Bernal Díaz del Castillo, in his admirable history of the discovery and conquest of Mexico, testified to the high development of Mexican folk art at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards. In the great market of Tenochtitlán everything imaginable was to be found: jewelry of gold and silver, beautifully engraved; feather mosaics; cotton textiles in marvelous colors; utensils of carved wood, bone, and copper; pottery from Cholula and the land of the Tarascans, extraordinary both in form and decoration; paper made of maguey fibre painted and cut into magnificent ritual ornaments; deer hides expressly prepared for the paintings that were made in great numbers; objects made of shell and motherof-pearl, carved with great delicacy; and an innumerable variety of other ornaments, essentially plastic in conception, which were used to adorn brilliant garments. The conqueror could not conceal his amazement at the dazzling riches that surrounded him.
The influence of the Spaniards naturally became apparent in these numerous and diverse objects of popular art, but the authentic stamp of the native Mexican craftsman remained dominant and is to this day in whatever he makes or decorates.
Pottery. The conquerors of course brought new models for native industries to copy, but whether they were the Spanish ceramics from Talavera de la Reina (for which Puebla became the local production center) or those brought from China by Spanish galleons, the Mexican craftsmen left upon their products the indisputable touch of their own pictorial grace. Among them may be cited the pottery from the State of Jalisco, particularly from the village of Tlaquepaque, the pottery of Oaxaca, with its special glaze and shapes; that of Miçhoacán, with the extraordinary variety of styles and designs, from the different villages of Patamba, Hudncito, Santa Fe, and Los Reyes, the toys of Ocumicho; the pottery of Guerrero, which retains the form and decoration of old Mexican pieces -- all these show clearly that the contemporary craftsman still guards a tradition antedating the Conquest, which neither time nor foreign domination has been able to disturb. (Pl. 80.)
Weaving. The "sarape" in universal use today throughout Mexico is derived from the Indian "tilma" (a cloak fastened at the neck by a knot), and from the Spanish-Arabian "manta" (a travel blanket), and it is still woven on primitive hand looms in colors authentically Mexican. Defying foreign influence and triumphing over bad taste, there is still maintained the ancient tradition of the beautiful sarapes sold in the nineteenth century at the famous Saltillo Fair -- but which were actually made in San Luis Potosi, Aguascalientes, SAN Juan de los Lagos, and Nuevo León. There are fine sarapes from Jocotepec (State of Jalisco) soberly decorated with stylized roses and framed with fringes and primitive borders in brilliant colors. There are those from Oaxaca, in which a deer, a red rose, or a Mexican flag appears, rather mysteriously, against a somber black or dark gray background, and those from Santa Ana Chautempan, in the State of Tlaxcala. All these display in their magnificent designs the traditional good taste that has been preserved through the years of our bewildering modern civilization which is, in certain ways, the mortal enemy of the primitive popular arts.
The grace and finesse of the native spirit persists likewise in other textile crafts. For example, "rebozos" (shawls) range from the exquisite silks of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with inscriptions and designs woven in gold and silver thread, to those now being made in Santa Maria and other places in the Republic. Drawn work is executed with incredible delicacy. For their apparel and other cloth articles of everyday use, the Indians make handsome embroideries and textiles. There are also, in certain articles of carved and hammered leather for the trappings of the "charro" and his mount, rich embroideries in gold and silver thread.
Lacquer. The lacquer makers of Michoacçn still use the technique of their pre-Conquest ancestors. The, "aje," a mucilaginous substance ex
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Publication information: Book title: Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art:Veinte Siglos de Arte Mexicano. Contributors: Museum of Modern Art - OrganizationName. Publisher: Instituto de Antropologaia e Historia. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1940. Page number: 109.
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