Inés Rodríguez, resident of Os Vilares, a village of 80 inhabitants in the municipality of Allaríz, Galicia, carries out a very important and inspiring work. In this episode we specially admire her eagerness to make crafts revaluing culture and tradition, but with the audacity to innovate in sustainability through new materials.
Ana Amrein: Inés, it is a pleasure to have you with us at Raíces and to learn from your point of view about the values and identity of rural life. What do roots mean to you? What does culture mean to you?
Inés Rodríguez: For me, culture is first and foremost something that enriches people and, above all, enriches villages. To the territories, to the cities, to the places where people live. It also means sharing a series of values and things that identify those people who are in that place, and that envelop them, unite them and also elevate them. Culture is also the environment. I think that for me that is culture. But I think that the things that are part of our culture don't always have to be artistic. They can also be other kinds of knowledge, knowledge, values, images, landscapes. In other words, there are so many things that form part of a culture that is transmitted from one generation to the next and that makes the community itself feel part of something.
Ana Amrein: You are a great rescuer of culture. How do you approach it?
Inés Rodriguez: Well, I approach it in a slightly selfish way. I think that we all do things that we like, and for me, everything that has to do with the cultural environment, whether it's mine or that of other places, seems to me to be a great thing. It's a way of looking at life. In other words, I think there are many things that we miss out on because we are moving very fast and sometimes we look forward and forget to look back. And in that process, you leave things behind, you leave people behind and you leave many things behind that, by embracing something that you don't really know what is going to happen, you leave in oblivion. So for me it is also important to go forward without losing sight of what lies behind.
We have never left things as far behind as we are leaving them now. And perhaps a little because of this hurry and this rushing forward.
Ana Amrein: How interesting, of course, because you're talking about presence, about creating a path without losing our roots.
Inés Rodriguez: Yes, yes, totally. I think we have always gone deep into the roots we have. What happens is that often when we talk about roots or traditions we think that we can't touch them, we can't change them. And yes, it is true that sometimes you can't change them or you can't touch them, but that doesn't stop you from knowing them and then adapting them because the world moves on.
My generation (between 40 and 50 years old) did not think that the things we were doing were going to have repercussions on many things that our children are experiencing. I think we have lost that sense of responsibility that our previous generations had when it came to making decisions in our lives.
And I'm not talking about big decisions, but in our daily lives, in the things we did or how we did them. Moreover, people of my age had the opportunity to be in close contact with their grandfathers and grandmothers, but this close bond is not so close between the new generations (today's teenagers) and their grandmothers. I think that this rupture is going to be noticed. That's why I think it's also important to recover all those traditions or all that knowledge that is still alive, but which is gradually disappearing because it is no longer passed on to young people. It's a shame that we don't manage to pass them on to future generations.
Ana Amrein: Why do you think this has happened? What happened in your generation that caused this tradition to start to be interrupted?
Inés Rodriguez: People of my generation tried to break with many things, including the rural world. Why? Because it wasn't fashionable. In my case, as a textile worker, if you knitted, you weren't a modern woman. But this doesn't only apply to the textile world, it also applies to cooking.
Many women of my generation didn't cook because it wasn't "pro". The "pro" thing was to go to work and what was cool at the time was that you were a great executive.
This was the first break with the rural world. Now, we have to take into account the factor of technology, which is wonderful because it connects us and allows us to access a wide range of knowledge. But if you look at it, many young people learn to cook with YouTube, but they don't learn with their grandmothers, or they don't learn with their parents, or they don't learn the traditional recipe, but they have to go through a screen to learn something that you used to learn at home.
I think that learning how to make a potato omelette from your grandmother has nothing to do with learning it through a screen. Why? Because you learn other things in the way you make it or the way you do it that cannot be transmitted in any other way, except from person to person. It is in real, face-to-face interaction that the values and traditions of our culture are transmitted.
Ana Amrein: I think what you are saying is brutal, because I had never thought of it like that. For example, the other day I learned how to make Rösti, a typical Swiss dish (I'm half Swiss) through Youtube. I spent every summer in Wauwil (Switzerland), in my grandmother's village, and I never learnt it. And of course, when I ate that Rösti, it was terrible, it had nothing to do with my grandmother's.
