Bob Freund was born in New York City 9/20/1946 , he grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Paul Smith Junior College and the University of Houston with a BA in History. He worked in Mexico From 1970-1976 as a handicrafts buyer for Gifts International of Passaic New Jersey and others.
After leaving Mexico he worked as a buyer for Rydax , an emerging technology company and then 20 years for Compumotor, a Division of Parker Hannifin Corporation as a Purchasing Manager , Cost Reduction Manager, Custom Products Manager and Materials Manager. During his years at Compumotor he was also in charge of the Parker Continuous Improvement program called Targets. Here is his words is an explanation of his interest in Mexican Textiles:
There is a temptation on my part to write my life story here since much of my life has been tied into this collection and the people and places that made it possible. Many people have asked me WHY, Mexican Indian textiles? To me as a collector it is hard to explain what has created such passion and drive to make this the work of a life time. When I lived in Oaxaca in the 1970´s, I first came upon the Zapotec Indians when I was working as a handicrafts buyer for Gifts International. Imagine my surprise people began to speak to me in Zapotec and had to have their 6-year-old kids translate for them. What in the world is going on here? I had no idea, quite a void for a history major. As I got to know these people better, I realized that there was something in common, a thread about ethnicity, that I had lived and they were living. As the grandson of immigrants I was involved with the Greek community in the form of a organization called the Sons of Percales, needless to say you had to be Greek to get in to it. With a name like Freund there were doubters. Yet among the boys in this group, we all had the same sort of idea about being Greek. Lots of pride but most of us knew only a few words of Greek. This I found was happening to the Zapotec peoples also. There children did not want to speak “that old language”.
Well, the ethnic thing has something to do with this, but it could also be that I view Mexico as a very complex and diverse place where almost 70 cultures have survived the Spanish conquest and 400 years of domination by the Spanish and the meztiso population. The introduction of a conquering faith, which was adopted by the Indians but still has many roots and deep ties to pre- Columbian beliefs. So is it then my American rooting for the underdog, my desire to let people know about the pressures and problems that face these resistant peoples. I heard a Chatino man say once “ we don’t want to stop being Indians, we just want to stop being poor”. Of course that is a statement that could bring every self righteous Mexican leftist to his feet. The Zapatistas have done more for the pride of the indigenous peoples of Mexico than every leftist has since neo socialism was imported from Europe.
I remember the rage I felt when I first saw a Mixe man kicked in the market and chased out of the stand, just for being “Indian”. Having been the victim of racism as a child because I was a dark skinned Greek type I felt a deep sense of revolt ion at the treatment they were receiving. I remember hearing from Trique women and men about the Mexican Army brutalizing them when I asked them where they were from and why they were sleeping in the zocalo in Oaxaca in the early 70´s.
Mmmmm, probably had something to do with my interest, but as a person deeply concerned with the environment and protection of endangered species. I can find a link here also. These textiles have survived and in some cases thrived by adopting European and other influences, but as I travel and saw fewer and fewer women wearing the traditional cloths I became more and more alarmed. Of course who am I to try to stem the tide of change, I am like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. However, a couple who through their work with Mexican textiles and masks has conserved an important part of history inspired me; their names are Donald and Dorothy Cordry and their work call Mexican Indian Costumes. Few things in my life have held such an important place as this book and the adventures that they must have had compiling the information. There are others who have had the support of Museums and have contributed greatly to the understanding for Mexican Indian textiles, Chloe Sayer and her various works are wonderful references such as Costumes of Mexico, Mexican Patterns and Arts and Crafts of Mexico . I am not able to compare my collection the works of these people but I am very proud of what I have been able to accomplish on my own.