Lourdes Barragan




Lourdes Barragan


Lourdes Barragan is a hispanic quiltmaker. She sells most of her quilts fairly successfully in California. The quilt she describes in this interview is a pictorial quilt depicting a desolate graveyard near the ranch where she was born.




Melanie Grear


Lourdes Barragan


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation


Boonville, California


Kim Greene


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Molly Johnson Martinez volunteered to translate.

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save our Stories interview with Lourdes, last name?

Lourdes Barragan (LB): Barragan.

KM: Barragan?

LB: Barragan.

KM: It is March 7, 2007, it is 5:36 in the evening, and I am in Boonville, California. Thank you for doing this interview with me. I appreciate it greatly. Please tell me about the quilt you brought today.

LB: This is about the graveyard and the ranch where I was born. The graveyard in the ranch where I grew up was very sad, it was overgrown with weeds, it was the people were really poor so they couldn't afford real graves with cement. They only covered up the people with dirt. A lot of dirt. I was scared of passing that. I didn't like this because there were chickens and pigs and cows running around in it. There were weeds all over the place and it was not like a normal graveyard. I put the brown to show the earth, but I also put this, we don't really have this in our graveyard, but I wish we had this. I don't know how to describe this, like a monument.

KM: Monument, right. That is what I thought it was.

LB: Because that is what my mom would like to have had.

KM: What does this say [pointing to the writing on the quilt.]?

LB: Rest in peace. When I was a kid they didn't have these things, but when my mother died and I went back it was different. My mom always said that she wanted to go back to the ranch grave, the graveyard in the ranch when she died, but I said, ‘How can you possibly want to go back there because it is so ugly'. It was at the ranch and she always wanted to go back there. They were in a different place and she always thought about the ranch at home. Even though we didn't like the graveyard, all my brothers and sisters decided that this is what we were going to do then, grant her wish. Take her back to this graveyard.

KM: So she is buried there?

LB: S?i. So it was really hard for me to do this piece because I didn't know how to use the machine, I didn't know how to draw, I didn't know how to start. I learned while I was here. So thanks to Molly she has enough patience and I learn how to use the machine and different stitches, put in different places. I didn't know how to sew very well; it took me lot to make this.

KM: When did you make this quilt?

LB: [inaudible.]

KM: She made it this year?

Molly Johnson Martinez (MJM): It was August of last year.

KM: 2006. Does the gate open?

LB: Yes.

KM: That is wonderful.

LB: When we were children my father would ask us to come and do work. My sister and I had to pass the graveyard. I was scared to live behind here because I felt like the dead people were around. There is dirt on the graves and I thought people were going to pop out of them. I was scared.

KM: How old were you?

LB: I was about eight. Or nine. I would close my eyes and ask my sister when it was safe to open them. When it was safe to turn around my sister would always tell me, but she would tell me right when we were right in the middle, right in front of the graveyard. [laughs.] I couldn't sleep because I could remember seeing the crosses because they were ugly and beat up.

KM: Is this your first quilt?

LB: No, it is my second.

KM: How many have you made?

LB: Two.

KM: What do you like about quilting?

LB: In the countryside I like the flowers [inaudible.] This flowered fabric is like a spirit guide to lead the person; it is spiritual, through the gravesite.

MJM: I asked her to describe these things, because these are the special meaning.

KM: They are wonderful crosses.

LB: No.

KM: They are beautiful.

LB: Thank you. [MJM is translating at the same time asLB.] This little angel is over all the people so the angels can watch over the people and this is fence so the pigs can't get in.

KM: Keep the cows and the pigs out. That is very good. You started making quilts when?

LB: We were already having morning classes. Molly just went out and talked to us. Molly told me that we were going to have a sewing class and I signed up to learn how to sew.

KM: She was there in the beginning? The very beginning, that is good. How do you feel about the group and how it has evolved?

LB: It felt really good. I like the group.

KM: Has she sold any quilts?

LB: Yes.

