Mexico is brimming with handmade popular art objects, ‘artesanías’. Wherever you go, you’ll find someone selling beautifully decorated handicrafts: colourful pottery, intricately embroidered textiles, delicately carved wood figurines. Although many objects are functional, they are increasingly purchased for decorative purposes mostly by tourists, but also increasingly again by Mexicans themselves. Some of these handicraft traditions and techniques can be traced back centuries to Mayan and Aztec civilisations, while others emerged later and present a fusion of indigenous and European techniques.
Handicrafts are integral to Mexican identity. As a result, the artisans who dedicate themselves to producing handicrafts carry the responsibility of conserving these traditions and, with them, Mexican identity. We have met several great artisans along the way, who shared their stories with us and showed us their work with great pride. They are all extremely humble and talented people, who dedicate their lives to their work and their family. It is no exaggeration to say that they are critical to upholding a key pillar of Mexican identity.
The concept of identity is tricky, especially in a country that has been subject to many external cultural and religious influences over centuries, and that is inhabited by more than 65 indigenous, ethnic groupings, each with their own traditions and beliefs. And so, it is great to see that Mexico has over the past year or so, encouraged by recent changes in the political relationship between the USA and Mexico as well as recent natural disasters in the country, started to strengthen the collective identity and take increasing pride in ‘Made in Mexico’. As the fashion designer Anuar Layón of Mercadorama has so fittingly put it: Mexico Is The Shit. We agree.