Saturday, September 29, 2018

It's a Feria ... it's a Fiesta!

How can you have a fiesta without food, music, dancers … and a daily fashion show? At Feria 2018, you can explore the wonders of Mexican folk art in the artists booths and be wowed by Mexican music, dancing and food throughout the beautiful Lake Chapala grounds.

Every morning attendees will be greeted by musicians who will also perform while strolling through the grounds or in the stage area throughout the day. This year’s musicians will be:

Mariachi Nuevo Chapala … a favorite local mariachi group
Black String Victor García & his father, Ignacio García, are gifted and popular musicians who play at many venues in the Lake Chapala area.
Marimba Bahia … upbeat marimba group from Guadalajara

Mariachi Femenil … popular, all female mariachi group from Tlaquepaque (Saturday only)
On Sunday the Ballet Folklorico Ixlahuacan de los Membrillos will paint the stage with their color and beauty.
The Feria Fashion show ... every day!
From Panama hats to guayaberas (men’s shirts), huipiles (full-length dresses and waist-length blouses) and rebozos, are accessorized with fabulous jewelry. Models present the master of ceremonies with information about where to purchase what they are wearing. 

And did someone mention food?

This year Feria patrons will be able to eat tacos and salads prepared by Doña Lu, fresh sandwiches made by the Swedish Bakery, or you may purchase a healthy Maringa smoothy prepared by the Maringa Madres, part of Operation Feed and who grow the Maringa locally. Tables and chairs for diners are available for tired, hungry and thirsty patrons.

Daily Schedule

Friday 11/9 
9:30-10:30. Mariachi Nuevo Chapala - Open Feria & stroll
10:30-11:30 Guadalupe Garcia Rios - High-fire ceramics (Tent 1)
11:30-12:30 Fashion Show - Stage
11:30-12:30 Marimba Bahia -  Strolling
2:00-3:00 Black String - Strolling
2:30-3:30 Jacobo Mendoza - Rug Weaver (Tent 1)
3:00-4:00 Marimba Bahia - Stage

Sat 11/10
9:30-10:30 Black String - Open Feria & stroll
10:30-11:30 Dream Weavers - Weavers & Dyers (Tent 1)
12:30-1:30 Mariachi Femenil Tlaquepaque - Stage
1:30-2:30 Fashion Show - Strolling and stage
2:30-3:30 Martha Turok - Special Guest: Rebozos and sarapes, two emblematic garments at risk (Tent 1) 
2:30-3:30 Marimba Bahia - Stage

Sunday 11/11
9:30-10:30 Marimba Bahia - Open Feria & stroll
10:30-11:30 Martha Turok - Special Guest: Challenges of sustainability and natural dyes (Tent 1)  
12:00-1:00 Fashion Show - Strolling and stage
1:00-1:30 LCS Childrens's Art Awards - Stage
2:00-3:00 Black String - Stroll
2:00-2:45 Ballet Foclórico Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos - Stage  
2:30-3:30 Cilau Valadez- Huichol yarn paintings (Tent 1)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Amate: from banned to beloved Mexican folk art

"Nowhere was the cord between man and spirit 
more tightly bound than in the making of amatl,  
the sacred paper of the pre-Hispanic peoples.” 
— Rita Pomade,  
Making amate

The cord was almost broken and might have been destroyed and lost forever if it hadn’t been for the Otomi peoples of Puebla. 

Imagine a current industry, central to the well-being of all people. Paper for instance. 
Imagine your life without paper, even in this day of electronics. Imagine a foreign power coming in and banning the production of paper, all paper ... no Bibles, no textbooks, no magazines or newspapers, no photographs, art prints, posters about coming events, or even business cards. 

That’s what began in the 1500s when Spanish conquistadors and priests decided that amatl … bark paper … was the work of the devil. We know they destroyed almost all of the codices, folded paper books, but they also destroyed the paper-making process and the foundation of the Maya and Nahua information systems. Thousands of years of knowledge and wisdom disappeared and only bits and pieces have now been put back together.

It’s hard to imagine, but here’s a story Rita Pomade tells in her article referenced above that offers a sense of the scope of the loss:
Records show that in 1507, when Moctezuma had to prepare for the New Fire Ceremony, a ritual of renewed life that took place every 52 years, he ordered a million sheets of amatl to be delivered to Tenochtitlan to insure that the ceremony would be successful and to avoid the wrath of the gods.

