Cultural and social impact of Folk Art in Mexico

By Angela Alcocer

People see Folk Art displayed everywhere, it has become so widespread that sometimes we are unaware of the meaningful traditions it carries. Furthermore, we are often unaware of the impact that purchasing folk art can have on society and the culture of the people involved. We tend to buy handicrafts for the simple fact that they are beautiful and for the pleasure of having a souvenir to remember the places we have travelled to. Learning the stories behind each handicraft and its maker opens a door to a whole new world made with love, hard work and courage.

As an example of this cultural and social background, our women artisans from the city of Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacán are proud representatives of their traditional handicraft techniques and are leaders in the community. Doña Bertha for example, has encouraged and inspired many women to rise up with Purhépecha Embroideries work, and has taken her traditional " Embroideries that tell a story " to win national and international competitions. With her passion, commitment and high quality work, she has served as a model for other community members to follow in her footsteps.

Sandra, Doña Bertha's niece, followed her footsteps in the world of artisan work and was surprised that with the basic mathematical knowledge she was able to help and manage the artisans' accounts and inventories. With her involvement in the artisan sector of her community, she helped to improve the quality of life of the artisans that her aunt took in as her apprentices.  Today, Doña Bertha and Sandra, work together impacting not only in the preservation of their culture but also in the life of the Purhepecha artisans. These beautiful embroideries of Purhepecha origin share the stories of their traditions and culture; such as the dance of the fish, the ranchera wedding, the dance of the elders, among other folk tales that will leave you in awe. 

Another one of the remarkable stories behind the artisans who are part of the Womens Magic Hands network comes from Santa Clara del Cobre, a charming magical town located in a corner of the Michoacan state in Mexico. Santa Clara del Cobre is globally known as the place where artisans melt, mould and keep alive a tradition that transforms copper into art. 

Sonia García, inspired by generations of artisan, was brought up in this environment where she gained the knowledge and tools that have helped her to develop and express her fine crafts. She is now the leader of the workshop that her dad created, and she now encourages and inspires more than 30 artisans, women and men, to follow the traditional path of their village.  Sonia has become a role model for young women, as she is the first woman to lead and coordinate the 2022 Mexican National Copper  Fair.

A huge variety of copper items made from this beautiful metal are exhibited at this fair, from pots and plates to all kinds of jewellery and handicrafts in all sizes. This is a celebration of the craftsmen's ingenuity and skills in creating durable copper utensils. In addition to the variety of articles, there are stands dedicated to traditional cuisine and an open exhibition at the National Copper Museum. 

Heading East into the beautiful and unexplored mountains of Hidalgo, our artisans from Tenango de Doria tell us, with love,  how these beautiful handicrafts lifted their people from poverty. The Otomi-Tepehua community is the home of Tenango embroidery. Inspired by their natural surroundings, we find animals and flowers that coexist harmoniously in the region embroidered on different cloths. All the pieces are born from a drawing generated by the imagination of each artisan, so each embroidery is unique..

A famous data in the Folk Art world is that the people of Tenango de Doria have embroidered a piece that was measured at 103.76 square metres and recognized under the authority of Guinness World Records. The award ceremony took place during the inauguration of the first Tianguis de Pueblos Mágicos (Flea market of Magic Towns) in Mexico in 2019. This beautiful artwork was created through the collective efforts of 1,275 artisans who worked together to complete it in the incredibly rapid period of just 28 days. Nonetheless, the community had been planning it for nearly six months.

These are just a handful of stories behind the Folk Art and traditional handicrafts that we aim to showcase. Most of the artisans that are part of our network are living in humble conditions and have gone through hard times, yet through their love for their culture and art, they keep on enjoying life.

This means that your purchases have great social and cultural impact on their communities. Let's support the Womens Magic Hands artisans to continue with their traditions and together let's preserve the richness of cultural diversity.