Inés Rodriguez: And if your grandmother were alive, I'm sure she would have said "well, it's not that bad, it's just a little bit better. The next one will be better".
Ana Amrein: Well, it's true. In other words, in the end my mother doesn't cook... It's very interesting what you're saying. So how do we go back to these traditions? Because you are doing it.
Inés Rodriguez: We have a series of memories, of emotions that are linked to things. I have many clients who buy from us because their memory and their memories are linked to good moments. Well, in their childhood, as you were saying, with your grandmother, with your mother, with the textile they played when they were children. Let's say that I'm passionate about the link with what was before and what is now. For me it's a matter of creative enrichment, isn't it? In other words, having traditional techniques allows me to make much more creative weavings or pieces that tell much more special stories. It's about giving value to a certain product, the values that are associated with that product. And also for me, it is a creative tool that allows me to experiment much more. I think that we should teach young people to value these tools and that if they have been lost in some way, they should also be interested in looking for them and recovering them, because it is what I was saying: it is part of their heritage and part of our culture. And of course, it is true that it is great to move towards a globality that we must all respect. I think it's wonderful to get to know cultures from other places because it enriches you, but it doesn't mean you have to lose your own. And I think that this is fundamental. Many of our young people don't know our culture, they don't know our history, they don't know our past. And it is difficult to value something they don't know.
Ana Amrein: All this load of values, of experiences, of the experiences of our ancestors, we carry in our DNA. And it affects our present moment. We are often unaware that we carry the stories of our ancestors because we don't know them. I also find it very interesting what you were mentioning about the completeness of the work you are doing, because taking it back to YouTube (that we consume information through hearing and sight) we are missing out on the kinaesthetic.
Inés Rodriguez: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, totally, totally. Any manual activity such as kneading increases your level of perception and gives you a sensitivity that has a positive impact on your fine motor skills, your perception of space and your creative activity. I am very struck by the fact that in the world of technology, people are looking for creative people. But creative people have to create and to create you also need a lot of senses, you need a lot of hands. So I often wonder what will become of the creative people of the future if they are not working that creativity through other sensations and they don't even talk about wellbeing, as you were saying, before they will have jobs where there is no time, where I can enjoy them, where I can experience them. In this fast world, we don't have so much time to experiment, to try or to feel with different senses.
Ana Amrein: Yes, absolutely, and the rhythm in the rural world and in the villages changes. One has more possibilities to let go and feel with all the senses. You recover customs, practices, processes, why do you do it from the rural world?
Inés Rodriguez: Crafts are inevitably very, very, very, very, very closely linked to the rural world. Because craft processes began in the countryside, often to cover basic needs and other times to optimise resources. In both cases one thing always went hand in hand with the other.
I started weaving at one end of my house, in a space that I had made for weaving. Suddenly I was surrounded by the village neighbours, who, hearing the noise of the loom, awoke memories of their childhood.
In my village there used to be six or seven looms and all of them, inevitably, when they heard the noise, remembered their mothers, their grandmothers. They would come to me and tell me the stories. And that's how I started to collect what they told me. They also brought me pieces. I have old pieces that were woven in the area that they brought me saying "It's going to get lost, it's already very broken, it's very damaged"; and I realised that they brought it to me without giving it any value: "because my mother made it, because my grandmother made it or because my children no longer appreciate it and so on".
And I was curious. So I began to collect these testimonies, to keep the pieces and to investigate and investigate and investigate. And I realised that many of these pieces could not be reproduced as they were made in the old days. Nowadays it is impossible, because they wove, but at the same time they planted, they gathered. It was a process that took a year or two years. At the rate we are going nowadays, it would be practically impossible because they would have to plant the flax, collect it or have the sheep, shear the wool, wash it, etc. And this whole process, as we were saying, was part of a cultural cycle. Because it was also a collective, communal process. All the villagers were involved in the process. There was a culture of weaving that was very present and everyone knew the processes.
The knowledge was transmitted (orally) from generation to generation and the women weavers were concerned with teaching the girls or the next generation so that they would also know how to do it. It was a matter of survival, it was a matter of responsibility to future generations. In my opinion, I think I have an obligation to them so that this valuable tradition is not lost.