By the time Cortes arrived on the shores of Mesoamerica, there were at least forty-two papermaking centers, and they were producing almost half a million sheets of paper per year for use in tribute alone.
Only in the remote villages of the Otomi people was traditional bark paper and painting maintained as part of their important traditional ceremonies and rituals. Rita Pomade continues:
The Otomis still prepared the paper from the bark of the ficus and the bark of the mulberry tree - brown paper from the ficus and white paper from the mulberry - just as they had done in pre-Columbian times. … In spite of the dangers involved, these people had continued their rituals dedicated to fertility, successful crops, and curing disease.
By the 1970s, amate artists were finally starting to gain the attention they deserved, and the art form spread outside of Puebla and into neighboring states, where artisans of this region, who had once only decorated their pottery, started putting their colorful paintings on this unique paper, painting scenes of festivals and village life, using mostly animal hair and plant fiber brushes to apply natural colors and dyes.

Feria Maestros del Arte, Mexico's premier folk art event, will feature six different paper artisans, including two masters of amate:

Rubelio Sánchez Santos. - from one of the Otomi villages that helped keep this art form alive, 
Rubelio now takes it to a new level. He twists and molds the paper into fantastic patterns as strips of the paper are braided, twisted and inserted into the design seamlessly.  
His amate comes from the bark of the Jonote tree that is soaked in a hot water bath with natural dyes such as flowers, ash, etc. Later the pulp strips are placed on a board in a grid form and hammered with a flat stone until the paper holds its form. He has developed several very interesting methods to decorate the paper with natural found objects such as seeds, and also embroiders the paper by hand and elaborately records designs representing the different Otomí gods.
Juan Damaso Gaspar & Eutimia Mendoza Fabian, has been painting on amate for over 30 years. He lives in Xalitla, a town in the Balsas River basin in the state of Guerrero that is renowned for producing amate paintings.  

These two artists will help you understand how this art form which was banned 500 years ago has now become one of the most beloved of the Mexican folk arts. 
More information:

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Feria Maestros del Arte: a mosaic of logistics

Arrival day
Sometimes it’s hard to fathom what a complex mosaic putting the Feria together is. 

First, there is the issue of finding 85 of the best folk art artisans from all over Mexico. Do they have enough inventory? Are they using authentic folk art methods and materials? Do we have the right mix of types of folk art to make the attendees happy? 

Setting up
 is a must

Three buses which bring most of the artisans from Chiapas, Michoacán, and Oaxaca have to be organized, but there’s still the issue of reimbursing the expenses of people who have to take commercial buses or drive themselves.  Organizing and matching up local hosts with the artisans is a major, behind-the-scenes logistical endeavor involving sleeping quarters, food, transportation to and from the Feria … and, of course, the language issues. Add to that the details the financial folks have to anticipate and you have a constantly shifting and positively mind-boggling challenge.

What seems like a creative endeavor often feels more like spreadsheet madness. Even the crew of volunteers who make the colorful, decorative flowers have to know how many poles each tent has so they know how many flowers to make and what size they should be.

As chief organizer, board member Donna Williams spends weeks mapping out which artisan will be in which tent, dealing with requests from artists, some who need to be in the sun so their work shows well, and some who don’t want to be in the sun for the same reason. She has to anticipate the crowds and how they will flow through the different types of art, as well as the entertainment and food areas. Even the signage for the event as well as for each artisan and tent are planned out far in advance.

All of this made it interesting to follow the discussion when a well-meaning person suggested moving the Feria from the Chapala Yacht Club. Donna was kind enough to provide the history and thought process that went into choosing the venue for an event of this magnitude. This is the story she tells:

The first 2 years of the Feria, there were only 12-13 artists and the event was held in a conference room at the Hotel Real de Chapala. The third year there were around 20 artists at La Joya del Lago in a tent next to the parking lot with lots of dust! Then for 3 years it was at La Huerta on the west side of town where the Tuesday market is now held..  That venue could host about 40 artists and was a satisfactory location...but it was a bit dark inside and parking was limited. Also crossing the busy Carretera was sometimes risky! 

Mariachis welcome attendees on the first day
 The following year, we were looking for more space for more artists and planned everything for the Club de Yates in Ajijic.  All those plans went askew at the end of August that year, after all plans and invitations were pretty complete, when we were notified that we could only be there Monday thru weekend! 

