They don’t make Huaraches soles as thick as these anymore. Huaraches “Tres Vueltas” from just outside the Central Market in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.
Forgive me if you find this is a bit of a mash-up post, re-cycling already published images of Huaraches. However the information I picked up on a recent trip to Chiapas was too good not to share.
I have already posted about “Caites, the Evolution of Pre-Hispanic Footwear?“, but have recently found out how to buy them if any readers are interested in getting their hands on centuries old footwear design.
For anyone interested in “Caites” and considering buying a pair the first thing they should know is that they aren’t called “Caites”. In Tzotzil they are called “Cuch Chac Xonobil”, “Xonobil” meaning shoe.
Secondly ”Cuch Chac Xonobil” are mostly made to order and usually take about a week to make, so give yourself time to make the purchase.
The easiest way to order a pair of “Cuch Chac Xonobil” is to visit the Sunday morning market in San Juan de Chamula just outside San Cristobal de Las Casas. Once there you will see on one side of the central Plaza the “Alcaldes” town leaders in traditional dress including “Cuch Chac Xonobil”.
Photo Via ‘Popular Arts of Mexico’, by Kojin Tonyama
And on another side just below the “Chamula” statue a group of Huaracheros like the ones below selling Huaraches.
Photo By Sean Sprague and Via Mexicolore
You can ask one of these Huaracheros if they will make you a “Cuch Chac Xonobil” for the following week.
The starting price is a steep 500-600 Pesos which I think you can barter down. At the same time I only saw the town leaders wearing ”Cuch Chac Xonobil”, so maybe the high price is justified by their exclusivity.
Nevertheless if lowering the price isn’t possible consider ordering a traditional pair with an all leather sole made with the traditional 7 layers as shown in the photo above, instead of the modern rubber sole version. Make sure the also heel curls upwards.
Unlike almost all of mainstream footwear, Huarache leather is still vegetable tanned using tree bark. Few tanneries in the world still offer vegetable tanned leathers because of the slower tanning process and higher material costs.
Not only are the barks and organic matter used to add pigment to the leather renewable, but the vegetable tanning solution doesn’t create toxic carcinogenic bi-products such as Chromium VI to which tannery workers and waterways can be exposed to.
The natural benefits of vegetable tanned leather are that the organic tanning process has a much lesser environmental impact and the leather maintains some of its natural quality to stretch and adapt to your foot shape.
Jesús and Antonio González the father and son tanners still practice this traditional and centuries old tanning method. Like their ancestors they tan mostly by hand. They are considered by many local Huaracheros to be the best vegetable tannery in the Mexican state of Colima and craftsmen will travel from neighbouring states just to buy their leather.
I was privileged to be able to learn and see this natural tanning craft that is still being practiced here in Mexico.
Due to the natural tanning process and the thickness of the hides, the tanning takes between 25 and 30 days per hide/batch.
The González tannery offers a variety of hides from goat to pig and they also tan single rawhide for individual customers. But their mostly tanned leather is bovine, the same leather that is used to make Huaraches.
Their most popular item is bull leather (in the photo below) which is tanned with the pod of local “Cascalote” vine. Bull leather has a more consistent thickness and is mostly used to make Huarache soles.
Because Cow leather naturally thins out near the belly, the thicker area from the back is used to make Huaraches weaving strips and the thinner parts from the belly are used to make the softer upper parts.
As many tanneries are very guarded about revealing their process, I consider myself very lucky to have been so generously guided through their entire vegetable tanning process and gained greater awareness as to how traditional Huarache leather is made.
Coming soon a step by step guide and insight into the traditional vegetable leather tanning process used by the Gonzálezes.
Vincente Torres Perez and Jacinto Lucas De La Cruz are the last remaining Huaracheros in Atoyac, Jalisco.
The Huaraches in Atoyac have the distinctively pointed soles. Srs. Torres and Lucas make many styles and their most popular are the “Tejido” in the “Finito” (fine weave) version.
The “Tejido Sencillo” Huarache with the “Fuerza” strip of leather on the toe.
And the “Tejido Sencillo” Huarache.
They also refurbish old Huaraches, something I have never seen before. In this case the customer wanted to keep the original leather sole and an new upper was woven into it.
All their Huaraches are made using the same traditional techniques using wooden mesquite lasts.
Many Huaraches are also made to measure.
All the strips of leather are softened in oil and water and left to dry overnight before weaving.
The workshop “Taller” where Don Vincente and Don Lucas work is about as authentic as it gets.
A cool open space with adobe walls and a thatched roof, old wooden tools and vegetable tanned leathers abounding.
