The Arts

October 26, 2012


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For the past few years, violence has wreaked havoc among the poorest communities of Mexico.  I am not only referring to the number of casualties, but to the loss of economic revenue, especially for those communities which rely on tourism for their sustainment.

Claudia Martinez Vargas








Furthermore, these communities found in the states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guanajuato and Yucatan, among others, consist of indigenous female craftsmen who, for generations, have passed centuries-old skills to their descendants. This is their livelihood, and it is in jeopardy. One of the priorities of non-profit organizations and the government of Mexico has been to support artisan workshops where women and men  perfect and or learn skills that will help them acquire financial stability. But the violence that has spread throughout the country has affected the flow of tourists into these communities. In addition, and even more unfortunate, is the fact that clandestine groups operating outside of government regulations are demanding “protection” money from these local artisans. One of them once said to me that these “cuotas” (fees) have forced many artisans to close down their shops. “We barely sell anything here nowadays, we pay our taxes based on a fixed rate that is higher than our actual sales, and now we have to pay for protection; we can’t do it”. This person, whom I prefer to leave anonymous, said.

The Rio Grande Valley is home to two Mexican Consulate offices located in Cameron and Hidalgo counties. The Consuls have joined efforts to assist artisans from the interior of Mexico to travel and sell their artwork here in the valley. Thanks to these efforts, we now have access to their beautiful hand crafted textiles, pottery, art and much more. In return, the citizens of the valley provide an extremely important economic support to benefit many families in these rural communities of Mexico while obtaining unique works of art not found in the Rio Grande Valley.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many talented artisans through these events, and I am always inspired by their determination and strength. They travel for days in route buses, carrying their precious goods hoping nobody will question or demand some type of compensation for allowing them to travel for business. Most of these artisans are women; very strong and devoted mothers and or community leaders.

One of these artisans is already well-known around the United States for her work created with recycled materials. Her name is Claudia Martinez Vargas. Claudia lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, since 1996. She is a self-taught artist who has created the most original collection of folk art using homemade glue and recycled materials. Her dislike for the overwhelming amount of trash led her to transform trash into treasure. She has also won several national awards.   Claudia, and a couple of other artisans, will be selling their unique products in Harlingen, Texas, during the Dia de los Muertos reception hosted by the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum. The event is scheduled for Thursday November 1st at 6:00 PM;  the event is free and open to the public.

Claudia is also registered to participate in the annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market ,July 12-14, 2013 -like she has done since 2007. Artisans will be present at various events throughout the valley the weekend of November 2-4,2012.

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About the Author

Tapia - Gonzales
La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Life, art and culture, poetry, prayers, travel, and camping! yes, that's my new thing. I blame the heat and high humidity for the madness. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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