Huarachero Tanners.Posted: November 18, 2011
Huarache making and tanning have always been very closely tied in Mexico (see past post ‘Huaraches Nube Magazine Article. ‘La curtiduria en Huajaupan. Arte en el olvido.‘), as my research on Huaraches deepens, I’m witnessing first hand how some Huaracheros, especially in rural communities also do their own tanning. The motive is usually the same; the increasing prices of vegetable tanned leathers has driven Huaracheros to learn leather tanning, to reduce costs their and become self sufficient in their craft.
Although vegetable is the most common form tanning, some Huaracheros also mineral chrome tan, sometimes even in their kitchen. The ingredients are quite varied and they sometimes add a personal touch of sugar or even panela cheese to the traditional tanning solution.
Daily contact with natural materials such as leather and transforming the leather into a product makes many Huaracheros very resourceful and practical. For example they can use the sheep leather for Huaraches and the wool for yarn or as in this case pillow stuffing. Its fascinating to think that all they need is an animal to make footwear.
One Huarachero told me how he once saw a dead German Shepherd on the side of the street, so he took it home, tanned the skin and sold it for Coyote. And I also heard a story of high quality specialty Huaraches made in Sahuayo from dog skin that are exceptionally soft yet hard wearing. Reluctant to believe the story at the time, it seems quite likely now that I’m meeting so many Huarachero Tanners.