A few years ago I posted many photos of their fine Huaraches in a post titled “Huaraches Cisneros, Un Huarache De Lujo – Luxury Huaraches from Concepción de Buenos Aires“.
Recently, I was able to spend the morning with Don Salvador and Fernando Cisneros and document some of their daily Huarache making routine.
For many generations the Cisneros have been making some of the best Huaraches in Mexico. Ask anyone in the know and they’ll tell you of Concepción de Buenos Aires, Jalisco and of it’s exceptional Huaraches.
Work begins at 9.30 am with the Huarache upper which is cut out freehand and draped over the last to make sure it’s the right shape.
To determine where each hole is punched, lines are marked out on the upper with the back of a blade and a compass.
While Fernando is cutting the upper, Don Salvador his father cuts the leather strips and skives them by hand. It usually takes a couple of passes until they are dead straight and of a consistent thickness.
Fernando in the mean time punches holes in the upper with a chisel.
Every now and then a customer will also come into the ‘Taller’ workshop to get a trim and Don Salvador puts down his knife and lends his excellent cutting skills to clipping hair.
A couple of Huaraches woven yesterday still need to be lightly hammered to smooth out the leather weave, this is called “Asentar”.
The upper punched and cut, Fernando hand stitches the “Fuerza” strip on the vamp using an interesting wooden leg vice to keep the upper from moving.
After which the sole is traced directly off the last and the holes are punched out. The process is all done by eye and no stencils are used.
Then the holes are first marked lightly on the leather sole with the punch and if they all line up they are punched out. Animal fat is spread over the area which is punched to make the hole cut cleaner.
Once one sole is punched it is overlaid to the other and the holes are marked onto the other sole. Each sole is punched twice this is construction technique specific to the Cisneros. Punching a slit into the side of each hole, to guide the direction of each leather weave as it makes its way back up the last.
The upper lining is stitched on and by 3pm the upper is ready to be woven.
For more information about Huaraches Cisneros click HERE
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 NEW number: 372.410.2115
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.