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This Punk-Goth Chicana From Southeast L.A. Celebrates Mexico’s Indigenous Art Through Her Bead Work

Initially inspired by L.A.'s punk and goth scenes, Angie Zuzeth Rojas now uses her craft to help people connect with their culture, while also teaching them the healing powers of beading.

Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Angie Zuzeth Rojas, the owner of Yolteotl Creations, may be best known for creating beaded jewelry that incorporates traditional indigenous designs with an alternative twist, which includes daggers, chains, and all things dark.

However, her work goes far beyond spooky designs. 

Rojas is using her craft to help people connect with their heritage and culture while also teaching them the healing powers of beading. Healing that she herself has experienced. 

“I struggle with anxiety and depression, so creating has always been something I found healing in,” said Rojas while laying a multi-colored sarape blanket on the grass. “Beading has made me acknowledge my suppressed thoughts and feelings and makes me work through them as I thread the needle onto each bead."

Although Rojas learned how to bead five years ago, she has always been a fan of beaded jewelry and artisanal clothing. In fact, one of her earliest memories was years back when she attended backyard punk shows.

In the scrum of swinging arms, blasting music, and clouds of smoke, there was also fashion being showcased at these shows. here was makeup, spiked jewelry, ripped fishnets, and patched-up jeans that were always too tight.

Amid a mix of two cultures, Rojas felt represented there. 

“I’m very big on the punk, goth culture," she said. "Especially growing up in Los Angeles, there’s a huge punk community among people of color here. At shows, I would see my community just be there, and we all felt seen and were connected, and we dressed how we wanted. It was a beautiful intersection of my identities.”

It was at one of these shows where she first saw a group of punk girls merging their vestidos artisenales (artisanal dresses) with corsets, chokers, and beaded jewelry. 

“It inspired me because it was the first time I realized that I could incorporate my culture into this subculture that I’m a part of, which is so amazing when it comes to representation,” she said, carefully tugging her thread through five beads to eventually bring them together into a flower petal.

That feeling of representation stayed with her ever since. Making people feel seen, the way those punk girls made her feel, is exactly what she wanted to do. Little did she know that in college she would be introduced to beading. Her professor at school taught her class about the history of beading, as well as how they can use this artistry for their mental health.

“Learning this just inspired me to want to learn more about my own history and made me want to further connect with my roots,” she added. “I immediately fell in love with the knowledge and the medicine it holds and how it also acts as a form of resistance.”

But before Rojas could even think about selling any of her jewelry online, she made it her mission to learn more about the craft. She makes sure to always credit what she calls "the original knowledge keepers." This work is visible on her social media platforms, where she showcases her latest designs and also intentionally talks about the history behind her work.

The type of beadwork Rojas practices comes from the Wixárika people, an indigenous group in Mexico that has roots in Nayarit, Durango, Zacatecas, Jalisco, and more. 

“Wixárika means 'people who love knowledge;' they are also sacred guardians of peyote,” she said. “They are connected to the earth, and that is visible in their work. You will see a lot of flowers in their designs.”

Rojas acknowledges that she is not Wixárika, but is a re-connecting native with Nahua and Maya K'iche ancestry. She also acknowledges that different indigenous groups also practice beadwork. She just happened to learn about Wixárika first. Still, when getting ready to make any jewelry, she tries to pay her respects to those who came before her.

Photos by: Angie Zuzeth
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

The day L.A. TACO met with Rojas, she readied her station at a park under the shade of a tree. She set up her altar, gave offerings to the earth, and like she often does, made sure to cleanse herself and her space before even touching any needle, thread, or bead. 

“We work with our hands, and I believe that energy can transfer, so I want to make sure that I’m in a good mood,” she said. 

Rojas credits her followers and supporters for getting her to where she is now. She said Club Nocturno was a big supporter of her work. It was at one of their Halloween events that she noticed the need for the type of jewelry she was creating.

“People thanked me for creating earrings that represented two sides of them,” she said, smiling. “That reassured me that I needed to continue on this path.”

Aside from creating intricate beadwork, she also offers one-on-one classes to teach people how to create beaded art at home and teach them about how this type of work ties into history and mental health. 

“Beading to me means to be present and grounded in everything that I do and teaches me to be gentle with myself, to not force anything because when you’re beading you have to be extra gentle,” she explained.

“Because if you force it, then the bead breaks and you have to start all over again. That’s the same thing with life. When you try and force things they don’t come out the way we want them to.”

Her jewelry can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to create, each bead is picked up one by one, and it requires a lot of patience. Of course, the amount of time she spends on a piece is determined by its size and the type of design she creates. 

“It’s also important for me to share the work of other creators because I’m not the only one creating work like this,” she said. “There’s so many of us out there creating work that's intertwining the goth, alternative, punk culture into traditional beadwork.”

Other creators, like Yadira Inez Tellechea, who began her beading journey back in 2019. She initially created her Instagram page named Hecha Por Yadira to use as a digital archive to document her journey in beading. But it wasn't until the pandemic forced so many to slow down that she really had the time to immerse herself in her craft.

And much like Rojas, she was able to embrace her roots through her creations.

“It’s a connection to Mexico," she said. "I wasn’t born there but I am Mexican and I do embrace that part of my life, so it's very important for me to include that in my every day. It became something that was important for me to share with other people.”

She also agrees with Rojas when it comes to how beading can help people cope with life’s stresses. 

“Being able to take time out of my day to sit down and do something with my hands is so relaxing to me it is the practice that beading is medicine,” Tellechea explains. “And I’m not indigenous, but it's really important for me as a Mexican American person to channel these parts of myself, including spirituality. And beadwork is spirit and heart-healing.”

Rojas couldn't agree more. Beading reminds her to take each day one step at a time.

She has been able to fully commit to creating jewelry full-time, producing collections of both spooky and traditional earrings year-round. She does one to two drops a month and her items sell fast.

It usually isn’t more than an hour before you start seeing “sold out” across some of her jewelry. As for her followers, they are a mix of people wanting to reconnect with their culture, those wanting to be seen, and those who are actually re-connecting Wixárika who have admired her work.

“Art is a spiritual practice and so there's many of us who are out here creating for the purpose of healing and bringing smiles to people and being a part of their lives through our work,” Rojas said. “And luckily, people have been responding well to my work.”

For more information on Rojas's latest drop follow her on Instagram at Yolteotl_creations .

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