They still had a child’s version to the traditional field Huarache the “Alcapoyo”. This Huarache style is one of the oldest and simplest styles. The likely successor of the “Pata de Gallo” and the design bridging that to the complex woven ones we see today.
For orders Don Vincente and Don Lucas can be reached at the following number: 413.841.0215
FIRST ARRIVALS – The úkata “Cien Clavos” by Huaraches Martínez – The Finest Work Huaraches in MexicoPosted: March 11, 2013
BACK IN STOCK!
úkata is proud to offer their first Huaraches for sale.
The “Cien Clavos” Huaraches are made by José Martínez from the small town of Mazamitla, nestled in the pine covered hills of the Sierra Tigre in Southern Jalisco. José Martínez is continuing in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, making the same traditional Huarache designs. A true craftsman, he works alone finishing one, or sometimes 2 pairs per day, while organically tanning his own leathers using mimosa tree bark.
The “Cien Clavos” or “Hundred Nails” design is so called because of the many nails used in the sole. The character of the “Cien Clavos” isn’t trend driven so you’ll never grow tired of this unique Huarache design. The Huarache upper unlike that of other footwear will only get better with age, as the vegetable tanned full grain leather slowly forms to your foot shape and gains a rich golden honey patina over time.
Made in the traditional Huarache way, the ”Cien Clavos” is entirely hand cut without cutting dies. The upper is lined using a pedal powered leather sewing machine, after which it is nailed to a wooden mesquite last where it is hand woven into the insole using only a single strip of leather cut from the center of the hide. A continuous leather strip that is cut and skived freehand and yet with incredible precision from years of practice. The sole is made from a reclaimed truck tire which José Martínez thins down, cuts and washes before nailing to the woven Huarache upper (the nails provide a very strong hold so no glue is used to join the sole). Unlike other Huaraches, the “Cien Clavos” has a closed heel which was originally used for horse riding, and the vamp partially covers the toes which makes the Huaraches an interesting shoe/sandal hybrid.
The “Cien Clavos” Huarache is a signature Martínez design and is made in very limited quantities. You will not find market or souvenir huaraches of a comparable quality and design. Nor will you likely find footwear crafted by the same artisan who also tans their own leather anywhere in the world.
Introducing Señor José Martínez the Master Huarachero and maker of the one of a kind “Cien Clavos” Huaraches.
By purchasing úkata Huaraches, you will be championing talented Huarachero artisans for their incredible handmade footwear, that is also gentle to the environment and deep rooted in Mexican history.
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Presenting úkata, Huarache Blog’s online store selling rare Huarache designs crafted by the most skilled artisans.
The name úkata means ‘craft’ in Purepecha an ancient language from Central Mexico where Huarache Blog began. Fittingly the indigenous Mexican Purepecha are considered the finest craftspeople in Mexico and are especially well known for their weaving abilities.
úkata hopes to offer readers around the world the opportunity to wear and experience the best Huaraches. Unique footwear where both leather and design are handcrafted, in some special cases by the same artisan. Timeless footwear design that has been made the same way by the Huarachero and his family for 2, 3 and sometimes 4 generations.
úkata aims to support Huaracheros by selling their Huaraches in periods of low sales and in limited quantities, so as not to disrupt any existing trade which they maintain with existing long term retail partners.
Talented Huaracheros who are being sidelined by the rise of branded factory footwear, increasing costs of leather and the declining prices of the local Huarache market. úkata will promote their craftsmanship to a global audience with the long term objective to help elevate the craft of Huaraches by selling only the finest examples. Increasing exposure and demand for high quality Huarache design to encourage highly skilled artisans continue refining their craft and grow their business, hiring employees and passing down their Huarache making knowledge to future generations.
Because sometimes Huaraches can also be for scrolling.
A new Huarache Blog Tumblr page for old and new images of traditional Mexican Footwear, from Huarache Blog and from the web.
Check out http://huaracheblog.tumblr.com/
There are Huaraches north of old Mexico.
As a craftsman of sorts, I understand that making a "one-off" of something does not imply expertise and replication builds a real understanding of the object being produced. However, this is certainly not my first leather working or shoemaking project but a major improvement on a theme. The lasts I purchased earlier in the year on Ebay have finally been used to actually make a shoe so I documented the process as it came along last week; mistakes and changes included in the process.
A few weeks ago Huarache Blog published some Dolce & Gabbana photos of runway models wearing woven “Tejido” Huarache designs which were part of the 2013 Men’s Summer Collection.
It’s always interesting to see international brands using traditional Mexican Huarache inspiration in their footwear line.
Below is a first look at the Dolce & Gabbana Vesuvio Woven Crust and Leather Sandals which will be available this coming March 31st.
For more international brand Huarache inspiration check out my other posts titled :-