Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Feria is a community

by Marianne Carlson, Founder
The Feria is a community and sometimes we need to remember that we have just as much impact on the artisans who come to our community as they do on us. 
Recently Feria Board member, Donna Williams, received a letter from Margaret Ancira who had been traveling in Oaxaca and met a black-pottery artisan whose work she admired. Her note touched our hearts. 
When the artisan found out she was from Ajijic, he started telling her how much the Feria meant to him and that it was something he would never forget. She said, "His face lit up and his eyes watered at the same time. His entire face gleamed as he told me of those days he spent here.”

When she asked him if the Feria was a good one for him, he told her they had sold every piece the family had brought. She said the man was, “eloquent in his gratitude to his host family.  He told me over and over how kind they were to his family...how they took them around the area to see the sights and fed them so well.”

I was particularly interested when she said he told her about how the Feria and his trip had affected his work and his family. He said he was more dedicated to helping his children be successful and teaching them be more serious about the business and to know that hard work brings the pleasures and rewards of life. 
Margaret told us, "I want you to know that Feria Maestros del Arte makes a difference to the vendor participants.  Not just monetarily but it also expands their world view. He really loved his time here, being with us NOB folks, and living the Ajijic life.  He was so grateful for all of it."
Margaret's note reminded me of how impactful every aspect of the Feria can be to the artisans who travel here to become part of the community we now call the Feria. Their lives are touched in so many ways we never even know about. Thank you so much, Margaret, for sharing your experience

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Rebozos - Endangered Folk Art?

Reprinted with permission from Mexico Stories

Note: Special discussion of the history and endangerment of this symbol of Mexican identity at Feria Maestros del Arte, November 9-11, 2018.

By definition, a rebozo is a handmade shawl woven either on a footloom or backstrap loom. Which means that any shawl or length of material, no matter how beautiful, should not be called a rebozo unless it is handmade. 

The history is long for this particular textile item, and continues to grow more complicated with time.

Neill James, an adventurer and travel writer in the 1940s, wrote in her book, Dust on My Heart, "The rebozo, a two-meter length of cotton or silk, is the most useful garment ever thought up by women.
"It’s a wrap during the chill dawn and after sunset hours; during the heat of the day draped Arab style over the head, it’s a hat. Coiled turban-like atop the head, it serves as padding when carrying a heavy burden. Given a few intricate folds and purchased fetchingly at an angle, shading the face on the sunny side, it’s an eyecatcher. 

I’ve seen babies wrapped in it, women sleeping in it; I’ve seen it uses dexterously as a shield while a nude modestly bathed in the river. Tied across the shoulders, it is an effective knapsack for caring heavy burdens. Draped madonna-like over the head it is high fashion is the most exclusive church.
And in her own, sometimes slanted, style, she added, "And should fancy dictate, with her rebozo, a woman could even hang herself.“

Wikipedia states:
The origin of the garment is unclear, but most likely derived in the early colonial period, as traditional versions of the garment show indigenous, European and Asian influences. Traditional rebozos are handwoven from cotton, wool, silk and rayon in various lengths but all have some kind of pattern (usually from the ikat method of dying) and have fringe, which can be finger weaved into complicated designs. The garment is considered to be part of Mexican identity and nearly all Mexican women own at least one. It has been prominently worn by women such as Frida Kahlo, actress María Félix and former Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala and still popular in rural areas of the country. However, its use has diminished in urban areas.
We should be happy the term rebozo comes from the Spanish rather than the Nahua, an indigenous people who call it "ciua nequealtlapacholoni.” 
This bit of material has been beloved by women throughout time and place in Mexico and played a role in the Mexican Revolution of 1910 when it was adopted by the Adelitas. These rebel women used it to smuggle guns and other weapons past government checkpoints making it synonymous with Mexico's struggle for independence.

Is the Rebozo, symbol of Mexican identity endangered?

Rebozo by Teofila Servin, Feria Maestros del Arte 2018
Ana Celia Martínez, professor of Mesoamerican studies at the National Autonomous University, says there are fewer than 200 rebozo weavers left in Mexico.

Logically, the culprits are progress and globalization. As Professor Martínez states, "Chinese rebozos are inexpensive and mass-produced using synthetic fibers. The end product is very fragile and frays very easily and the dyes wash off after a short time, while Mexican rebozos can remain intact for decades.”

Professor Martínez won the Tenerife International Artisan Prize 2014 for her project, “Izote, Iczotl, fiber with identity, tradition and permanence,” designed to preserve an endangered type of fiber called izote, which is produced in Zumpahuacán in the State of México. (Izote is known as the yucca plant in the southwestern US.)
Izote is seen to have historical importance because its use in pre-Hispanic times is evident in documents such as the Codex Mendoza, a 16th-century manuscript containing a history of Aztec rulers, where the pictograms show izote blankets.
Marta Turok
At Feria Maestros del Arte 2018, the premier Mexican folk art fair in Mexico, Marta Turoka Mexican applied anthropologist focusing on socio-economic development will speak on the forces that endanger the rebozo. Through research, government work, education and advocacy, she has worked to raise the prestige of Mexican handcrafts and folk art and to help artisans improve their economic status. Her work has been recognized with awards from various governmental and non-governmental agencies.