Space for entertainment and a fashion show
 That, of course, wouldn’t work and it sent Donna scrambling all over the lakeside area for a venue big enough for 85 artists and with enough parking to handle the crowds of attendees. She looked at the following spaces:

1.  Chapala Train Station...beautiful site but way too small for us and has no way for us to provide nighttime security.
2 . Tobolandia...many steps and multiple levels...lots of walking and not easily assessible for some of the older population...
3. Hotel Real de Chapala…the only area large enough and available for 3-day event (4 if you include the set up day for tents and artists) was the soccer field down below and behind the hotel...again, limited access and parking.
4. Nuns property in lower Chula Vista...pretty grounds but no facilities and very limited parking.
5. La Huerta...would have to separate artists inside and out plus the previous mentioned problems.
6. A private event site in Riberas del  Pilar on the lakefront…$25,000 pesos per day!  

Beautiful facilities for beautiful art
Just when it was beginning to look impossible, Donna’s housekeeper told her about the Club de Yates de Chapala. Donna made a few calls and met the Commodore who was extremely helpful and wanted to have a community event that they could help support.  When she saw the beautiful grounds, green grass, trees, and amazingly gorgeous views as well as space for food, sufficient bathrooms, dressing rooms, security and parking, she knew she had found a home for the Féria! 

The Board agreed that it was the perfect venue to show off the beautiful folk art that the Féria was known for. Then a few years ago, the Club de Yates board decided they wanted the Feria annually as a community support event, so the Feria now has a permanent home on a beautiful site.

Put it all together and the Feria is a happy place.

Donna Williams and founder, Marianne Carlson

Megacable Feria bags

Once again, the bright, colorful bags from Megacable will be part of the Feria! Thank you Megacable for your generous support ... and for helping us save our planet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Board Member: Guillermina (Gay) Perez-Vargas

From María Sántiz Nuñez, Chiapas
Feria board member Gay Perez-Vargas studied law and works as a Legal Translator appointed by the Jalisco Supreme Court. She has lived most of her life in Guadalajara and is the youngest of six children. She is married with two great children and spends almost every weekend in Chapala, which she loves.

While Gay has been around folk art all her life, she was introduced to the Feria through the Chapala Yacht Club. She was prompted to join the board when she realized that artisans would be able to sell their work directly to folk art lovers without paying an intermediary. 
Hosting: a priceless experience
“I love the idea that the people who buy the art also learn the stories and artisans of every piece," she states. "Another wonderful and unique part of the Feria is that local people can become hosts to the artisans. It is just a priceless experience.”

From Juan Toribio from Oaxaca
Gay describes the Feria as a three-day party where people get involved for different reasons, but wind up being united by a common goal: the folk art, artisans, and Mexico’s culture. “Each Feria is special,” she states, “and every year it gets better and better!”

She remembers the opening of last year’s Feria when a mariachi band played as the long line of attendees entered the grounds. “It was very emotional to see all the people who would be enjoying a whole year of the artisan's work! Tears came to my eyes.”

While Gay loves all forms of folk art, she confesses, “Blouses are my vice. I get a few each year, and other little things here and there."

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Victory for Mexican Folk Art

Liverpool stores* to sell dolls made by artisans in Querétaro.

The Liverpool department store chain is going to sell artisanal rag dolls made by the indigenous people of Amealco, Querétaro.
The store has agreed to carry the products following months of negotiations that started in December, when customers complained that Liverpool stores were selling cheap knock-off dolls of Chinese manufacture.
Querétaro Sustainable Development Secretary Marco Prete Tercero announced that the sale of the dolls, known locally as pachas and throughout Mexico as Muñecas Marías, will start in September, without specifying the stores that will carry them.
Residents of Amealco have traditionally created their dolls by hand, spending anywhere from two to seven days to complete each one. They sell for up to 500 pesos (just over US $25).
The state has also decided to further protect the Amealco dolls by declaring them cultural intangible heritage, a declaration that will take place at a ceremony on August 15 in the Constitución Plaza of Amealco. Click here to read the full story

  • Liverpool, is a mid-to-high end retailer which operates the largest chain of department stores in Mexico, operating 23 shopping malls including Perisur and Galerías Monterrey. Its 85 department stores comprise 73 stores under the Liverpool name and 22 stores under the Fábricas de Francia name. It also operates 6 Duty Free stores and 27 specialized boutiques.