Indigenous Art of Mexico
With arid regions to the north, warm and humid areas to the south, and mild or cold areas in the mountainous regions, Mexico possesses a diversity of climates, soils, and vegetation that provide an abundance of raw materials used to produce indigenous and folk art.
Like the land, Mexico’s people are diverse. Indigenous people, who live mainly in central and southeast Mexico, number 10.5 million. Divided into 56 separate ethnic groups, they have their own social and cultural identities. Many speak their own languages. Together, these diverse peoples provide the creative energy that nourishes folk art in Mexico today.
The term “indigenous peoples”, “indigenous ethnic minorities”, “tribal groups”, describe social groups with a social and cultural identity distinct from that of the dominant society which renders them vulnerable to being disadvantaged in the process of development.
The indigenous peoples can be identified and possess, in differing degrees the following characteristics:
Many of today’s great masters work full-time, either at home or in workshops dedicated to producing their art. Some work part-time, making pieces exclusively for community celebrations. All capture in their pieces a spark of genius, an inspired idea, or notion. To this, they add dexterity, technical mastery, keen aesthetic sensibilities, and versatility. From the selection and processing of raw materials to the addition of finishing decorative touches, the great masters of folkart do it all. The result: singular artistry.
In the 1921 census, Mexican natives were asked if they fell into one of the following categories:
The five states with the largest populations of "indígena pura" were:
Because the populations of the various states vary widely, the percentage of pure indigenous persons in a given state may provide us with a different set of results. The five states with the largest percentages of "indígena pura" people are:
In the 1921 census, the status "Indígena Mezclada con Blanca" implied that a person was of mestizo origin. Persons classified by this identity usually did not speak Indian languages, but still felt an attachment to their indigenous roots. The five Mexican states with the largest populations of "Indígena Mezclada con Blanca" were:
The states with the largest percentages of "Indígena Mezclada con Blanca" were:
The states with the largest populations of "Blanca" or White persons were:
In percentage terms, the "blanca" classification was most prominent in these states:
Seventy-nine years later, the 2000 census attempted to determine the number of Mexican people who considered themselves to being indigenous, without reference to language. In order to calculate the indigenous people, the census used three criteria:
The five states with the largest numbers of persons classified as "Indígena" in the 2000 census were:
The five states with the largest percentages of Indigenous people were:
In contrast, the five states with the largest numbers of persons who spoke indigenous languages and were five years of age or more were:
Of great interest to some people would be the states with the least populations of indigenous persons in the 2000 census:
In terms of percentages, the five states with the smallest percentages of indigenous persons were:
While many of the inhabitants of Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato do have indigenous roots, the level of assimilation and mestizaje that took place in these areas over the last four centuries has diminished the original Indian identity.
The indigenous identity of the Mexican people is hard to quantify and classify from one state to another, from one linguistic group to another, so census statistics cannot be considered entirely reliable. However, the 1921 and 2000 censuses do give us the best view of indigenous identity, when compared to other census years.
"So, what does the future hold for indigenous art? Only time will tell. But it seems likely that potters will abandon gathering their own clay from the earth, having to pulverize and process it by hand, when commercial clays are available; that artists who use the traditional stiff brushes chewed from the midrib of a yucca leaf will begin to use commercially made brushes to paint designs; that rather than take the many hours needed to gather and process wool, spin it, dye it, and then weave it on handmade looms, weavers may go to automated equipment and store-bought yarns." ("The Many Faces of Mata Ortiz")
The thread that runs through the folk art of all peoples is a significant one. Exhibitions such as Feria Maestros del Arte and the collector’s who purchase from them will help to preserve not only the art objects themselves, but help to keep alive the emotion and enjoyment found in owning a beautiful piece of art, of being able to touch and hold it, experience the new dimension it adds to your home on a daily basis.
What is art . . . and are you a collector?
"A famous art collector once compared the collecting of art to big-game hunting - picking up the scent of a prey, tracking it down, bagging the prize and then happily exhibiting the trophy in one’s home. However, for most of us, purchasing a piece of art is an aesthetic pleasure. There was no yearning for possession, only the desire to have the chance to admire a work of artistic creation in our daily lives." (from an unknown publication)
There is no specialized knowledge required to be an art collector or to simply purchase a piece of art, nor must you spend exorbitant amounts of money for it to have value. The value is realized moment by moment as one looks at the new treasure. Does it speak to you? Do you care? A piece of art like that is one you'll never tire of.
Beautiful versus useful . . .
Handicrafts - Folk Art . . .
The artisan was an important factor in the equation of their society and culture. He earned for himself a certain status and a responsible position in society. He made things mainly for the use of the people around him and not so much for sale in a distant marketplace. He was an heir to the people's traditions and he interlaced them into his craft making it into an art.
Feria Maestros del Arte offers you a chance to meet the artists themselves and perhaps take home a piece of Mexico's heritage. If you have questions or inquiries, please call Marianne Carlson at 011522 376 765 7485 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(Our thanks to Norm Tibor for the use of his photographs)