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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

El Mercado

The marketplace serves as crossroads for the exchange of ideas, goods, and resources, as well as a site for invigorating traditions and strengthening local economies. Markets may be housed in private homes, in stores, or in public streets and plazas. Some have permanent locales, while others are part of itinerant events, such as fairs and festivals.

In Mexico, craft markets can represent a region with centuries of tradition. In central Oaxaca, for example, Teotitlán del Valle, also known as "the Place of the Gods," has established a tourist market that boasts more than one hundred stalls along its main street and in the town plaza. Many of these vendors showcase the handwoven rugs that have made this Zapotec town famous.

Traditional markets depend on an area's natural resources and the creative forces of its people. At the annual Feria Nacional del Dulce Cristalizado, held in the plaza of Santa Cruz Acalpixa, Xochimilco, local candy artisans feature popular candied fruits, seeds, and vegetables. Also from Xochimilco, Amalia Salas goes to markets and fairs to sell the dolls she learned to make from her grandmother using corn cobs, husks, leaves, and silk. In the Mayan village of Xócchel, Yucatán, Celsa Iuit Moo creates contemporary crafts from the fiber of the henequen plant, a type of agave used in great quantities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to make ropes and other industrial materials. Celsa's grandfather, a henequen farmer, taught her traditional techniques for working with this material. She has taken on family members as apprentices and has taught other women in her community.

Featured Groups

Tapetes de Teotitlán del Valle
In the workshop above their home in Teotitlán del Valle, the Vicente Sosa family card, spin, dye and weave wool. Their rug designs, often custom-made for their clients, are influenced by traditional Zapotec patterns as well as by contemporary paintings.

  • María Sosa Luís, weaver, cook
  • Joel Vicente Contreras, Marcela Vicente Sosa, weavers

Artesanía de Hoja de Maíz
In her workshop at home in the barrio San Cristóbal in Xochimilco, Amalia Salas Casales uses corn cobs, husks, and silk to craft dolls in all sizes, which she will use to make her exquisite corn dolls. Amalia is now passing on this Xochimilco tradition, which she learned from her grandmother, to her daughter Rosalinda and granddaughter Ariedna.

  • Ariedna Garcilazo Rosas, Rosalinda Rosas Salas, Amalia Salas Casales, corn husk crafts

Mujeres de Xocchel, Artesanía de Henequén
Celsa Iuit Moo teaches her family and community to make crafts with the region's abundant henequen fiber, or sóoskil, revitalizing traditional skills and contributing to a local sustainable economy. "I would like for this tradition to continue in my family. I am now sixty-five years old and have many children and grandchildren, all are artisans...all of them work soskil."

  • Celsa María Iuit Moo, Sara Carolina Pool MatĂș, henequen fiber weavers

Dulces de Santa Cruz Acalpixca, Xochimilco
Following in his family's footsteps, Alfredo Ortega and his wife María candy fruits and vegetables from the local produce grown in the area. They make their dulces cristalizados for weddings, birthdays, and other social events. Alfredo Ortega often participates in the Feria Nacional del Dulce Cristalizado de Xochimilco. He explains: "My father first started making candy, my brothers followed, and I learned from them and my mother. Certainly, techniques have changed, but what is most important is the creativity one brings to making the candy."

  • María del Carmen Francisco Colín, Alfredo Ortega Melquiades, candy makers

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