KM: Tell me about it.

LB: This one sold Guadelupe and I sold the graveyard too.

KM: You sold this too. Both different cultures, made to and sold to.

MJM: The Virgin sold in the San Francisco at the CIIS show and she sold this one at the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA

KM: How does that make you feel?

LB: All the other quilts were selling and mine wasn't.

KM: Took a while.

LB: At the very end of the show a lady came in and she read the story and the quilt and she asked if it was for sale and I said yes. She said she would really like to have it and I started to cry because it made me feel so good that somebody appreciated it and wanted it.

KM: How does your family feel about your quiltmaking?

LB: They like it, they help me, they tell me what they like and don't like and where I should put what. They could help me.

KM: Do you have a sewing machine at home?

LB: Yes.

KM: Where do you sew at home?

LB: My sewing machine is under the couch because there is no where else to put it. [laughs.] I put it on the table in the kitchen.

KM: At the kitchen table. This is a theme there.

LB: [laughs.]

KM: We have all sewn on our kitchen table. The only problem with the kitchen table is that you have to clean it off to eat.

LB: [laughs.] My husband says when I am ready to eat I want to eat, and I say okay then clear off a little place over there. [laughs.]

KM: That is good. Is this quilt going to be in the book? Is this the one?

LB: Yes.

KM: How do you feel about the book, tell me about your feelings about the book.

LB: I feel very happy.

KM: What do you think the book will do for the group?

LB: I think very much, I think it is really touching, but not all of this is in the book.

KM: Will that cause a problem?

LB: No.

KM: What plans do you have for other quilts?

LB: I have so many ideas and there is only one problem, I can't draw, so I have all of these ideas and I don't know how to do them because I can't draw.

KM: Is there somebody that can help you draw?

LB: I have to get other people, because my kids and my husband don't know how to draw either.

KM: Oh no. [laughs.]

LB: I must.

KM: I think you did a great job on this quilt. Why is quilting important to you?

LB: It is important financially but also it helps us remember our country.

KM: I agree, it is important.

LB: [discussion in Spanish, not translated.]

KM: What did she say?

LB: There are so many beautiful things in Mexico and it would be good to go home.

KM: How long have you been here?

LB: Five years. I spent five years but it seems like a century because my father is still there and I want to be with him, but I can't afford to travel right now.

KM: I am sorry. Do you think of yourself as an artist?

LB: [laughs.] I am getting used to being called an artist.

KM: I think this is wonderfully moving. I love the story behind this. What is your favorite part of quilting?

LB: The sky was my favorite part.

KM: I was wondering about her favorite part of quilting?

LB: The sky regardless because close to heaven is the sky. In Spanish Heaven and Sky are the same word.

KM: What is your favorite part of making quilts?

LB: I need to practice, I never get the borders right.

KM: Borders.

LB: [laughs.]

KM: Not wanting to do the borders. What advice would you give someone starting out?

LB: Keep trying because you can do it.

KM: Do you feel you are getting better?

LB: Si?. She is working all the time.

KM: You have a job.

LB: Yes. It is a great thing, but you get all the work and money but can't be part of the group.

KM: Are you going to continue doing quilts though?

LB: Si?.

KM: Good.

LB: I want to make that Virgin of Guadalupe. It really caught my attention to do a Virgin because my mama really loved the Virgin.

KM: To help remember your mom.

LB: Yes.

KM: How does the first one look and how is the second one going to be different?

LB: The first one was a printed fabric already and she just sewed and beaded around it, and this is, and now I want to cut it and do it all myself, original.

KM: I like that a lot. That would be wonderful. Will it have a border or no border?

LB: Si?.

KM: Even though it is difficult, you are still going to do a border. That is good. Can you think of anything else to say?

LB: I hope that this class doesn't end, it is very important to us.

KM: Thank you for taking your time.

LB: Thank you.

KM: I am going to end my interview at 6:03.


“Lourdes Barragan,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/43.