The month of September is very important to Mexican artisans. This is the month that hosts Mexico’s Independence Day (Sept 16) and the many outdoor events that are held during this time feature handcrafts (and food, of course).
Last year we attended an event in the main square (Zocalo) of Mexico City with a rather long name Feria de las Culturas Indígenas, Pueblos y Barrios Originarios de la Ciudad de México. (Rough translation: Indigenous Culture and Authentic Communities of México City Fair.) We didn’t know anything about it, but it was close to where we live. The handcrafts were typical of a small event, the kinds of things that attracts people like me initially to Mexican handcrafts, but not the best to be had by any means.
Still being close, we decided to go by again to see what might have changed and maybe find a couple interesting artisans. We already knew that two artisans we had previously profiled, Ana Karen Allende and Mujeres Alfareros, would be there.
The event has grown impressively, easily doubling the size of last year’s event and despite that, still crowded. Last year, invited artisans were mostly from the Mexico City metro area with few beyond that. This year, there are artisans from the State of Mexico, Puebla, Michoacan, Oaxaca and Chiapas, leading to a wide variety of available handcrafts, but Mexico City was still well-represented. The overall quality of the crafts for sale has significantly improved, but still the event is not for absolutely serious collectors. Be that as it may, it was obvious in all but a few stands that the goods were being sold by artisans, not middlemen, and many goods were worth considering for purchase, especially women’s blouses.
Since the event is really about indigeous cultures as well as long-standing traditional cultures which are not associated with indigenous people, there is a lot more to see and experience other than handcrafts. Of course there is food, with lots of stands representing Oaxaca and its famous tlayudas. There are also stand with practitioners of various traditional medicines, a small portable court set up for exhibitions of the Mesoamerican ball game, numerous talks on topics from massage to poetry and exhibitions of art and history. But by far the stands selling handcrafts and foods attract the most people.
L-Michoacan corundas and R- exhibition of the Mixtec version of Mesoamerican ball game
The event is continues the rest of this week, ending on September 10, 2017 and is worth the trip to the Zocalo if you live anywhere near Mexico City. I did find three interesting new artisans to interview later, all in Mexico City.