Working full-time and pursuing an MBA do not leave very much free time. Immediately after the new year, there was a gap of about a week before major assignments were due. We took advantage of this opportunity for a trip to México City, only a two-hour flight from Houston. There was the added benefit that Cornell has a board room of students in México City and I was able to join them for class.
The purpose of the trip was to show our son some of the many treasures of México. We went on a whirlwind tour of murals, pyramids, cathedrals, archaeological ruins, culture and gastronomy. Along the way, my husband and son appeased me by allowing me to look for interesting textile arts.
We could have spent days walking through the vast National Museum of Anthropology. The museum features grand salons for every major period of Mexican history. We made a beeline toward the magnificent Piedra del Sol (Stone of the Sun), which is often incorrectly called the Aztec calendar. The Stone of the Sun is 3 feet deep, almost 12 feet wide and weighs almost 25 tons.
The stone “depicts the five consecutive worlds of the sun from Aztec mythology. …it is an elaborately carved solar disk, which for the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures represented rulership. At the top of the stone is a date glyph (13 reed) which represents both the beginning of the present sun, the 5th and final one according to mythology, and the actual date 1427 CE, thereby legitimizing the rule of Itzcoatl (who took power in that year) and creating a bond between the divine and mankind.
After staring at awe at the massive stone, we wandered through various halls and came across these ancient textiles of the indigenous Nahua.
“Clothing distinguishes the indigenous groups of México and even within one group. Among the Nahuas each subgroup, each region and even each village has its own way of dressing. Each pattern conserves a tradition, each design speaks of knowledge maintained over the centuries, each form represents a way of seeing the world.”
(Source: Museum placard)
We saw woven bags and baskets made from hard fibers such as junco, bejuco, palm and carrizo.
This is a reproduction of a typical home in the village of Contla in the state of Tlaxcala. According to the museum placard, rustic pedaled looms were installed in any available space.
A day at the Saturday Bazaar in San Ángel yielded a wonderful surprise. Since we were there right after Christmas, we saw all the winning entries for the Primer Concurso Nacional, “De Principio a Fin, Tradiciones Populares Mexicanas” (First National Competition, “From Beginning to End, Popular Mexican Traditions”). Themes revolved around the Day of the Dead and Christmas.
Las piezas que se elaboran con motivo de estas festividades, dan cuenta de la compleja concepción de la vida humana y de la constante interacción entre la vida y la muerte dentro de la cultura popular mexicana.
The pieces that are created for these festivities tell the story of the complex idea of life and the constant interaction between life and death within popular mexican culture.
(Source: Event signage. Translations are mine.)
Nativity woven from natural strong and tender palm constructed with a spherical technique. 38 pieces.
Allegorical vehicle with a traditional offering of the day of the dead, constructed with wheat fibers. Time to produce: 1 week.
“The animals go to see the nativity.” Embroidered strip with mercerized cotton thread with a fine point. Time to produce: 4 months.
Finely embroidered nativity on cotton cloth in the style of the Mazahaua people.
“The tradition of my village.” Napkin woven on a backstrap loom with brocade technique and tinted with natural dyes: purple snails and organic green cotton.”
“Traditional nativity of the city of Cuetzalan del Progreso, Puebla.” Blue cotton on a backstrap loom embroidered in brocade. Time to produce: 1 month
Tapestry of the Mexican Nativity, woven on a backstrap loom out of cotton with fringe. Time to produce: 1 month
These are only a sampling of the many handicrafts we saw during our trip. More to come.