Mexico’s indigenous and folk art comes to Chapala

By Ruth Hazlewood from the November 2016 Edition

Each year Experience Mex‐ECO Tours promotes a trip which we call the ‘Chapala Arts and Crafts Fair’, but this is much more than just a shopping trip; so what’s it really all about?

The Feria Maestros del Arte (Masters of Art Fair) is the name given to this annual event in Chapala, and is also the name of the non‐profit organization which puts in an incredible amount of work to make it happen. In 2002, an amazing lady called

Marianne Carlson came up with the idea of bringing some of the artists and artisans she came across in rural Mexico to Ajijic to sell their high-quality, traditional work.

After a successful first fair, with 13 artists, being very well received by the public, Marianne decided to make this an annual event. Providing an outlet for traditional Mexican artists and artisans to sell their work, the Feria Maestros del Arte has provided many families with the opportunity to continue creating their important cultural representations by allowing them to pursue this as a career, rather than seeking alternative employment.

Here is their mission as a non‐profit organization:

“To preserve and promote Mexican indigenous and folk art. We help preserve these art forms and the culture that produces them by providing the artists a venue to sell their work to gal-leries, collectors, museums and corporations. We promote re-gional and international awareness to the value of these endan-gered arts.”

The efforts made by the Feria committee and its many volun-teers mean that the artists and artisans not only have a chance to generate more income in a few days than they may other-wise generate in a year, but also the chance to be recognized by buyers and collectors from around the world. On top of this, there are no fees to partake in the fair, no percentage of sales to be paid, transport costs are covered and local families pro-vide accommodation for participants.

Although this concept sounds relatively straightforward, this is one immense task to undertake. Indigenous and folk art in Mexico originates in rural areas and the process of selecting potential participants requires research, time and a lot of dedi-cation. The selection committee and state representatives look for high-quality, hand‐made products, whose production re-quires skills/techniques passed down from generation to gen-eration. Some of the artists at the fair are already nationally, and some internationally, recognized and others are there to be discovered. One thing is for sure, there is bound to be some-thing that will catch your eye, and with a shipping company on Products at the fair this year include Oaxacan alebrijes (wooden carvings of mystical animals painted with natural dyes), baskets from the state of Sonora, ceramic figures (including catrinas from Michoacán, clay animals from Chiapas and more), ceram-ics from 5 different states, textiles/clothes from 7 different states, cloth dolls from the Women’s Prison Project, hand‐ woven hats from Campeche, hammocks from the Yucatán, straw art from Jalisco, wooden furniture, hand‐blown glass from the state of Mexico, Huichol art and jewelry from Jalisco, silver, cloth and amber jewelry from 4 different states, Lacandon art from Chiapas, hand‐crafted leather products from Chiapas, masks from Colima, Jalisco and Michoacán, metal work, paint-ings, paper maché, woven footwear from Oaxaca, Tarahumara baskets from Chihuahua (Copper Canyon), woven toys from Chiapas, woven rugs from Oaxaca and Guanajuato and wooden carvings from 5 different states.

By attending the fair, your $50 pesos entry fee goes towards the continuation of this fantastic event and you can also sup-port the Red Cross by purchasing raffle tickets, with prizes donated by the artists and artisans. Other ways the event is funded include a sponsorship program for individual artists, general sponsorships/donations and through the Feria’s “cash for trash” partnership with TerraCycle.

The dates of the Feria this year are November 11 to 13; it is always in November, but the dates vary slightly from year to year. The event is held in the Lake Chapala Yacht Club, with a fantastic view over Lake Chapala. Experience Mex‐ECO Tours offers 2 nights’ accommodation (November 11 and 12) in the 5 star Hotel Morales, a tour of Guadalajara’s historic centre, transport to and from the fair on November 12 (9am – 5pm) and shopping/free time in Tonalá and Tlaquepaque, all for just $3,900 pesos per person, with departures from Melaque, Man-zanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Bucerías.

Please note that the photos are from previous ferias, and not necessarily representative of this year’s participants.

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