Since 2011, Mexico has had a national sales event called “El Buen Fin” (The Good Weekend) in November. Based off of the U.S.’s “Black Friday,” it is promoted by various business organizations and the federal government and features sales and special credit deals.
This year it fell on Constitution Day weekend, with Monday the 21st a national holiday. I don’t think it was simply coincidence that there are a number of interesting handcrafts events this weekend in central Mexico.
My husband and I dedicated Saturday to visiting the National Festival of Handcrafted Dolls (Festival Nacional de Muñecas Artesanales) in the high mountain town of Amealco, Querétaro.
The Amealco area is best known for the making of María dolls, and claims to be their place of origin. In 2012, the state and town began sponsoring the Festival, with sees the town’s main plaza filled with stalls selling dolls and other handcrafts as well as food and drink. There is also a contest to choose the best dolls, categorized by material.
Maria dolls everywhere!
Tying ribbons in the hair of a Maria doll, wrapped up against the cold.
There were an estimated 50 or so doll vendors, and not surprisingly, Maria dolls dominated, coming in all sizes and colors, with male and Frida versions also being popular. The Maria image also appeared on ceramic cups, t-shirts, paintings and more. Following the Maria doll is another traditional rag doll of the area, with the main body made by rolling muslin then bending it in half.
There were not many few stands with dolls from other parts of Mexico, although the making of rag dolls in regional and indigenous dress has become popular over the past five years or so. There were stands with dolls or ceramic figures from Cancun (Aluxin), Michoacán, Guanajuato, Mexico City, Aguascalientes and Sinaloa. There were also a fair number of stands selling other kinds of handcrafts.
Dolls from various Mexican states
The contest is held at the municipal doll museum which is just off the plaza. Rag dolls dominated, but there were humanoid figures of ceramic, corn husk, twisted fibers and wood. There was even a commercial doll dressed and face painted as a Catrina of Day of the Dead.
Some of the entries of the contest
Prices ranged from 20 pesos to over 5,000 depending on size and quality of construction. Most medium-sized dolls were selling between 300 and 800 pesos.
One really important point… Amealco in November is very, very cold, especially by Mexican standards. I wore a sweat jacket and stayed barely warm enough IF I stayed out of the wind, which was easier said than done. Weather reports stated temps of 12C but it felt much colder, like a bit above freezing. We asked a couple of locals who said it was about normal for the year.
Quequemitls (top) and pottery (bottom) also from the local area for sale
The Festival is only in its fourth edition and I do hope that it continues and grows to include more variety of doll makers in the future.