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
“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.
Colourful like the streets of Campeche in Southern Mexico and Supernatural because footwear doesn’t come much more natural than this.
- Women’s Sizes.
- Free shipping to the USA, Canada and Mexico.
In Red, Orange and Fiesta Blue.
Probably the softest woven Huaraches you’ll ever wear, light, flexible and naturally cushioned.
Supernatural because footwear doesn’t come much more natural than this.
- Mens and Women’s Sizes.
- Free shipping to the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Also in Black.
I source only best materials myself, from the bouncy 10mm natural crepe rubber sole which is made from thin layers of dried organic latex harvested directly from the rubber tree, to the leather that is vegetable tanned in a drum with Acacia tree bark extract, making it exceptionally natural and soft.
The shoe/Huarache last was designed for an anatomical barefoot fit with no heel, its unique shape also allowing the soft weave to expand evenly to accommodate even wide feet comfortably with no pressure spots.
If you have narrow feet, please order half a size smaller, or hobbit feet will fit a half size bigger perfectly!
The Environmental Science
The environmentally friendly Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree creates not only biodegradable rubber which can be used to make shoe soles, but the tree can also stock large amounts of carbon in its biomass.
Its calculated that annually rubber trees absorb 363 Million Kg of Carbon dioxide, a high carbon sequestration which is calculated to be greater than that of a rainforest (Variation of soil fertility and carbon sequestration by planting Hevea brasiliensis in Hainan Island, China – Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing). The increased use of regularly harvested rubber trees in the world could potentially also alleviate the greenhouse effect and global warming (Handbook of Elastomers, Second Edition, by Marcel Dekker Inc 2001) .
By using more natural rubber products, we can essentially return some of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back into the soil where it existed in the form of oil and coal. We can contribute towards recreating the sustainable and natural carbon equilibrium that has existed on earth for thousands of years.
Lastly I should mention how cool and sheltered a rubber plantations feel. I don’t think I have ever experienced a similarly peaceful industrial environment.
Antonio Granados is probably one of the 4 best Huarache Artisans in Mexico.
Recently he made a few pairs of rare traditional Huarache styles that his father in law used to make 20 or so years ago. Styles which you can no longer find in the shops.
I was able to snatch up those 8 pairs and have them for sale in my store HERE, or click on the “VISIT MY STORE” icon in the top left of the screen and go to the “SAMPLES AND SALE” section.
The úkata+ Oaxaca are probably the softest woven Huaraches you’ll ever wear and not only, they will also mold to the shape of your feet.
It’s my first Huarache design and took me many samples to fine tune, mostly because soft woven leather surfaces don’t like to keep their rounded shape (this footwear is unlined). This I learned also depends on the last shape and the weave angle. My first last supplier lost patience threw in the towel after about 6 rounds of revisions, I revised the weave angle in about double that number of samples and will post photos of each unique iteration soon, pointed lasts, textile strips etc.
Its taken me over 1 year to get to this stage, not only because of sample making (these Huaraches really are woven from one single continuous weave), but also because I also source only the best materials myself. Walking the surreal tyre recycling neighborhood in North Guadalajara to find a supplier for a 5mm recycled truck tyre sole, to finding the softest leather, tanned in a drum with Acacia tree extract and water solution. The last 2 years have been one long treasure hunt and how many tales I have to share. Now all thats left is some grading for other styles, QC, negotiating pricing and production schedules.
The ukatamas website is also almost ready, but for the next few months or so I will be selling small quantities of úkata+ Huaraches from MY STORE in the top left of this page as a sort of preview of what things to come.
The úkata+ Oaxaca Huarache last was designed especially for an anatomical barefoot fit with no heel, its unique shape also allowing the soft leather weave to expand evenly to accommodate even wide feet comfortably with no pressure spots, or ugly sudden changes in appearance of the weave. The traditional Oaxaca Huarache weave was adapted by me also to fit my rather wide feet (as you will notice in the photos).
I included some traditional and sometimes forgotten features that make Huaraches better; a lasted the heel for a better fit, that is also taller and easier to grab when putting on the Huaraches and of course the hand carved symbols traditional on Oaxacan Huaraches.
And from the same woven strip of leather I also added a loop as part of the upper weaving sequence, to easily put the Huaraches on quickly.
Warning: These Huarache will mold to your feet and you may never want to take them off again. I’ve worn mine almost every day for the last 2 years and not just in warm climates.
If you have narrow feet, please order half a size smaller.
NEW SHIPPING OPTIONS AND LOWER SHIPPING RATES – FREE SHIPPING AVAILABLE TO THE USA AND CANADA.
At this time I have only mens sizes, but more sizes and a nice website are expected this Summer 🙂
Just getting the final touches right.
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Every Huarache size has a slightly different weave, and the weave sequence for each size must be worked out so that the vamp and quarter weaves meet to create one continuous woven surface.
During a recent visit to the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto I was very privileged visit their archives and photograph these very old Men’s Zapatilla Huaraches from Uruapan, circa 1910.
Men’s Zapatilla Huaraches Courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.
They immediately reminded me of 15th Century Poulaine European footwear and also of the recent Mexican fashion of Botas Picudas – Pointed Boots.
I wish to thank everyone at the Bata Shoe Museum for a very special visit.