For anyone depending on Mexico’s tourism sector, the pandemic has meant hard times. Among those most deeply impacted are the country’s many traditional artisans — basket-makers, weavers, painters and many more.
On Friday, Mexico News Daily launched a campaign to support folk artists as they seek to survive “the new normal.” Ten percent of the newspaper’s subscription sales revenue will be donated to the Feria Maestros del Arte, a non-profit organization based in Chapala, Jalisco, that is helping artisans around the country sell their goods online.
The Artisans Online campaign invites readers to join in by purchasing a one-year subscription for US $29.99, of which $3 will be donated to help develop online sales. Mexico News Daily will also publish a series of stories featuring innovative and traditional artisans, to raise their profile and celebrate their work, as part of the campaign.
The Feria Maestros del Arte began promoting artisans’ work in 2002 with an annual show in Chapala. The event brings together 85 artisans in a forum that gives the public the opportunity to see and purchase the work of some of Mexico’s best folk artists.
According to the Feria’s Facebook page, the group was created in order to provide a venue for artisans to sell their work.
“The indigenous folk art of Mexico is in danger of disappearing if artists cannot find outlets to sell their work … for many, the sales they make at the Feria are the largest portion of their yearly income,” the Feria says.
An army of volunteers operates the fair, to which artists pay no fees fees or a percentage of sales. They are hosted by local families and assisted with their transportation costs.
Two such artists are Rodrigo de la Cruz Cabrera and his father, Don Estaban de la Cruz Miranda, from San Agustín Oapan, Guerrero. After exhibiting and selling at the 2017 and 2018 fairs, they participated in a national exhibition in 2019 and were invited to accompany Mexico’s national ceramics school to the Jingdezhen International Studio in China, according to Feria founder Marianne Carlson.
“Esteban and Rodrigo have won several national awards. However, because they live in an isolated community in the state of Guerrero that has suffered from conflict in the past, it has not been easy for this family to sell their work. Bringing them to the public’s attention at the Feria and through publicity surrounding his two-month trip to China, Rodrigo’s acclaim as a master artisan has boosted interest in their work even higher,” Carlson said. “This is just one success story of artisans who have been recognized at Feria Maestros del Arte and gone on to greater prominence in the folk art world.”
Due to the pandemic, the Feria canceled the 2021 art festival. Instead, it is hosting a series of smaller events run by volunteers, without the artisans present. All money collected goes directly to the artisans, including reimbursement for the cost of shipping their goods. More information can be found on the Feria Maestros del Arte Facebook page.
Some artisans have seen profits from products like embroidered face masks. Online sales have kept some afloat, but many continue to struggle. Even after some markets opened up, economic activity and tourism continue to be sluggish. One group that has had success in online sales is the weavers of the mountains of Zongolica, a remote area where traditional weavers have banded together to sell at the regional and national level. These weavers are featured in the first of Mexico News Daily’s Artisan Spotlight stories by culture writer Leigh Thelmadatter.
To help more artisans survive and thrive economically, the Feria is moving toward digital promotion of featured artisans. Carlson said Covid-19 has made her a believer in digital media and in the importance of online platforms for the artisans to continue selling their work. “Our new website will include e-commerce for all Feria artisans who want us to continue helping them to sell.”
Mexico News Daily