Cactus, furniture and floods

Most of Mexico’s traditional handcrafts come from small rural towns, and few are smaller or more rural than Venta Vieja, Guerrero, located north of the state capital Chilpancingo. It is rugged terrain, with little tree cover, which means that major rain events such as the hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel that hit Mexico in 2013 devastated the tiny village of about 100 families, even though they are far inland. Most homes were swept away or made uninhabitable by the flash flooding. Below is a video with English subtitles about the devastation and reconstruction.

The village is even smaller now as some were not able to rebuild. Those who remain maintain a rather precarious existence with subsistence agriculture and furniture making. It is a 100% populated by native Nahua, with just about all of the population speaking this indigenous language, with some not even speaking Spanish.

It is these communities that events such as the twice-yearly Expo de Pueblos Indigenas are designed to help. Sponsored by National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Communities (CDI as it is commonly referred to), the Expo is one of various programs to help indigenous-owned businesses start or improve their business. Most of these are related to handcrafts and one of the major goals is to wean these creators from their dependency on middlemen, selling more directly to end users and making a better profit from their work.

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No automatic alt text available.This past May the To Neluayo group participated in the Expo, their first. It comes on the heels of support to start gaining a presence online, both in Facebook and a soon-to-be-launch website. It is a family affair with 3 generations in several branches. This is typical for these workshops. What attracted my attention was the quality of the work as well as the use of the dried skeletons of a local type of organ cactus. To Neluayo says that the cactus is from the local mountains, but it is not harvested but rather collected after the plant dies naturally. This might be the case today, but I have to wonder if that will be a sustainable plan in the long run. However, it is best that if these resources are going to be utilized, and the recent devastation did result in a lot of dead trees, best that the local people benefit as much as possible.




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