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Journal of American Folklore 116.460 (2003) 230-232
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Encajar en el mundo: El Telón del Teatro Raul Juliá del Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (Weaving One's Way into the World: The Curtain of the Raul Juliá Theater at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico). 2001. By Enrique Trigo Tió. 40 min. Video format, color, Spanish with English subtitles. (Luna Films, San Juan, Puerto Rico.)
The thoughtful documentary, Encajar en el mundo, follows the process of creating the theater curtain for Puerto Rico's new Museo de Arte, using the technique of mundillo, Puerto Rican bobbin lace (encaje de bolillos). The curtain was a collaboration between Antonio Martorell, one of Puerto Rico's most noted visual and graphic artists and a collective of tejedoras (lacemakers), the Borinquen Lacers. Mundillo employs wooden bobbins wound with thread that are manipulated to follow a stenciled pattern design attached to a loom made of a cylindrical pillow set in wooden bolsters. Each single stitch is made by using at least two pairs of bobbins and is held in place by pins. Traditionally, mundillo is used to make small items such as pañuelos (handkerchiefs) and botines de bebé (baby booties), but the tejedoras expanded their tradition to create a unique work of art—a lace theater curtain measuring fifteen feet by thirty feet with a map of the world as its design.
The first segment of the film is Él (He)/The Designer. Here we learn of Martorell's interest in lace as a medium of artistic expression. In Ellas (She[s])/The Lacers we meet the seven tejedoras—Lucy Betancourt, Asunción Bayó de Matos, Norma Figueroa, Hilda Millán Morales, Hilda Cruz, Julita Santiago, and Carmen Margarita Filardi, who share their stories of learning different forms of needlework (labores de aguja or tejidos) and how these arts were transmitted to them from their mothers, grandmothers, older sisters, and through teachers in classes. The film examines the role needlework plays in their lives and chronicles how they formed the Borinquen Lacers Association.
In the film's third section, Tejer Como Parir/Weaving as Bearing, Martorell explains his idea for a five-by-seven-foot work called Unlaced Atlas, a map of the world in lace which is eventually exhibited. He says, "I thought about the lacemakers of Puerto Rico, about our traditional mundillo which is both 'bobbin lace' and 'little world' in Spanish, and that gave me the key. We always come back to the word—from the image to the word, from the word, to the image, and it really is a mundillo, a little world. And that world is always shifting and shrinking, becoming 'unlaced.'" As the title of the section suggests, we are introduced to the metaphor, which runs throughout the documentary, that compares the act of making lace with the act of childbirth and creating a new world.
The following section, El Parto del Mundo en 279 Días/Giving Birth to the World in 270 Days, consists of three parts—Concepción/Conception, Gestación/Gestation, and Alumbramiento/Birth. In Concepción, Martorell and the tejedoras discuss the idea of making a fifteen-by-thirty-foot curtain, literally conceiving their new project. In Gestación, the tejedoras are shown creating the piece, from making the stenciled pattern upon which lacemakers draw their design, to winding the thread on the bobbins, and working at the loom. They discuss the larger thread, specially made bobbins, and large bolsters for the loom that were needed for this project. Interspersed, we see Martorell waiting and watching (like an expectant father). In Alumbramiento, the tejedoras and Martorell comment on their satisfaction with the finished product, and the closing segment, Post Parto/Post Birth, shows them all eating and relaxing in the home of one of the lacemakers.
The imagery, dialogue, and structure of the documentary not only compares the act of [End Page 230] lacemaking and weaving to the act of giving birth, but also presents these as a...