According to 48-year-old Justino Medina, a fourth-generation indigo producer from Niltepec, the production of indigo or añil (Indigofera tinctoria) has been a generational practice in the Oaxacan municipality for more than five centuries. Zapotec and Zoque people of the area have cultivated the plant for longer, using it for textile dyeing and painting in Pre-Columbian times. Justino’s teacher, Octaviano Pérez Antonio, passed away in 2023 and was responsible for reviving indigo production about 20 years ago in Niltepec, many years after they stopped production in the ’90s.
Producing añil is an arduous and long process that goes from planting the seed of jiquilite (from the nahuatl “xiuhquilitl”) to harvesting, fermenting in water, oxidizing, and separating the final añil paste. Seventy-year-old resident Don Alejo Cruz Pacheco, owner of the indigo farm we visited, emphasizes: “It’s hard work, but it really comes down to love. Without care and attention, you produce nothing.” Despite the growing challenges of climate change—or perhaps as a way to address pollution and other root causes—younger people are taking interest in this ancient practice, in what we hope turns out to be The New Indigo Wave.
Director: Karla Claudio-Betancourt
Producers: Karla Claudio-Betancourt, Xavier Valenzuela Kat
Director of Photography: Mónica Wise Robles
Sound and Music: José Alejandro Rivera
Colorist: Fernanda Vázquez Alcántara
Editor: Karla Claudio-Betancourt