About an hour or so west of Mexico City lies the small municipality of Temoaya, State of Mexico, where there is a unique meeting of East and West; Persian knotting with Otomi and other Mexican indigenous design. This activity began in 1968, with a commerical project sponsored by the Bank of Mexico with the aim of creating jobs for this area. The business expanded rapidly, employing people from much of the municipality and even other parts of the State of Mexico. However, the company went bankrupt, and the state took over. By the 1990s, most of the rug making activities and sales is coordinated through a cooperative, with an office in San Pedro Abajo, just outside the town of Temoaya, but there are a number of independent workshops as well.
The work is highly labor-intensive, with each knot done by hand using 100% virgin wool which may or may not be dyed by the artisan. The work takes place on a wood frame, which is strung which heavy cotton thread, over which the wool is knotted, tying everything together. Sizes of finished products range from 30×30 cm to 1.80×2.70 meters. Each rug is unique based off of 54 basic designs with over 150 variations.
The rugs are luxury items, sold in upscale outlets in Mexico City such as the Liverpool department stores, and the government agency FONART and they are sold abroad as well. However, this does not necessarily translate into significant income for the artisans, some of which will only make rugs to order because of the time needed for their creation. The success of the rugs has spawned inferior-quality knockoffs, which has prompted producers such as the Sociedad Cooperativa de Artesanos Productores de Tapetes Anudados a Mano to tag their wares with serial numbers to prove authenticity.
The municipality of Temoaya is only about 22km from the state capital of Toluca, but San Pedro is difficult to get to without a car. There is a cooperative store selling rugs just outside of the town of Temoaya on the highway that connects it with Toluca. Visitors to the store can also visit the nearby Otomi Ceremonial Center which has a museum about the community’s history and traditions.
(Featured image:Large rug in progress at the Flores/Mendoza workshop in Molino Abajo)