It’s More Than a Feria

By Harriet Hart


The 2018 Feria Maestros del Arte will be much more than a feria. It will be a country fair at its best when the grassy area on the lakeshore next to The Chapala Yacht Club is temporarily transformed into a happening that includes a Mexican folk art exposition and marketplace, a learning opportunity, charitable event, cultural exchange, and entertainment venue complete with fashion show, music and food. This year’s theme will be The Colors of Nature.

Mexican Folk Art Exposition and Marketplace

Alebrijes galoreOver 84 artisans from Jalisco, Michoacán, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Campeche, Chihuahua, Mexico, Puebla, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas are coming, along with hundreds of volunteers and an expected 4,000+ attendees. It is an amazing sight when buses start arriving from Chiapas, Oaxaca and Michoacan, unloading artisans and piles of colorful carvings, textiles, rugs, clay pots, alebrijes, baskets, clothing, dolls, and other iconic Mexican art work ready to be organized and displayed under white tents against the green grass and shimmering lake.

Along with the original idea of creating a marketplace for Mexican folk art artisans, folk art lovers and collectors, the Feria exists to bring awareness to the plight of Mexican folk art — in this global economy, Mexican folk and indigenous art is a fragile commodity. Handmade, generally from local materials and with techniques and craftsmanship that has been handed down for generations, Mexican folk art doesn’t mesh with modern technology and mass production objectives.

Many of the artisans are growing older and their children are leaving their villages for jobs to support their families contributing to the very real possibility that much of Mexico’s folk art will disappear over time. The Feria is about saving this art and helping the artisans who produce it.

“The Feria isn’t an art show … it’s a heart show.”

Marianne Carlson, Founder

Artists do not pay any fees or percentage of sales. They are hosted by Lakeside residents and the artists’ transportation to the Feria is also paid by the Feria. Participation in the Feria is a unique community event. Every year, extraordinary cross-cultural bonds are forged between families of diverse backgrounds. For many artists, it is their first contact with the outside Mexican art world, and every centavo of what they earn goes home with them.

For some artisans, the Feria is a major part of their annual income. Founder Marianne Carlson has seen artisans build houses, send their children to school, and pay for needed health care with money earned at the Feria. One of the best indicators of success is that the Feria can see many of the younger generation staying in their villages, learning the ancient family traditions. Marianne says, “Without the kind of intervention Feria Maestros del Arte provides, the world’s most creative culture could lose its exceptional heritage.”

Esteban de la Cruz Cabrera GroA Learning Opportunity

Last year, to help people understand the processes and materials that are the foundation of Mexican Folk Art, the Feria Maestros del Arte initiated a series of educational presentations. The series was such a hit that it will be continued this year.

In 2017, Dreamweavers, a cooperative from Oaxaca gave a presentation about men who go into a hazardous sea to pry the purpura snail from the rocks and gently coax its “milk” onto the cotton yarn they carry with them. In the sunlight, this liquid turns a luxurious purple and is used to dye fabric. The presentation included a video and a chance to hold one of the endangered purpura shells and led to this year’s theme: The Colors of Nature.

Dreamweavers are returning in 2018 to share their amazing story and more about what they are doing to protect the endangered snail. Their talk is titled Ancient Traditions: Purple Magic from an Endangered Snail.

Other educational presentations scheduled for this year include:

Marta Turok: The challenges of sustainability and natural dyes and the future of two of the most iconic Mexican garments, the huipil and the rebozo. The first is a traditional garment worn by indigenous women across Mexico. Made from cotton, wool or silk; it is woven on a back-strap loom and decorated with embroidery, ribbons or lace. The rebozo originally called a lienza is also woven on a back-strap loom and originally made from maguey or henequen fibers. After the Spaniards arrived, the rebozo (from the Spanish verb rebozar) was used to cover the head when entering a church. The garment has become multi-purpose and is worn by women from all walks of life. Both of these textile garments are in danger of disappearing due to modern technology, mass production and changing fashion.

Mariano Cilau Valadez 1Mariano & Cilau Valadez: will provide an overview of the deep spiritual beliefs expressed in colorful Huichol yarn art. The Huichol are an indigenous tribe who formerly lived undisturbed in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. Their spiritual way of life, based on a reverence for the natural world, is depicted in their bright yarn paintings — white symbolizes clouds, blue water, green the earth, and so on.

Guadalupe (Lupe) García Rios: The making of hi gh-fired ceramics using ancient Purépecha symbols.

Jacobo Mendoza: Beyond colors and shapes: Zapotec rug weaving, symbols and working with colors from nature.

A Charitable Event

A special spirit touches lakeside communities. Perhaps it’s the generous spirit of Teomichicihualli, the goddess of the lake, hovering over us; perhaps it’s the meeting of need with opportunity as hundreds of retired immigrants recognize needs that call out to them. Whatever the cause, many people here are touched by this spirit of generosity and wind up spending their time and money helping, whether it’s rescuing stray dogs, bringing food and healthcare to families, teaching English or art or chess or music to children, or helping create a better future for thousands of folk artists across the country. Lakeside is a community with heart. When the Board of Directors of the Feria came together to determine their mission, it came down to four words: More than a Feria.

Operation Feed in San Juan Cosalá was selected as beneficiary of the Feria raffle; each artist who has a booth is asked to contribute a piece of his or her work. The Operation Feed volunteers sell the raffle tickets, and the Feria donates half of the proceeds to them. Over 84 valuable pieces of art are raffled over the three days.

garciaguadalupe bowl5 largeThe Lake Chapala Society Children’s Art Program is another beneficiary. The Feria sponsors a Concurso, or annual judged art contest, in which the young artists draw or paint to a theme, this year’s being nature. The entries are judged ahead of time, with winners announced on stage at the Feria. Prize money is awarded, and the children’s cards and artwork are on sale. This gives the program fabulous exposure to the community.

The Feria reaches out to help artisans with special needs such as those affected by the earthquake in Guerrero or the hurricane in Oaxaca. Artists impacted by these disasters were encouraged to request funds; collection boxes were set up last year to help.


Feria EntertainmentWhat is a fair without food? This year Feria patrons will be able to eat tacos and salads prepared by Doña Lu, fresh sandwiches made by the Swedish Bakery, or you may purchase a healthy Maringa smoothy prepared by the Maringa Madres, part of Operation Feed and who grow the Maringa locally. Tables and chairs for diners are available for tired, hungry and thirsty patrons.

Nearby at the main stage, musicians serenade onlookers. Appearing again this year are the very popular Mariachi Femenil (a female mariachi group) from Tlaquepaque. In addition, there will be other dancing and singing throughout the day. Watch the Feria’s website for up-to-date information about entertainment.

The fashion show is another highlight of the Feria. Mexican and expat models, male and female, adults and children, take the stage around noon to show off the wonderful apparel sold by the vendors. From Panama hats to guayaberas (men’s shirts), huipiles (full-length dresses and waist-length blouses) and rebozos, are accessorized with fabulous jewelry. Models present the master of ceremonies with information about where to purchase what they are wearing. Invariably those artists chosen do very well and some sell out.


Come to Feria Maestros del Arte this year. The dates are November 9-11; the site is the Chapala Yacht Club, the admission just 80 pesos. Discover what a good time you can have at lakeside’s fair that’s more than a Feria. We guarantee you will see some wonderful Mexican art, learn how it is made, help preserve it, participate in a cross-cultural experience that includes music, food, fashion and fun, while helping Mexican artisans and local organizations in the process. And . . . you might even start your own Mexican folk art collection, or add to your existing one.


Ojo Del Lago
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