A few weeks ago, while on holiday in Mexico I visited Senor Porfirio Montero Ortiz in Umán, a small town just south west of Merida, Yucatán.
“Don Pio” as he is affectionately known by everyone locally, has been making Alpargatas for almost 60 years since he was just 12 years old.
This huge mural in the photo below was painted by a local artist called Arnold Daniel Cruz Cetina, also Datoer, or Datoergs on Instagram. And is part of a series of portraits called “Pintado Recuerdos”, or Painted Memories.
Like Huaraches, Alpargatas are traditional Mexican footwear from the Yucatán peninsula. The earliest style is probably the “Aplargatas de Orejas” meaning “Eared” Alpargatas (please use the search bar on the top right to find more posts). They are simply made from a leather sole and Henequen/Sisal chord, and are similar to the “Pata de Gallo” Huaraches from Central and Western Mexico.
Don Pio is a master craftsman and makes some of the best Alpargatas in the Yucatán peninsula, some of which have won prizes in regional crafts competitions. The quality of his work and detail of his designs means that at the most he can make not more than 2 pairs per day.
Probably the most iconic regional style of Alpargatas are the “Chillonas”, a man’s style which are often used for dancing the local Jarana Yucateca dance.
“Chillonas” literally means “Squeakers” and are called this way because of the squeaky sound created by the multi layered leather soles while dancing.
Then there is the interesting “De Cordel” Alpargata which is an embellished version of the “De Oreja” Alpargatas which are commonly worn in the countryside.
And the “Cruzado” Alpargata is also an embellished version of the traditional style sandals.
A true artisan, Don Pio also wears his own designs which is quite unusual for Huaracheros.
The workshop of Don Pio is at Calle 21 N.113, just located behind the Town Hall in Umán, Yucatán.
Tel. 999.448.5859 and 999.645.9839
And on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Talabartería-Umán-181516822012752/
More photos soon on Huarache Blog on Instagram
Tejiendo Nuestros Pasos is a stunning and truly authentic short documentary that softly reveals the often overlooked humanity that lies behind Huaraches.
It follows 3 Huarachero Artisans through their Huarache making process, as they talk about their life in Tacambaro a small town in the south of Michoacan state.
Daniel Ysi Zarco and his team created and filmed this documentary in reaction to the closing of so many Huarache workshops in Tacambaro during his life, with the loss of local identity and economic self sufficiency caused by the growth of modern long range distribution and mass production.
“Profit and tradition in rural manufacture: Sandal production in Sahuayo, Michoacan, Mexico” – PhD Thesis by Victoria Forbes AdamPosted: April 10, 2019
A few weeks ago Ana Alicia a reader of Huarache Blog kindly pointed me to a 25 year old PhD Thesis about Huaraches Production in Sahuayo, but which I wasn’t able to download.
But then following this post a few days ago I received a message from Alex who was able to very kindly download the Thesis for me.
I have just start reading it and it is very interesting, but also so very well written that I feel both kindred and a bit jealous of Victoria Forbes Adam’s perspective and talent. It appears to be very thorough research about the History of Huarache making in Sahuayo, from process to politics. Why the footwear making process in Sahuayo never fully industrialized like other parts of the world and why cooperatives never succeeded. So far I have read many points that based on my personal experience are still very relevant today, and I think that local government and Huarache workers in Sahuayo would also do well to learn about to develop this unique business further.
However to download the Thesis is not easy because you must first access the ProQuest thesis library/database which requires an affiliation with a University.
But as soon as I have read the Thesis, I will publish some excerpts which I think are the most interesting and relevant. In the meantime if you would like to find the Thesis to download yourself, the link below should take you straight there.
ProQuest Dissertations Publishing:1994
Thank you to everyone for your kind help.
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Nowadays brightly colored Huaraches are quite normal, but in 2010 when I first arrived in Mexico all Huaraches were either tan, or chocolate brown color..Sure there was also the Green, White and Red style worn by Wixarika, but unbelievably Huarache design didn’t include bright colours.
If 8 years ago you asked any artisan to make colored Huaraches and they would reply skeptically that “colored Huaraches looked strange and were not commercial”. I thought maybe because they were still mostly focusing on men’s styles.
And it was almost impossible to find affordable colored vegetable tanned leather in Mexico, because there was little to no demand for it.
