Los Rojas of Huetamo, a Huarachero Dynasty – Evolving the Huarache of Huetamo.Posted: January 5, 2012
The Mexican newspaper Despertar Del Sur recently published an article titled ‘Los Rojas, de Huetamo, dinastia de huaracheros’ (click on title to link to the original article in Spanish – clic el titulo para el link al artículo original en español), written by Ángel Ramírez Ortuño. The article offers a brief but good insight into the Huarache industry on a local level.
The article is about the Los Rojas a Huarachero family in a small but important Huarachero community in Huetamo, Michoacan. Its worth mentioning that even today one Huarache style made in Huetamo is easily recognized for its distinct style. It’s similar to the ‘Arana’, but the leather strips over the forefoot hook around each other and turn back towards the sole instead of crossing right over the foot. Below is a photo a this style of Huarache from Huetamo.
According to the article the Los Rojas Family drove the change to use new colours and materials to meet the fashion demands of consumers. Below is an example of this, a ‘Camo’ textile version as sold at the local Market in Iguala, Guerrero. An inspired attempt to innovate and evolve the traditional Huarache design.
Below is a translation of the article ‘Los Rojas, de Huetamo, dinastia de huaracheros’ :-
Huetamo, Michoacan. The Huarache industry in Huetamo is a mainstay of the lean local economy and is highlighted through three generations of Rojas family members and current owners of Huarachería ‘La Herencia’ (The Inheritance), which in 60 years has remained relevant, progressive and successful despite being the focus of the jealousy from those known as ‘Poquiteros’ i.e. the traditional huaracheros still working in a rudimentary way (from the Mexican word ‘Poquitero’ meaning ‘person with small business’).
In the Los Rojas huarache dynasty the name of Jose Rojas Villaseñor stands out, the industry pioneer in the family he is followed by his son Pedro Rojas Ballesteros and the family extends further with his grandson Pedro Rojas Cardenas who has his own workshop on the street Alvaro Obregon 43, in Colonia El Terrero, which is where we are discussing the details of this traditional industry comprised of leather, rubber and staples.
Rojas Ballesteros explains that one day they decided to restructure and change the old beams of the huarachería. “so I did as Marco Antonio Solis did, I was in the bathroom thinking what new things to do and out came ideas for new materials, new designs and colors, which made us leaders in the local market, but also the center of the ‘Poquiteros’s’ envy, that is those still working well within the conformity.”
“My experience in the huarache business began at age seven”, Ballesteros adds, “and that’s when I learned about tanning, the cascalote tree, the piles of hides at the rivers edge and the leather trade. All of which allowed the development of the old stapled sandals with tire rubber sole and the vegetable tanned cowhide strips of leather. Sandals, which contrasted red coloured strips with natural white leather colour and all which were woven by the expert hands of formidable local huaracheros working with us.”
“Then came the changes with the ‘Oscaria’ leather huarache, whose leather had already been treated and it became fashionable, then patent leather became fashionable and when I was 10 years old it was the cross-front sandal and with crossed straps, followed by the ‘doblillado’ with padded sole. All were made using genuine bovine leather until the design change came in the 2005 when the first coloured Huarache sandals appeared.”
“However all our efforts to offer better quality Huaraches to our consumers were unfortunately copied by other local huaracheros who copied our designs and lowered the price on the market. Remember that developing new colors gave us a lot more work since not all coloured leather is good to make ‘correa’ leather strip for Huaraches and in modernizing we also used new leathers such as ostrich skin which can cost of up to five thousand pesos.”
“We also worked with iguana skin, but realized that it was an endangered animal meant coming into problems so we decided to leave it. Now we only have four full-time workers all weavers, while my son and I will take care of skin cuts and rubber and for distribution and sales we have three shops in Huetamo.”
“We know competition will become increasingly hard, but with all the efforts that we have made so far we have not needed to get any funding and we shall persist in this way. That’s the difference between us and others, since we are independent.”
At the end of the talk Pedro Rojas Cardenas, the third in Rojas family line gives us his local phone number (453) 556 37 68 and also his web page www.huaracheshuetamo.com