Friends—Women's Prison Project
To Contact: This artisan’s page is part of the Feria Maestros del Arte website, a non-profit organization providing a yearly venue for Mexican folk artisans to come together to sell their work. If you wish to purchase the artisan's work other than at the Feria, you MUST contact them directly.
Just outside of Guadalajara, Mexico is a woman’s prison (Reclusorio Feminil) where close to 650 women reside. The center for prevention and re-adaptation (CPRF) is located within a compound of prisons totaling four different prisons; three for men, and this fourth one for women. The women’s prison was built to hold approximately 250 people, so it is highly overcrowded. The prison has women who are sentenced for all types of crimes from violent; to drug related; to white collar crimes such as fraud and money laundering. Women with mental health problems are here together with all kinds of other detainees as well as sentenced with unsentenced and guilty with innocent.
Rebecca Roth knows first hand about the fear, depression, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, and feeling of impotence being deprived of her freedom. She realized after the first year or so, that if she didn’t find a healthy way to funnel out all of the negative emotions (fear, depression, anger, helplessness, hopelessness), it would destroy her. She was a foreigner with little command of the Spanish language, a most stressful problem when she was trying to defend herself in a Spanish-speaking country. Constant feelings of isolation, futility and no way out scenarios filled her days in the early days.
When she lived in Dormitory C-3, there was a baby born, “Lupita," a darling little girl who had no toys whatsoever. An idea formed in Rebecca's head to make Lupita a doll. The doll was to have orange hair and violet eyes with red lips and freckles. She made this doll which turned out to be the prototype of the "Original Friends" dolls now being made at the Reclusorio Feminil at Puente Grande.
The materials used include: fabric, ribbons, lace, buttons, paints, broken jewelry, odds and ends, seed pearls, and any other materials their imagination says can be used on a doll. All dolls have underwear, an outfit, jewelry, and some "special" touch that makes them unforgettable. People comment and marvel at the level of their intricate details.
Rebecca coordinated a team of ladies to work on the dolls inside the prison. Since her own release from prison, the project has had its ups and downs with regard to having continued access to inmates inside the prison. However, Rebecca's persistance has prevailed and she has kept the project alive. Funds received from the sale of the dolls goes back to the prison workers and is used for their personal needs, improving their skills and their self-esteem.
Rebeccas also works with a group of Lake Chapala women, teaching them to sew, offering them a skill that can help toward bringing money into their homes. If they choose to make dolls, they are paid per doll.