Mexico has a wide range of creative objects,
each one more interesting than the other one, and whose origin goes
back to the legendary history of Mesoamerica.
Every State has developed its own history and customs depending
on natural and cultural influences. Mexicans have a strong link
with ancestral art. Traditional arts and crafts such as pottery,
jewelry, woodcarving and masks all come from pre-Hispanic heritage.
The Mexican craftsmen are heirs of a tradition that goes back to
the Aztecs. They were skilled clever cutters of gems and excellent
potters; they weaved and dyed fabrics and made musical instruments
with a rare ability.
The Spanish used their skills while developing their technique and
introducing new material : wrought iron, potter’s wheels,
woolen fabric, and textiles made with the semi automatic looms used
in Europe during this time. The merge of two traditions resulted
in the nice products that we now know.
The change from ancestral art to modern art occurred in the thirties
when wall painters like David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente
Orozco, Rufino Tamayo, and Diego Rivera started the first works
with typical Mexican themes. The happy spirit of the Mexican art,
its link to history and its distrust of reality give it a unique
Despite a rising tendency in industrialization, Mexican craftsmen
keep hand shaping hundreds of diverse objects—and inventing
new ones —with the help of tools and techniques developed
hundreds of years ago.
The handicrafts are often a family company where the youngest are
given small jobs. But, even with holding a big role in the rural
economy, the average craftsman will stay poor his whole life even
if the export of his articles is profitable. Generally, the craftsman
will ask a very reasonable price for his creations but he doesn’t
really know the value of his time.
Unfortunately, there are also manufacturers of ordinary merchandise,
wrongly labeled as “indigenous crafts” that satisfy
the cheap souvenir lover. The buyer should beware. The Secretary
of Tourism (FONART) manages stores in the medium and big cities
where you can find good qualities crafts with a no “tourist”
fixed price. You can find also in every State capital the Casas
de Artesanias which sell good quality but more expensive goods.
The local products are grouped in these houses.
The Statistics of the Ministry of Tourism show that the foreign
tourists buy on average, five craft pieces. Try to buy directly
from the producer in the villages. Avoid the intermediaries.
For women, crafts are often the only source of incomes. The Indian
women selling their products are usually wearing their traditional
costume. Bargaining is expected in the markets. It is expected.
However, don’t forget that the craftsmen are poor.
Diverse and present everywhere, pottery was linked, in Pre-Hispanic
times, to the ritual celebrations and also to the needs of the
Ceramics, a major art practiced for thousands of years, happens
to be an essential source of knowledge about ancient civilizations.
Today, its diversity comes from a subtle mixture of indigenous,
Spanish and even oriental influences.
of Guanajuato. In Dolores Hidalgo
the famous azulejos, decorated ceramic tiles are made. Many kind
of potteries in the Central Sierra, Los Altos, Sierra
Gorda and El Bajío
State of Guerrero.
Pre-Hispanic Ceramics with a predominance of red, ochre, and black,
colors from natural origin, are produced by the women.
State of Jalisco.
Ceramics influenced by Spanish art (shape and decoration), especially
in Tonalá and Tlaquepaque.
of Mexico. Main producer of glazed barro (terra cotta).
The most picturesque come from Metepec,
close to Toluca (State
of Mexico), where the charming palomitas are made of terra cotta
and decorated with subtle nuances or ornamented with multicolor
woolen threads. In Metepec,
you can find also nice compositions representing trees of life.
The traditional technique and the template of the moulds are transferred
from one generation to another one.
State of Michoacán.
The champion of the states for crafts. Each community has its specialty.
the ceramic is cream-colored with black decorations. In Santa
Fe de la Laguna,, the glazed black vases and candlesticks used
on the day of the dead are made. In Huancito,
The Indian women make clay pots with different shapes. In Patambán
(region of Zamora), you can find ochre jars and glazed green
pots. San José de Gracia specializes in the glazed green
piña, a kind of pineapple shaped pot.
State of Oaxaca,
Biggest pottery center of Mexico that is still
working in a traditional way. It is the territory that groups
the biggest number of Indian communities in the country.
San Bartolo Coyotepec (8 km from
Oaxaca) is famous for its black
pottery, Ocotlán de Morelos
for its incensories, Santa Maria Atzompa
for the green glazed ceramic and San
Antonio Arrazola et San Martin Tilcajete for the life trees.
In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the women produce ceramic dolls with
the Zapotec name : tanguyus, which means « miss made in clay
In San Antonio Arrazola, close
to Monte Albán,
small colorful wood carved animals are made.
State of Puebla.
Here, the wonderful talavera poblana are made, directly inspired
by the Spanish city, Talavera, very famous in the XVle century,
as well as the ceramic tiles (azulejos) which are
State of Chiapas.
You can admire the sun dried clay potteries made by the Tzeltales
women in Amatenango del Valle (Chis).
Weaving remains very influenced by its Indian origins, in the colors
as well as in the making.
The huipil is a kind of sleeveless blouse, made of cotton or wool
rectangular fabric with an embroidered neck opening and armholes.