More about rebozos:

More about Izote:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Meet Mexico in three days at Feria Maestros del Arte

2017 Artista from Chiapas
When you come to Feria Maestros del Arte, you will be seeing more than Mexican folk art and colorful costumes. You will be meeting Mexico in a way few travelers do.
For instance, several days before the Feria, Zenaida Hernández Gómez and  Cristina Hernández Pérez have been packing and organizing the textile works from the 50 women who make up Compa Lucha, a cooperative from villages in the municipality of Chenalhó. Zenaida and Cristina are from the village of Yaxgemel Unión, population 362, which is an Abejas community. They will join 40 other artists from Chiapas for a long bus ride to the Feria where each artist will set up their woven and embroidered textiles, pottery, hand carved kitchen utensils, jewelry, rugs, and much more.

Textiles from Compa Lucha
If you wanted to visit them, you would most likely fly into the modern airport outside Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a bustling capital city of 500,000 and home of the marimba, and then drive, take a bus or taxi into the highlands where the stunning, colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas sits at 2200 meters (7200 feet). As you're enjoying the beauty, history and food of this cultural capital of Chiapas, it will be a challenge to remember that in 1994, the revolutionary Zapatistas took over the city. 
The long trip from Chiapas to Chapala
Continuing the journey to Yaxgemel, you would leave San Cristóbal and drive into the sparsely populated, mountainous backroads of Mexico. Eventually, you would reach Chenalhó, a town of about 3,000. From there you would have to ask directions from the locals, most of whom don’t speak English or Spanish, because Yaxgemel isn’t on Google Maps.

Photo from Lakeside Guide
Of course, you could also just come to the beautiful yacht club in Chapala and meet Zenaida and Cristina in person and see their incredible rebozos, huipils and other hand made and embroidered items. If you have time and find one of the many Spanish-speaking Feria volunteers to help you, you could also ask them about being part of an Abejas community. Abejas, “the bees” is a Christian pacifist civil society group of Tzotzil Maya formed in Chenalhó in 1992 following a property dispute that left one person dead and a controversy about who was at fault. 

When the Zapatista Army of National Liberation uprising took place in 1994, Las Abejas stood in solidarity with the the principles they were fighting for, but not their violent means, and paid a high price for their support when 45 of their members were massacred while praying in a church.

Zenaida and Cristina represent only one story and one form of folk art you will encounter at the Feria. There are 83 other booths of authentic Mexican folk art and artisans from all over Mexico with their own stories and art handed down through the generations. To help visitors understand more of the deep background of this art and the artisans who make it, the Feria is presenting a series of speakers and demonstrations to meet the artists and understand the stories behind their art. There will be two presentations each day of the Feria, morning and afternoon.  Here is the schedule:
*** Friday 11/9
10:30-11:30 Guadalupe Garcia Rios - Ceramics (Tent 1)
2:30-3:30 Jacobo Mendoza - Rug Weaver (Tent 1)

*** Sat 11/10
10:30-11:30 Dream Weavers - Weavers & Dyers (Tent 1) 
2:30-3:30 Martha Turok - Special Guest: Rebozos and  sarapes
two emblematic garments at risk (Tent 1)

*** Sunday 11/11
10:30-11:30 Martha Turok - Special Guest: Challenges of 
sustainability and natural dyes (Tent 1)  
2:30-3:30 Cilau Valadez- Huichol yarn paintings (Tent 1)
So, when you come to the Feria, not only will you meet Mexico in three days, you will be playing a part in saving Mexican folk art for the future. In small villages all over Mexico, families are making beautiful art. The Feria is a non-profit organization that charges no fees or commissions and pays for all the transportation costs for the artists. 
All of the money the artists earn at the Feria goes home with them, and, for many of the artists, the Feria is their major source of income for the year. Your purchases represent more than beautiful things, they are a connection to real people, real stories from actual families living in remote villages, working every day to bring their art to you during this one three-day event every year.

Please join us: Feria Maestros del Arte, November 9-11, 2018. Chapala Yacht Club.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Feria 2018 Schedule

Here's the entertainment and Stories behind the Art schedule for 2018:

Click here for a printable pdf.
For best quality print, download first. Or, choose print option at bottom of pdf.

Stories behind the Art
(TENT 1)
Hours: 9:30 - 5:30


Mariachi Nuevo Chapala 
(Welcome to the Feria)


Guadalupe Garcia Rios - High fire ceramics from Michoacán
11:30 -12:30
Fashion Show 
(Stage and Strolling)
Marimba Bahia
(Throughout grounds)
Black String
(Throughout grounds)

Jacobo Mendoza - Rug weaver from Oaxaca
Marimba Bahia
(Throughout grounds)

Hours: 9:30 - 5:30
Black String
(Welcome to the Feria)
Dreamweavers Weavers & yers from Oaxaca
Mariachi Mujer Latino
Fashion Show 
(Stage and Strolling)

Special Guest: Marta Turok - Rebozos & sarapes at risk
Marimba Bahia
(Throughout grounds)
Hours: 9:30 - 4:30
Marimba Bahia
(Welcome to the Feria)
SPECIAL GUEST: Marta Turok - Sustainability & natural dyes
Fashion Show 
(Stage and Strolling)
LCS Children’s Art Program Awards (Stage)
Ballet Folclórico Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos (Stage)
Black String
(Throughout grounds)
Cilau Valadez - Huichol yarn painting from Jalisco