MEXICO CITY -- It is too late for Christmas, but travelers heading
to Mexico will find one-of-a-kind gifts any time of year.
Mexico has something for everyone -- from traditional
handicrafts to sophisticated fine arts. But it's the country's
textiles and handicrafts that make Mexico a special destination for
The beauty of Mexican handicrafts lies in their diversity. Most
handicrafts are regional in nature, a product of the climate,
natural resources and history of a particular area.
Mexican artists use a wide array of raw materials for their
creations, from the more common wood, clay and papier-mache to
unique items such as tin and corn husks.
Many of the crafts are produced much the same way today as they
were centuries ago, with techniques passed down from generation to
Under the auspices of the National Council for Culture and Arts,
Fonart stores (www.fonart.gob.mx) carry a diverse selection of folk
art and hand-crafted furnishings from Mexico. The stores are
located in most major tourist destinations.
The following is a sample of Mexico's more popular shopping
Oaxaca is one of Mexico's top destinations for handicrafts, with
enough markets and galleries offering local crafts to fill several
Oaxaca is home to a number of Mexico's most-valued creations,
including black clay pottery; hand-woven, patterned wool and cotton
rugs and blankets dyed in brilliant colors; and baskets made from
reeds and grasses.
But Oaxaca is best known for the fanciful wood figures of
animals and people, both real and mythical, known by the Spanish
Local artist Manuel Jimenez is considered the father of the
Oaxacan woodcarving movement.
Other well-known craftsmen in that genre include Gerardo
Ramirez, Epifanio Fuentes, Manuel Jimenez, Justo Xuana and Jacobo
This colonial city 80 miles east of Mexico City is the place to
buy the hand-painted, tin-glazed ceramics known as talavera.
Talavera takes many forms, from hand-painted pottery and dishes
to the colorful, painted tiles adorning the interiors and facades
of homes, churches and municipal buildings.
The pottery comes in many colors, although the royal
blue-and-white combination is by far the most popular.
Talavera pottery is expensive because each piece is unique.
Cheap imitations are common, but originals are signed at the base,
indicating they are from Puebla and identifying the workshop that
created the piece.
A good place to shop for talavera is the Mercado El Parian,
where local onyx carvings, clothing, leather goods, marionettes and
other crafts are also for sale.
The Museo Artesanal del Estado de Puebla has a large collection
of arts and crafts from all around the state of Puebla; it also
sells pottery and other goods in its small store.
Most notably, the talavera factory of Uriarte offers tours in
the morning for visitors.
For more information, call (011) 52-222 232-1598 or visit www.uriartetalavera.com.mx.
Mexico's second-largest city is also home to the Mercado
Libertad, the largest indoor market in Latin America.
More than 1,000 vendors sell local blown glass, leather goods
and handicrafts produced in the city and its surroundings.
Just outside the city limits, the town of Tlaquepaque is famous
for its folk and fine art, in particular fine ceramics, pottery,
blown glass, brass, copper and leather goods.
Tlaquepaque's highlights include La Avenida Independencia, which
is lined with shops, and the Museo Regional de la Ceramica, where
works by master potters are on display.
Visitors can see artisans in action at the blown-glass factory
La Rosa de Cristal, open Mondays through Saturdays.
Zacoalco de Torres, a small town located just south of
Guadalajara, is home to the famous equipales furniture, a tradition
that dates to pre-Hispanic times.
Equipales comes from the Aztec word icpalli, meaning "seat," and
this traditional furniture is made of pigskin, willow and cedar
wood, woven together with natural fibers.
It is a popular style all over Mexico and considered an
important part of the culture of the country.
San Miguel de Allende
Set among the hills of central Mexico, this colonial town has
long been a haven for artists, musicians and retirees from around
Its local specialty is wrought iron and metalwork, including tin
lamps, plates, trays, candelabras, picture frames and mirrors
hammered by hand and often painted in bright, translucent colors or
detailed with brass or copper.
Local artisans also produce designer clothing, sophisticated
leather accessories, wood carvings, glass boxes and silver
The town's colonial furniture is some of the finest produced in
Two markets of note here: The Mercado de Artesanias features
vendor stalls selling excellent local arts and crafts. The open-air
Mercado Ignacio Ramirez is where less-expensive souvenirs can be
The colonial town of Taxco clings to a mountainside in central
Mexico. Known as Mexico's silver capital, Taxco has hundreds of
shops selling handmade jewelry, frames, jewelry boxes and
Semiprecious stones such as topaz, opals, garnets, turquoise and
amethyst are set in jewelry or sold loose.
Casa Humboldt, a state-run store, is a good place to get an
overview of silverware and other local crafts.
The Spratling Museum features pre-Colombian artifacts and an
exhibit on local silver mining.
To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].