Crafts are very important to the touristic aspect of Mexico. So many people and so many towns live out of the crafts they sell. And lets be honest, they’re beautiful, they’re authentic works of art. These products are so unbelievable beautiful that in 2006 a museum was made in Mexico City dedicated exclusively to the popular arts of Mexico. The MAP (Museo de Artes Populares) has given these objects, that we always knew had a value beyond the souvenir one, a place in the world of art.
Every city and every state in Mexico has its own characteristic craftwork. Puebla is mostly famous for the Talavera (tin-glazed pottery), since only here you can find the authentic one. In fact in 1997 the guarantee of origin was given to only a few factories to regulate what pieces could be officially considered Talavera and avoid imitations. That’s why when people visit El Parian (the craft market) or Cholula (where some of the main Talavera fabrics are) they always walk away with a piece of Talavera.
However, there is also another famous kind of craft that even though it doesn’t necessarily comes from Puebla, the way it’s done is definitely characteristic from the state of Puebla. I’m talking about the onyx, a form of quartz that can be found in many places of Mexico, but that is brought to a small town in Puebla called Tecali (not far from the city and on the way to Africam Safari) to create the most beautiful and amazing works of art.
The onyx work has been the way of life of many families in Tecali for many generations. And the works they create are not only decorative objects, they can make anything with the onyx, and it really is something to admire since we’re talking about a really hard material. But they’ve found the way to create lamps, tables, fireplaces, chess sets, boxes and many things more.
The onyx comes in many colors and shapes. The green one comes from Oaxaca, the orange one from San Luis Potosi, the black one from Orizaba in Veracruz, the pink one from Tepeaca in Puebla and finally, the white one and the most famous, from Tehuacan and Tepexi, both places in Puebla. This is a beautiful mineral that has the characteristic of being translucent, despite its hardness. That’s why its common to see entire walls made of onyx with a light behind to illuminate a whole room, specially in restaurants or clubs all over the city. It’s really elegant and clean, so it always gives a nice aspect to anywhere it’s placed.
You don’t actually have to go to Tecali to buy onyx, you can find it in Puebla’s downtown, specially in El Parian and any crafts store. But, if you go to Tecali, you can visit a workshop and witness the process and the making of these beautiful pieces of art. You can see what happens after the artisans take the uncut stone, how they extract the material they’ll use, how they cut it, shape it and polish it, and how they get to the planed object. It’s incredible how they do it, they make it look so easy.
So now you know, whenever you’re in Mexico look out for the crafts and give yourself time to admire them. If you’re in Puebla be sure to check out the Talavera, but know that that’s not the only characteristic craftwork of this state. The onyx pieces are also a major work of art, so enjoy those too!
[photos courtesy of Vica Amuchastegui and indi.ca]