Then around 2013, I noticed some bright purple and turquoise hand painted leather women’s Huarache styles. Despite admiring the improvised tenacity of Anukia, my first impression was that hand painting the natural colored tan leather looked crude and made the Huaraches look coated and unrefined.
But the result was a surprising massive colorful explosion of leather weaves, mostly in the Huarache making town of Sahuayo, Michoacán.
And the beggining of a National and International Huarache tsunami, boom of colored women’s Huaraches which was a lifeline to the craft of Huarache making.
From some of the biggest international footwear fashion brands, to small social entrepreneur start-ups and the smallest family workshops, by 2015 the coloured Huarache had become a global footwear sensation.
Such a big demand also led to coloured veg. tan leather production and therefore even the few remaining Mexican veg. tanneries also benefitted. And today Huarache veg. tan leather has become widely available in many colours and has a rich smooth finish.
The Huarache craft is flourishing again and it all began thanks to Anukia who introduced a few hand painted coloured Huaraches, made in a small family workshop.
Anukia a creative couple from Guadalajara who started an International coloured Huaraches trend.
Anukia, the original coloured fashion Huarache.
To give credit, where credit is due, I recently contacted them to congratulate them. Please click to the next page, after the jump to read what they told me about their journey.
Compare the content of Huarache Blog and the Huarache Directory to other sources on Huaraches either online (pinterest, instagram, facebook), or in books and I think you will agree there exists nothing similar. Without travelling to Mexico, who, or where else can you learn about the craft of Mexican Huaraches, or contact Huarache Artisans directly?
Please share the link of this blog and the Huarache Directory if you think they are interesting.
Because despite tagging with multiple words including Huarache, Huaraches, or Guaraches, and the word Huarache being written countless times, unfortunately this Blog’s content is disappearing from Google search and being replaced and drowned out by commercial websites and photos of generic sport shoes and mass produced sandals.
And unfortunately the same is happening with http://www.thehuarachedirectory.wordpress.com the only resource dedicated to putting people directly in contact with Huarache artisans. I’m at a loss for words as to why this not for profit important service is being burried by less valuable content?
Without spending money on SEO agencies, I’m not sure how else can I promote the craft of Huaraches? Especially now that I no longer live in Mexico, it’s impossible for me to regularly update this blog.
Maybe the Google algorithm does not consider old blog posts relevant as newer publications. Or most Google users are looking specifically to buy Huarache branded sport shoes, so its hard to fault an algorithm that is doing an excellent job of identifying the most relevant websites.
But I’m saddened that over time fewer people will be able access, or come across this site via search engines and instead be shown links to retail providing only commercial mainstream footwear. For old Huarache Blog readers none of this will matter, but what about all the new readers? What Huarache content will be accessible to them online in the future?
Really, I wouldn’t mind if my Huarache infirmation was replaced by equally relevant, or better content. If someone in Mexico would post about the craft of Huaraches and promote Artisans I would gladly support and promote their blog. But so far no one seems to be stepping up.
It seems that Google search is becoming an online supermarket. I’ve noticed that Bing search results seem to be more inclusive, balanced and content selective.
Imagine if Wikipedia entries were replaced by commercial products and brands sharing the same name. If it became difficult to access informative content.
Unfortunately Wikipedia won’t even mention, or publish the link to Huarache Blog because their rules state that blogs are unreliable sources of information.
Is this the future we want for the internet?
The internet should be for learning and sharing, as much as it should be for buying.
If you happen to reach this blog, or the Huarache Directory and find them interesting, please mention it to your friends, or share their links, even to http://www.huaracheblog.tumblr.com which has an amazing and largest number of interesting Huarache photos to share, especially compared to any search engine.
Besides my Tumblr updates I don’t post much since leaving Mexico, but I think there doesn’t exist anywhere in the world such a big resource regarding the unique craft of Huaraches and traditional Mexican Woven Footwear.
When it comes to the craft of Huaraches, Huarache Blog contains more information than Facebook, Pinterest and even Instagram. It’s a shame to see it become relegated because of a simple technicality.
After just over 2 months my first Huarache exhibition at the MAP museum in Mexico City closed this week.
The Museo de Artes Populares is a very beautiful world class museum dedicated to Mexican Crafts. They are a true patron and I am so grateful for their interest and help.