Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our daily art, Part Two

Part One, Taxco, 1990s.

Part 2: Fast-forward to another time and place: Guadalajara, Jalisco, summer of 2011.

Guadalajara! Pearl of the West, Mexicans call her. She is the second cultural centre of Mexico, where modern architectural wonders rub shoulders with impressive colonial buildings housing museums, theatres (Teatro Degollado, for example), universities, and cathedrals surrounded by parks and plazas. It is home to mariachi music, colorful costumes, dance. I'm sure you've heard of the Mexican Hat Dance, the Jarabe Tapatío; it comes from Guadalajara.

And, of course, there is folk art and handcrafts, traditional and modern. I collect pottery from Tonalá, once a village, now part of the expanding city. At the various markets, you may find leather work, huaraches, blown glass, embroidered textiles, baskets (of course); objects in clay, wool, corn husks, wood, stone, metal. I remember being entranced by delicate, tiny baskets and bowls made of woven gum, the chicle that chewing gum is based on.

Turtle, from Tonalá, Guadalajara

Along Devil's Alley, beside the Plaza Tapatía, (photo, with artisans) a small group of wandering artisans set up their humble stands. Their customers are the busy throngs that pass that way coming and going from the Cathedral, the subway, the shops and offices around the plaza. They have been selling on these streets for as long as anyone can remember.

Let me tell you of the life of the artisans in their own words:
One sunny morning about 2 months ago (August), when the sun sparkled on the wet pavement after an early morning rain, I arrived at the Plaza de los Dos Templos. On top of a small wooden crate, I placed 7 amate diaries I had made the night before. I took out a box of crayons and a marker, and I was ready to begin. That day, my job was easy. All I had to do was draw flowers and butterflies and a lot of stars.

It was the first day of an artisan market near the heart of the downtown core. I drew fairies and cats. An hour passed, and two 6-year-old girls came to my stand and asked me why I spoke funny and why my finger was crooked, and about a thousand questions more. And then, they sat down on the sidewalk. Between them, the little basket where my crayons were. Their intentions were obvious.

But it was a good omen. If kids stop to look at what you make, it means good fortune to come. At the end of the day, there were about 12 kids drawing and making paper airplanes and I only had 1 diary left. And that night I made 15 more.

And, yes, good fortunes did come.

I worked day and night, and my stand grew and so did my stomach. And everytime I reached into my pocket, there was always enough for my simple needs.

And the weeks passed ...and then ...
Business was good, there was promise of better; Guadalajara was expecting an influx of about 1 million tourists for the PanAmerican games in October. The small profits from daily sales could be safely invested in materials for future work; the simple box “puesto” could be enlarged and beautified. One could dream.

But, as F. says, “... and then...”

To be continued tomorrow.

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