Taller De Curtiduria González – Vegetable Tanning the Best Huarache LeathersPosted: April 20, 2013
Unlike almost all of mainstream footwear, Huarache leather is still vegetable tanned using wood. Few tanneries in the world still offer vegetable tanned leathers because of the slower tanning process and higher raw material costs.
Not only are the wood and organic matter used to tan the leather renewable, but the vegetable tanning solution doesn’t create toxic carcinogenic bi-products such as Chromium IV 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 and unlike modern tanneries still tan by hand.
They are considered by many local Huaracheros to be the best vegetable tannery in the Mexican state of Colima and craftsmen who can afford the trip will travel from neighboring 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 photographic insight into the traditional vegetable leather tanning process used by the Gonzálezes. With the hope that the graphic nature of the tanning process doesn’t offend any readers.