MAESTROS DEL ARTE CELEBRATES The International Year of the Cooperative!


The International Year of the Cooperative!

By Harriet Hart


feria01The General Assembly of the United Nations has affirmed 2012 as International Year of Cooperatives. Their goal is to bring attention to the many benefits and contributions to economic development that are made through cooperatives. In support of this UN initiative, Feria Maestros del Arte will bring fourteen cooperatives from around Mexico to Ajijic for the 2012 Feria to be held November 16-18 at Plaza de la Ribera, Rio Bravo #10, West Ajijic.

feria02A cooperative is defined as “a business that is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits.” This is the purest type but the most difficult to develop. Members need legal and marketing knowledge to set up and promote their businesses. In Mexico, cooperatives often begin with a founding member. There are some cooperatives where one individual has expanded a business to employ others, allowing for several artists to make a living with their art and teaching novices an artistic trade they had no prior access to.

The Feria is proud to support this year-long, world-wide UN endeavor by bringing the following cooperatives to lakeside:

Tilcajete, alebrijes from Oaxaca

Artesanias Campesinas (ARTCAMP), weaving from Guerrero

Artesanias Zani, woven palm figures and jewelry from Jalisco

Cooperativa Jolom Ancianos Mayaetik, clothing and weaving from Chiapas

Centro de Intregracion Tapalpa, paper mache from Jalisco

Corporacion Equipales, equipales from Jalisco

El Jorongo, woven clothing from Michoacán

Huichol Center for Cultural Survival & Traditional Arts, Huichol jewelry from Jalisco

Instituto Casa de Chiapas, fine amber jewelry from Chiapas

Instituto Desarrollo Artesanal de Zacatecas, textiles from Zacatecas

Original Friends Prison Project, dolls made by female prison inmates from Jalisco

Taller Leñateros, handmade paper and books from Chiapas

LCS Children’s Art Program, children’s art from Jalisco

Projecto Tarahumara, folk art from Chihuahua.

feria04Here are two in detail. Tilcajete Carved Wood Alebrijes

—This workshop from Oaxaca is an example of the commerce style of cooperative started by one artist, Jacobo Angeles Ojeda. It now employs 25 to 30 people.

At an early age, Jacobo began practicing the craft of woodcarving with his father. When he was twelve years old, his father passed away and the responsibility for providing for the family fell on Jacobo’s young shoulders. Jacobo is an extremely talented woodcarver of folk art animals and creatures called alebrijes. His hand carved creations with human faces reflect the Náhuatl belief that humans transform into animal spirits at night.

Originally, Jacobo collected his copal wood in the mountains and preferred twisted branches because they gave the pieces movement. 

His pieces often require a month’s time to produce because of their delicate painting, as well as his practice of drying them in the sun for long period of time, the best protection against later infestation of the wood by insects.

One of Jacobo’s specialities is painting using Native American decorative elements. His wife, María, learned to paint as a child and is currently learning this special technique. He keeps his family tradition alive by working on the table that his father worked on 25 years ago.

gatoTaller Leñateros Mayan Cooperative of Paper Makers & Artists of Nature

Taller Leñateros is an alliance of Mayan and mestizo women and men, founded in 1975 by the Mexican poet Ambar Past. Among its objectives is the documentation and dissemination of Indian and popular cultural values found in song, literature and folk art. They rescue endangered techniques such as the extraction of dyes from wild plants, generating worthwhile, decently-paid employment for women and men.

Taller Leñateros has created a space for artists and artists-to-be where they teach the arts of paper making, binding, solar silk screening, woodcutting and the manufacturing of natural dyes. They recycle agricultural and industrial wastes in order to create crafts and objects of art.

In their group, all the members of the Workshop participate in decisions, contributing work-proposals in order to benefit both individuals and the group. Although they are not all from one same culture and speak different languages, they are committed to a common project. Once servants, washer-women, wandering vendors or the unemployed, they now own their own business.

The members, called Woodlanders, gather dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees and collect firewood without chopping down the forest. They come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of pitch pine for the hearths of the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. They lead their burros through the morning mist, selling firewood from house to house, offering pine needles to spread on the floors, plus moss, bromeliads and orchids.

They collect withered flowers from the churches, and pine needles trampled in yesterday’s festival. They gather rattan, lichen, banana-leaves, corn-husks, bridal-veil, mahagua, bean-pods, maguey-tongues, reeds, coconut-shells, gladiola-stems, palm-fronds, grass, papyrus, cattails, pampas grass and bamboo, along with recycled paper and old clothes; raw materials deemed useless by others. The natural world inspires them: objects like the fossil of a tropical leaf or the texture of a seashell.

Come to the Feria this year to be inspired by the beautiful crafts developed by these special Mexican cooperatives. Your support will impact an entire community!



circulo verde
jacobo armadillo
jarron calaveras




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