Rodrigo de la Cruz Cabrera
Esteban de la Cruz and his son, Rodrigo, of San Augustin Oapan, live in an isolated community in the state of Guerrero. Esteban and Rodrigo are members of an extended family that creates beautiful work with painted clay in a tradition that has been in their family for five generations on both the paternal and maternal sides of the family. They are both married with families and hope to hand down their traditional work to their children as it was handed down to them.
San Augustin is one of the more traditional towns in the area. In this region, traditional handmade ceramics painted with natural pigments are being replaced by molded ceramics purchased in Iguala and Cuernavaca and painted with acrylic paints for the tourist trade, especially in neighboring towns. Although artisans in San Agustin Oapan continue creating traditional ceramic pieces, the move to acrylic and molds is taking hold.
Esteban and Rodrigo have won national awards for their work, as have other family members. Despite the pressure to do mass production with molds, they continue to make one-of-a-kind pieces with natural pigments just as their ancestors had done. The family still takes its donkeys out to find appropriate clay to make their figures. In addition, they use plants, trees and other local natural sources as pigments for painting their work.
They fire with natural resources such as cow dung in open air as they have for generations. They are known for creating rustic animal and human figures as well as the long, round “aquadoras” and the pot-shaped “canteros” as well as other vessels in the shape of gourds.
The pieces are painted with a variety of designs, including nativities, or designs such as those seen on amate (handmade bark paper) paintings from Guerrero with birds and other traditional figures.
Despite the family having won national, regional and local awards, their finer work is not widely available due to their living in an isolated community and the lack of buyers for the more intricate work. In addition, due to issues in their state, few tourists ever get to them.
2017 is the first time they will be attending Feria Maestros del Arte and we are excited to host and welcome this talented family. An American collector has assisted the Feria by applying for them and telling them about the show. It is just this kind of a traditional art that is at risk of disappearing, and the Feria is pleased to be part of a solution toward ensuring they continue to be able to create their fine work.