Stitching together, we stand strong,
A quilt of peace where we all belong
The people united, the threads intertwined,
In our diverse fabric, resilience defined
-Danielle Jabbor, palestinian-syrian in the diaspora, in Canada
The Comuna Caribe building, in Rio Piedras, has become a sacred and solemn place. In the center, there is a red sheet with lighted candles and the Palestinian flag. Volunteers have entered and exited day and night. The women work in relays; if one of them does not finish, another resumes the design. With each stitch, they remember and honor the Palestinian people, who are being slaughtered by the State of Israel.
For this group of women, embroidery is a political act and an act of feminist resistance: “The original peoples used embroidery to tell their history; the history that was denied, the history that the conquest stole from them,” said Hilda Guerrero, co-founder of Comuna Caribe.
“While there is a culture that wants to erase them completely, there is another group that wants to pay tribute to them through these threads, through the culture of embroidery. They want to erase, and we want to perpetuate,” said artisan Gloribel Delgado.
Together, they have shared more than colored threads: sisterhood, tea, food, meditation, mourning and resistance.
The calling came from Alberta, Canada. The Threads of Diaspora project was created by the Palestinian Cultural Association of Canada, with the goal of creating a 3-meter Tatreez quilt, made with 441 individual pieces. Palestinian women and allies have surpassed the goal and doubled (almost tripled) the size of the quilt, Danielle Jabbor, the communications officer for Threads of the Diaspora and daughter of Tatreez designer Elian Aboudi, told Todas.
People from countless countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Mexico and Colombia, have participated in the Tatreez circle.
The patterns that have been embroidered, in Puerto Rico, will be sent to Canada, where the Palestinian Diaspora will integrate them into a huge tapestry.
The movement, which began in August 2022, has been “a silent form of protest against the suppression of Palestinian identity,” Jabbor explained.
“The act of sewing becomes a feminist statement, with women taking a central place in preserving their cultural heritage,” she added.
After the last 75 days, in which the State of Israel has indiscriminately besieged and attacked the Palestinian population, the project expanded its meaning. The fourth phase adopts the Palestinian flag, iconic symbols of resistance, as well as the powerful chants of demonstrations around the world.
The intention, Jabbor explained, is for the quilt to travel from museum to museum and gallery to gallery, showcasing the powerful stories that each Tatreez square holds. The completion date, however, has not been set. “As long as there are hands willing to keep Tatreez alive, we will be willing for the project to go forward,” she explained in writing.
In Puerto Rico alone, Comuna Caribe has received over 60 women and people in solidarity with the history of occupation and extermination of the Palestinian people in Gaza. “I would say that the greatest need we women have is to come together, to know that there are tribes of women who are there to support us. There is a great need for spaces like this,” said Guerrero.
Tatreez is an indigenous cultural art form that represents Palestinian life and land. The technique is passed down from generation to generation, traditionally from mothers to daughters. Following the 1948 Nakba, in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced, the women’s traditional embroidered dresses referenced their hometowns and documented Palestinian identity, history and heritage.
“We embroider among ourselves”
The weaving not only creates art pieces, but also bonds between people. “We embroider among ourselves,” Delgado commented. “I know that other things are going to come out of this,” she added.
Feminist activist Nicole Curet was the first one that heard about the initiative through social media. Quickly, she signed up to participate, and after a few days, she shared the call with Puerto Rican Muslim Sumaya Soler. Soler then connected her with Guerrero and Delgado, both activists and sewing lovers. “They expanded it far beyond what I would have thought or dreamed of,” Curet confessed.
She added that the gatherings are not only honoring the cultural context of the Tatreez designs, passed down from generation to generation, but have also become “a space to process sadness, process hope, joy and plot in community; to think of ideas of how we will continue to mobilize in support of the Palestinian people from Puerto Rico.”
Curet already knew how to embroider in cross-stitch, a pattern used in Tatreez and by many indigenous communities around the world. Cristina Corrada, on the other hand, accepted that she had never embroidered. “I saw it as old-fashioned,” she said. Her perception has not only changed as she has come to understand the message of struggle that it carries, but she has found enjoyment in the silence it brings. “It’s you being in contact with the threads and the fabric. In that process, you are meditating, you are honoring the people who are being killed, and recognizing that their life – each one – is worthy; that we will never forget that struggle nor will we forget that death,” she added.
Many people arrived at the venue, among them Pamela Sertzn, a professor who teaches Latino Studies at a university in the United States. The woman, of Peruvian descent and married to a Puerto Rican in the diaspora, said she learned about the activity from a neighbor. “I arrived and I already felt part of the space,” said the woman who attended the event with her infant daughter and husband. “When I embroider, I am thinking about what is happening and thinking about ways of resistance,” she added.
The Threads of Diaspora project was created by Palestinians Randa Al Hijawi, Manal Kalousa, Elian Aboudi, Khalida Yousef, Amal Kaiali, Amal Abu Jayyab, Samah Anabousi and the rest of the Women’s Committee of the Palestinian Cultural Association of Canada.
The embroiderers culminated the work on International Migrants Day, Monday, and joined a demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate in Puerto Rico.