2014-15 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Artesanas Mexicanas is a group of women artisans hailing from Mexico, Ecuador, and El Salvador who now call Southeast Baltimore home. With funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and operating out of Creative Alliance, a nonprofit arts center, the group honors their shared Latin American heritage by demonstrating, sharing, and teaching Mexican traditional craft. The program includes professional development training in Spanish for immigrant artists, after-school enrichment programs, and public community workshops at festivals and area schools. The Artesanas recently launched the Artesanitos program, pairing master artists with seven apprentices (ages 8-13). At the National Folk Festival, several members of the group—Flor Gallegos, Lilia Torres, Carmen Lopez, Fabiola Lopez, and Yesenia Mejia—will demonstrate traditional piñata making, for which they received a Folklife Apprenticeship Award from Maryland Traditions in 2015, and will lead hands-on flor de totomotxle (corn husk flower) making workshops.
Piñatas: more than just fun and games
Piñata-breaking is a beloved part of Latin American culture. The modern piñata in Mexico is a blend of Mesoamerican and European traditions that emerged as early as the 16th century. The seven-pointed star, which Artesanas Mexicanas so adeptly craft, is a Mexican Catholic symbol. Highlighting the struggle of man against temptation, each of the points represents the seven deadly sins. The pot in the center of the piñata represents evil, and the treats hiding inside represent temptation. The blindfold, which was first used by the ancient Aztec culture, represents faith. As participants beat the piñata, they are enacting the struggle against evil and temptation; the rewards of keeping faith rain down once the piñata succumbs to enough blows.
Flor de totomotxle
Flor de totomotxle are beautiful flowers made of dried, dyed corn husks. Corn is a common crop throughout the Americas. Totomoxtle, or the leaves of the corn (also known as tomoite and totomoitli), are valued for their use in traditional art as well as for their medicinal properties and use as animal feed.
The husks of an ear of corn are a versatile material that can be dyed, shaped, and transformed into beautiful works of art, such as flower bouquets and dolls. The flores de totomoxtle, as they are called in some Indigenous Mesoamerican cultures, have long been made to celebrate special holidays. Artesanas Mexicanas will hand-dye each corn husk that will be used in these workshops.