After freezing in Amealco, last Sunday was spent in a warmer climate, in Cuernavaca.
Many foreigners have heard of Cuernavaca, “the land of eternal spring,” principally because there are a number of schools that host students looking to learn Spanish. But the state it is in, Morelos, is almost completely unknown.
Despite bordering Mexico City and being a popular weekend destination for its “capitalinos,” the state has managed to avoid major industrialization and other development…. so far. Tourism development is behind the rest of the country as well, but in the past 5 years or so the state government has been stepping up efforts to promote the state’s natural resources and culture including handcraft traditions.
In 2015, the state and the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos founded the Cuexcomate Festival to promote the state’s cultural heritage in general, especially music. It is a fairly academic event, with concerts, book presentations and mini-conferences. The site is the university’s Los Belenes Cultural Center, a beautiful former colonial style mansion outside of the city center.
Festival site, Los Belenes
Two of the three days has a exhibition and sale of handcrafts and folk art, almost all of which is from the state of Morelos. Morelos’ handcrafts are simple compared to those produced in major tourist areas such as Oaxaca, primarily because they are still mostly produced for local consumption. This is an opportunity to purchase pieces that are still “authentic” in the sense of having been made for their original purposes, rather than for tourists or collectors. A wide range of handcrafts were represented, from items made from volcanic rock, to ceramics to wicker, textiles and candle making. If Morelos is successful over time in promoting the state to visitors, the rustic quality of the work will probably not last.
Candles by Roxana Guerra of Jiutepec (L) and high fire ceramic from El Aguila workshop in Acatlipa (R)
For those who do not like large and crowded venues, Cuexcomate offers an alternative, with no more than a hundred people on the site at any given time. General festival like Cuexcomate allow visitors to experience more than just the handcrafts (even though they take up most of the venue space) allowing to experience the crafts in the context of the culture they are part of.
All photos by the author.