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
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 🙂
These “Tamazula” Huaraches are a real rarity and are today made on request by only one Huarachero in Mexico. I have been fortunate to be able to order a limited number of Men’s sizes and have them for sale in my úkata store which you can access clicking the VISIT MY STORE icon in the top right of this page.
Finding the Huarachero after seeing a pair of his Huaraches for sale in Tamazula, Jalisco (see that post HERE) was a real investigation, especially as he doesn’t even live near Tamazula and understandably none of the Huaracheria owners in Tamazula were willing to tell me his name either.
And even after find him, Sr. Solano the huarachero never gave me his phone number. Although each time I visited him I always found him busy weaving Huaraches, with his seemingly busy huarache making schedule I was surprised to discover that he only makes Huaraches part time.
Like most Huaracheros he has his own workshop, his lasts, his sewing machine and has his local clients, but surprisingly most of his time is taken up as the caretaker of his local church. Its a mystery to me why a Huarachero of such talent chooses caretaking work over making his remarkable Huaraches. Thoughts of miracles, vows and answered prayers go through my mind, but maybe for Sr. Solano money and Huaraches aren’t everything, after all he’s also well into his 70’s.
It was touching to hear Sr. Solano talk about putting love into making his Huaraches, a philosophy so distant from today’s monetization and commodification culture even amongst other Mexican Huaracheros. Its clear that for Sr. Solano focusing on service and quality is very important. Maybe that’s why he offered to make me only 6 pairs of his unique “Tamazula” Huaraches, because he realistically didn’t have time to make me more.
Interestingly Sr. Solano’s Huaraches are made using vegetable tanned leather from Curtiduria Gonzalez in Colima. Sr. Solano is one of those crafts persons I wrote about who travel across state just to buy the right leather. Because not every leather can be cut so thinly so as to make his “Tamazula” 16 Vuelta Huaraches.
I’m also excited for this rare opportunity to show you in detail the tanning process of the leather of these “Tamazula” Huaraches. Its not often that consumers are able to witness the tanning of the leather in their products. Check out the “Tamazula” Huarache artisanal tanning process HERE
Like all good Huaraches the “Tamazula” sole is made from only the central/tread part of a recycled car tire (although the sole tread patterns are matched, the design on your pair of Huaraches may differ from the one in the photo).
The Huarache “Tamazula” is made entirely by hand and uses no glue.
The mysterious green colouring on the toe is a unique and traditional detail of the Tamazula Huarache. When I asked why it was there, I was told “that’s the way its always been”.
The fit of the “Tamazula” is little wide and are perfect if you have wide feet, or are a half size.
$30 DHL shipping to USA, Canada and Mexico.