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Butterflies and Baskets

Peggy Stein baskets butterflies crafts Michoacan migration monarch pine needle

Butterflies and Baskets

I recently made another visit to a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico. The good news is that the numbers of butterflies in Mexico increased in 2018 and the efforts of conservation appear to be working. But there is another story that the millions of tourists who visit the area each year don't see. Because of the prohibition on logging in the forests to protect the endangered butterflies, many of the indigenous people who live there have lost their livelihoods, and they are barely surviving. I spent several hours with a few artisans who weave beautiful pine needle baskets, not far from the butterfly sanctuaries.The sale of the baskets provides much needed income for families, and helps protect the butterflies.

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“How much does the artist get?”

Peggy Stein bargaining in Mexico buying artesania fair wage

“How much does the artist get?”

A clerk at Trader Joe’s just asked me if the artisan who made my blouse was paid a “fair wage”. A couple of weeks ago someone on our Facebook page asked if our workers are paid fairly. Leaving aside for the moment the question of what exactly is a “fair” wage (is it the minimum wage in Mexico which is currently about $5 US per day?) and how many workers in the U.S. or other countries actually receive a fair wage (are teachers paid a fair wage? how about the cooks in the restaurant you patronize?) let’s address the issue...

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Handmade-- endangered species?

Peggy Stein artesania blouses crafts handmade Michoacan rebozos textiles traditional

Handmade-- endangered species?

In indigenous communities in the poor state of Michoacán, there aren’t a lot of employment opportunities for women without much education. If a woman can work on a blouse or rebozo for a few hours a day while a pot of beans is cooking over the fire and she watches her children, that is something that can provide some income for her family. The traditional designs that have been passed down from mother to daughter represent their community and culture. If the demand for the work disappears, it would be a financial and spiritual loss for the women and their families.  

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People Made These Things

Peggy Stein artesania crafts folk art handmade Mexican

People Made These Things

Should we know the name of the maker of a piece of art, be it a painting or a clay pot?  We strive to tell the story behind the artesania we buy and sell, to respect and honor the hardworking craftspeople who make it. But does it make a difference to you to see the artist's face or learn her story, and does that knowledge or artist's signature in fact make the work more valuable? 

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The Art of Embroidered Stories

Peggy Stein artesania embroidery Mexican Patzcuaro textiles

The Art of Embroidered Stories

Near Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacán, indigenous women embroider colorful pictures that can be framed or made into decorative pillows and clothing. The themes of these embroidered “stories” originally came from ancient mythology of the Tarascan or Purepecha Indians, drawn from seals found in Tzintzuntzan. Gradually many women  there began depicting traditional village dances such as the Dance of the Viejitos and festivals such as Dia de los Muertos. The artisans also embroider scenes of women cooking, men fishing, and other scenes of daily life in a Purepecha village. Teofila Servin Barriga is one of the most well-known of the Santa...

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