The huipil is waist length in Oaxaca
or calf length in the Chiapas or
The quechquemet is a small sleeveless, lozenge shaped poncho made
of cotton or wool fabric, wholly embroidered, worn by women over
their blouses. You can still find them in San
Luis Potosí, Puebla
The rebozo is a shawl made of cotton, wool or silk. It allows Indian
women to carry comfortably their children on their backs, but also
to hide small objects. You can find it in Tenancingo
(Mex), San Luis Potosi,
Santa Maria del Rio (SLP),
in San Miguel de Allende (GUA)
and the state of Michoacán.
The sarape, a kind of poncho used as a blanket, is weaved in Huejotzingo
(Pue), Oaxaca, Saltillo (Coah),
Tesquiquiapán (Que) and
The Coras and Huichole
Indians make belts, clothes embroidered with multicolored woolen
cross-stitches, and bags. They sell their products on the markets
of Guadalajara and Tepic (Nay).
In the state of Yucatán,
you will find the more beautiful and comfortable hammocks. It is
better to pick a large one (matrimonial size), with double stitching.
Some bags, hats and hammocks are made from other fibers like reed,
or sisal from the agaves plant or palm tree.
León, Monterrey, Guanajuato,
San Cristóbal, Mérida
Verify the quality of the shoes and try them on before buying
: the Mexican sizes use the metric system. The Central and Northern
agricultural cities make very well made bags, huaraches (sandals),
boots, clothes and saddles. You could choose your pair of santiags
as well as your set of belts, spurs and saddles, a specialty of
the area. Note that one of the spearhead of the Mexican culture,
the charreria, which includes all the professions linked
to the horses, contributed to the emergence of the saddlery.
Mexico is the first exporter of silver.
Santa Clara del Cobre (Mich) specializes in working copper
while engraving jewelry, trays, bowls and other small objects.
Taxco is famous for its
silver plate while Guanajuato
works on gold, often ornamented with turquoise.
In Oaxaca area, they produce golden
jewels, especially reproductions of Pre-Hispanic jewels from Monte
The specialty of Zacatecas
is the arts of the table. In Querétaro,
you could find semi precious gems and silver jewels.
and music instruments
The specialty of Paracho
(Mich) is making guitars and Cuernavaca
(Mor) is making furniture. In Paracho
beautiful guitars are made but also violins, cellos and other instruments.
Everywhere else, you can buy maracas, tambourines, whistles and
different kinds of drums. Particularly interesting are the drums
with reeds, which are hollowed pieces of wood (often cylindrical),
engraved or painted and containing two small tongues of wood, which
produce a different sound when hitting them. You can find furniture
made of wood in the market of Tlaquepaque
(in the vicinity of Guadalajara
domestic utensils made of painted wood in Quiroga
(Mich) and made of orange tree wood in Ixtapan
de la Sal
(Mex) and Toluca
(Mex) , small animals made of colorful wood in Cuilapán
(Oax) and San Martin Tilcajete
(Oax) and furniture made from mahogany or cedar in Mérida
Lacquer : The most beautiful Mexican lacquers are in Olinalá
: masks of jaguar, wooden trays, and bowls engraved from dry gourds.
You can see the lacquers of Chiapa
de Corzo (making masks worn for la Feria de San Sebastián).
Sorcerers used masks from Pre-Hispanic origin. In the ceremonies
of magic, the masks are worn during the dances or the chamaniques
rituals. San Luis Potosí
houses the National Museum of masks. They are made of wood, stone,
clay and bones. They represent mainly animals but also human, black
or white faces, which indicates foreign people, in particular the
Spanish. For carnival, they represent devils, old people and the
“ bad woman”. There are also pre-Hispanic masks symbolizing
the death and representing the underground world and the sacrifices.
With the arrival of the Spanish and the Christian religion, this
tradition, far from being lost, got back its strength with the Day
of the Dead
. The states of Guerrero
seem to be
the most dynamic concerning the making of the masks. You can find
masks made of paper in San Miguel
You could also see the masks (maybe the most spectacular) from Tocuaro
(Pátzcuaro) and the lacquers from Uruapán (Mich).
Wickerwork is the third most popular craft in Mexico
Everywhere you can find rush, fibers of maguey or heneguen plants,
or any other vegetable that can be used, are transformed into rugs,
mats, all kinds of baskets, furniture, suitcases or trunks, shopping
bags and toys. This activity is everywhere. Even while riding a
donkey to the market, the basket maker might work on his project.
An Indian might measure the distance between two cities counting
the number of hats he would have weaved while on the road !
You can find Panama hats, made from palm fibers, in Becal
(State of Campeche
), cane baskets
We can mention also the more unusual objects like
painting on bark paper (papel de amate) made in Cuernavaca
and Taxco, polychrome tin
wares for Christmas trees and paper flowers. But, above all, you
can’t leave Mexico without one of the exquisite
silver trinkets, the platerias, from Taxco
Some small-scale productions are made only for specific events (the
Day of the Dead : skeletons and skulls; Christmas : figures
for the crib made of clay or wood).
Cigars are made in the Valley of San Andrès
(Ver). The different brands you can find there are : Te amo, Ricardo
The local craftsmen, gifted with amazing creativity, have protected
the survival of their crafts that are counted among the worlds richest.
The authorities have justifiably saved this exclusive Mexican character
as an expression of the national spirit.
|No comment has been yet posted on this page.|