María Méndez Díaz
Handmade Animals of Chiapan Wool
María Méndez Díaz was born in San Juan Chamula, a Tzotzil town close to San Cristobal. She moved to San Cristobal with her family when the Evangelists started being expulsed from Chamula and settled in the hills above San Cristóbal de las Casas. Many refugees of religious conflicts in those days moved to the hills surrounding San Cristóbal de las Casas and many of the displaced families started making stuffed animals and dolls to be able to survive.
The men from San Juan Chamula wear a garment called chuj . It is a type of white or black wool poncho that is worn with a leather belt. The fabric of those ponchos is woven by the women and dyed with bright colors to be used to make the little wool animals. The animals are stuffed, sewed together and sometimes embroidered.
Back in 1994 during the Zapatista upheaval, the women also started making the figures of the revolutionary characters like comandante Marcos on his horse and his friend Ramona.
Nowadays, we see less of Zapatista dolls and see more little indigenous dolls with their babies, embroidered hearts, and many whimsical animals — the inspiration for different animals comes not only from the fauna of the highlands but from all continents, including dinosaurs.
Maria and her group of eight relatives has been making a living at creating all these creatures and every year we observe new ones being sold in the markets. These animals make great toys, Christmas ornaments and delight of adults as well as children.