Archive for September, 2010

September 16, 2010

Mexican Independence by Five Year Olds

mexican independence in 2 minutes

The Independence of Mexico, starring:
Ignacio Allende
Padre Miguel Hidalgo
Dona Josefa Ortiz
Juan Aldama
Ignacio Perez on his horse
The people of Mexico.

For those of you who do not understand Spanish
it goes like this:
Dona Josefa in Queretaro, searches for Ignacio Perez to ride his horse to San Miguel el Grande to give a scroll proclaiming the insurgence to Ignacio Allende.

Alas, Ignacio is not home so he gathers a companion and they ride together past Atotonilco to Dolores where they find Ignacio Allende, Padre Miguel Hidalgo and Juan Aldama waiting. He hails Allende – Capitan Allende! Capitan Allende! and hands him the scroll at which point there is much difficulty getting the ribbon off so they can read it.

Hidalgo is really more interested in the sword on Allende’s belt than the scroll. They each read the proclamation and head to the Parroquia to ring the bell, calling the people together for the fight. The grito is shouted while they people wave flags and cry VIVA MEXICO! VIVA MEXICO! and they dance.

Below, my friend Elvia’s daughter, Lupita.

© Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art, Suzanne da Rosa

celebrations: folklorico August 26, 2010

Thursday was the 49th anniversary of Radio San Miguel and also the 35th anniversary of the Casa de la Cultura in San Miguel.  Besides video of Chilo Botes, tin artisan,  singing at the radio station, (video to come) there was folklorico dancing in the Jardin at dusk followed by music into the evening. Here’s a movie of the folklorico  dancers with dances from Guerrero, Nuevo Laredo, Veracruz and Mexico City/Jalisco. <br>

Tin Workders:

Over the years of exporting Mexican Artesania, I have continually been drawn back to the tin artisans who reside not only in San Miguel de Allende, but in Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Celaya, Mexico City.

The malleable quality of tin (hojolata) copper (cobre) and brass (laton) they work in allows the artist to create beautiful repousse, punched and multi layered work. It is nothing short of miraculous to see a solid surface become bowl like, the shape of animals, trees, hearts.

Most of the work here is still done the old way, hammered on lead plugs or into indentations on their palos – tree stumps with smoothed out indentations from the years of hammering and rolling the ball edge of a hammer around a piece of tin.

This year, I began video interviews with the oldest tin workers. Those who were here when metal work was only done for utilitarian pieces – milk cans, oil lamps, cooking stoves, utensils for the home. Those artists who were here before foreigners came to town with ideas for decorative pieces and the money to entice the metal workers to fabricate the first decorative pieces for the home, the pieces that would lead to the metal art you find today.

The project, which has become an obsession of sorts, is coming together, starting with the history of metal and metal arts including artists who have been working in tin for over 40 years, the story of how it happened here in San Miguel de Allende.

Here is a 2 minute short of one of the oldest artists, now retired, who remembers what it was like in 1944 when San Miguel de Allende was a town of about 7,000 people, and no artisan metalwork being done. It was a time where metal work was of utilitarian purpose, made and carried on the backs of burros to the ranchos to sell.

The entire documentary will be exhibited at the Feria de la Lana y el Laton this November as a tribute to these older artisan families and will be for sale on our website.


The markets in Mexico are wonderful vibrant places
Besides the usual sellers of art and artesania,
You’ll find actors of all kinds, singing, dancing, hawking kitschy items.
This weekend, there was a ballet folklorico recital,
Young dancers, still not quite totally polished,
On stage for the first or second time.

While the dancing and music was going on,
This entertainer showed up, hawking his magic wands.
He was totally into the drama of it all and if you watch carefully,
You may figure out how he does it. …. video to come shortly.


We are making a documentary and book about the tin artisans in Mexico, beginning with the oldest artists who have been in the trade 40-60 years.  Art tin came into being in the 1930’s, with only utilitarian pieces such as milk cans, utensils, oil lamps and the like before that.  It has grown from there into a burgeoning business for several areas of Mexico, especially from the 1970’s forward.

Here’s a peek at one artist, who has been working since he was 8 years old cleaning the studio of the maestro.  He has been working over 50 years now, creating everything from lamps to mirrors, to decorative pieces and tin nichos.  The video below shows him creating a replica of a tin nicho from the 1840’s.  The entire process took 3 hours, start to finish, using two people, the video is 7 minutes long.  The next time you purchase even a small piece of tin work like this, you can appreciate the amount of work that goes into each piece – which is entirely made by hand.

Just for fun – here’s an antique tin boat, which is candle powered and putt-putt’s around in a circle.


Here’s a few videos of semana santa celebrations in Guanajuato and San Miguel.
Acts of faith are performed in public by the people.  They dress in costume, read the scriptures, act out the stories.  Here are a few videos of some of those re-enactments

A re-enactment of the trial and sentencing of Jesus

Not for the lighthearted – in the city of Guanajuato,
There is a live re-enactment of Judas hanging himself –
He is in a harness and of course does not die, but the effect is impressive

Before the enactment of the stations of the cross,
A young woman, in a show of belief
Makes a pilgrimage around the church, on her knees

From Jesus receiving his cross, cloak and crown of thorns
To the movement around the church reflecting one round per station
Meeting his mother, the Virgen of Dolores,
The wiping of his face and the brotherhood of penitentes.
It is impressive display of belief and faith.

