated and put together by the Mayan people in more than a thousand years, since the First Motherfathers made their sacred codices.

With pride in our work and to celebrate our quarter-century, we ’ ve collected in these pages a showing of the most characteristic graphics of Taller Lenateros: a warmed-over feast from what we ’ ve printed on cards, posters and calendars, in the pages of La jicara and in the book of Conjuros. From pictographs painted 10,000 years ago in the caves of Patagonia, to graffiti spray-painted in Chiapas in the revolutionary year of 1994; from Classic Mayan art on stone stelae and clay jars, to new images created by the Woodlanders in our Workshop.

There are places in the highlands where every passer-by adds one stone to the cairn, a testimony of her or his presence and journey. The Woodlanders say this is how the mountains grow through time. This day book is our stone for the pile, our scale to weigh the years, a tribute to the end of the century, an offering for the beginning of the millennium.