When you come to next weekend’s Feria Maestros del Arte at lakeside, you will be seeing more than Mexican folk art and colorful costumes.
You will be meeting Mexico in a way few travelers do.
For instance, several days before the fair, Zenaida Hernández Gómez and Cristina Hernández Pérez have been packing and organizing the textile works from the 50 women who make up Compa Lucha, a cooperative from villages in the municipality of Chenalhó, Chiapas. The two women are from the village of Yaxgemel Unión, population 362, who call themselves an Abejas (Bees) community. They will join 40 other artists from Chiapas for a long bus ride to the Feria where each artist will set up their woven and embroidered textiles, pottery, hand carved kitchen utensils, jewelry, rugs, and much more.
If you wanted to visit them, you would most likely have to fly into the modern airport outside Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a bustling capital city of 500,000 and take a bus or taxi into the highlands where the stunning, colonial city of San Cristóbal de las Casas sits at 2,200 meters (7,200 feet). Continuing the journey to Yaxgemel, you would leave San Cristóbal and drive into the sparsely populated, mountainous backroads of Mexico. Eventually, you would reach Chenalhó, a town of about 3,000. From there you would have to ask directions from the locals, most of whom don’t speak English or Spanish, because Yaxgemel isn’t on Google Maps.
Of course, you could also just come to the beautiful Yacht Club in Chapala and meet Zenaida and Cristina in person and see their incredible rebozos, huipils and other hand-made and embroidered items. If you have time and find one of the many Spanish-speaking Feria volunteers to help you, you could also ask them about being part of an Abejas community. Abejas is a Christian pacifist civil society group of Tzotzil Maya formed in Chenalhó in 1992 following a property dispute that left one person dead and a controversy about who was at fault.
When the Zapatista Army of National Liberation uprising took place in 1994, Las Abejas stood in solidarity with the the principles being fought for, but not their violent means. They paid a high price for their support when 45 of their members were massacred while praying in a church.
Zenaida and Cristina represent only one story and one form of folk art that you will encounter at the Feria. There are 83 other booths of authentic Mexican folk art and artisans from all over Mexico with their own stories and art handed down through the generations. To help visitors understand more of the deep background of this art and the artisans who make it, the Feria presents a series of speakers and demonstrations twice daily in Tent 1.
Friday, November 9, ceramicist Guadalupe Garcia Rios will speak from 10:30-11:30 a.m. and rug weaver Jacobo Mendoza will speak 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 10, the Dream Weavers will speak from 10:30-11:30 a.m. and Martha Turok will speak about rebozos and sarapes, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 11, Martha Turok will talk about the challenges of sustainability and natural dyes, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Cilau Valadez will present Huichol yarn paintings, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
So, when you come to the Feria Maestros del Arte, not only will you meet Mexico in three days, you will be playing a part in saving Mexican folk art for the future. In small villages all over Mexico, families are making beautiful art.
The Feria is a non-profit organization that charges no fees or commissions and pays for all the transportation costs for the artists.
All of the money the artists earn at the Feria goes home with them, and, for many it is their major source of income for the year. Your purchases represent more than beautiful things, they are a connection to real people and real stories from actual families living in remote villages, working every day to bring their art to you during this one three-day event every year.
A fashion show will be held daily showcasing Panama hats, guayaberas (men’s shirts), huipiles (full-length dresses and waist-length blouses) and rebozos (shawls), accessorized with fabulous jewelry. Models present the master of ceremonies with information about where to purchase what they are wearing.
This year, Feria patrons will be able to eat tacos and salads prepared by Doña Lu, fresh sandwiches made by the Swedish Bakery or a healthy Maringa smoothy prepared by the Maringa Madres, part of Operation Feed, which grows the Maringa locally. Tables and chairs for diners are available for tired, hungry and thirsty patrons.