On Easter Sunday in San Miguel,
they blow up paper mache effigies of Judas in the main plaza

© 2010 Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art


The last few months I’ve been working on a video documentary and book about the older tin artisans in the state of Guanajuato. There’s a craft and quality in the work of these men which is not prevalent in the mass produced quality of the work you see around Mexico today.  They use the old methods, old tools and create beautiful pieces that are finished with care.

The documentary is a work in progress but I’ll share a few photos of some beautifully made tin nichos, finished in both ‘cobrizado’ or antique finish and ‘natural’ the unfinished shiny tin.

These nichos are replicas of tin nichos which were made in the mid 1800’s, larger in size than the mini nichos you see.  Traditionally, these held saint’s images, dry flowers, ribbons and other altar items.

These older families have been working in tin for upwards of fifty to sixty years and are now facing what many artisan families worldwide face – being at the end of a line – with the younger generations not wanting to do the hard work by hand, following the family tradition.  This combined with countries like china, who comes in, buys pieces, then fabricates and sells them as Mexican folk art, is undermining the viability of artist communities being able to maintain a decent living.


You hear the din of battle next to the church, the sound of rockets booming and you feel the ground shaking from five blocks away. Each Carnaval, in the tiny town of San Juan de la Vega Mexico, there is a re-enactment of a 400+ year old battle in honor of a local farmer named Juan aquino de la Vega – on the side of the people – a Robin Hood type person who robbed from the rich to give to the poor against the Viceroy and his men.

From the surrounding ranchos, hundreds of men and boys arrive on horseback carrying banners and flags, tipping and waving their cowboy hats. They are part of the procession which is held in honor of San Juan Bautista, the town’s patron saint and are here to participate in a blessing and prayer for the ensuing battle.

The parishoners follow, clasping photos of the saint to their chests entering the battlefield which lies adjacent to the church, immersing themselves in the minefield of boys and young men who are dressed as devils, jesters, clowns, cowyboys, campesinos, soldiers, revolutionaries, cross dressers, gang members or sporting t-shirts with full body images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. They are taping explosive packets by the thousands to the ends of sledgehammers and detonating them on rocks and metal plates.

At noon, after prayers to San Juan, the crowd is pushed into a large circle. At each end a small canon is rolled into place. Men with toy guns, swords and plastic coke bottles for weapons, assemble to fight the battle and circle around, crouched low, raising up and down, awaiting the first canon blast. The canon goes off with a loud boom and swoosh. A big wad of rolled up burning paper lands in the middle of the circle next to a discarded plastic coke bottle and the fight begins. It’s an enactment though, and as you watch, you see that these men, however menacing they may seem, are doing a dance.

Ron getting instructions on how to load the charges.

Back on the sledgehammer field, a train passes slowly by, whistle blowing the entire time as packets of fireworks explode under it’s wheels. We meet a group of young men who are dressed like gang members. They befriend us and ham it up for pictures. As they load charges onto their sledgehammers, Ron asks them what the largest charge they use looks like. They pile the packets on in a big show of bravado, then hand him the sledgehammer and begin dressing him for battle – loaning him sunglasses, a hat and neck scarf for his face. He refuses the extra packets of ammunition but says ok to the normal charge then grabs the sledgehammer and heads out to the field. Clic here to go to the slideshow and video including our friend Ron’s rite of passage and his thoughts afterward.

There is one more video in the works. It will be done in a day or two, showing the battlefield, the re-enactment of the battle, the procession, the pueblo of San Juan de la Vega, and local stories told by women of the community about this historic celebration.

If you missed the photo and video links, here they are:

The Slideshow – fotos (which includes the first video – more videos to come)

The Video – Sledgehammer fireworks

Or on Youtube:



There’s not much going on here for Carnaval, but in the Jardin, you can buy gorgeous hand made paper flowers, accordion legged ‘payasitos’ or little clowns, paper masks and confetti filled eggs which the children run around with – war style – cracking them on each other’s heads (and yours if you don’t watch out!)


I’ve recently begun work on a documentary of the tin artistans of Mexico. 
Today, I interviewed one of the older families and they showed me this wonderful little tin boat which is powered by a candle. It actually putt putts around and just makes you smile to watch it go. Click on the photo below to watch the little video. As I go along, I’ll be posting short clips of the process of making tin pieces, but for now, here’s a charming little toy boat.

September 5, 2010

Celebrations Guanajuato

Last weekend, in an overnight to the city of Guanajuato, the neighborhood behind our hotel was having their saints day celebration.  Mid-afternoon, a procession which was headed for the church passed by the restaurant we were having lunch at, blasting off loud rockets to a torito dance performance followed by conchero dancers and hundreds of young drummers preceding flowered litters which carried the chalice, Jesus on the cross and the Virgin Mary.

The party afterward had all the usual, specifically loud traditional music which echoed off the surrounding hills until 11pm followed by rockets and a fireworks display.

© September 2010 Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art