Guest Curator: Kerin Gould
This exhibit highlights the many artistic and cultural
expressions crafted by the Hñañhú community
of San Pablito, including beadwork, embroidery panels, embroidered
and beaded blouses, and painted and cut-out Amate (bark
paper) along with photos of artisans, their home in the Northern
Sierra of Mexico, and some of their celebrations.
The community of San Pablito, located high in the
Northern Sierra in the state of Puebla, is renowned for its artisans,
and particularly for being the principal, if not the only, community
to make Amate. The community is also well-known for its
talented beadwork and embroidery artisans, and, in the last 15
years, the economy has changed focus from agriculture to a combination
of sale of these crafts and out-migration.
Amate, made from the bark of varieties of
ficus and mulberry trees, was once made throughout Mexico and used
in codices that recorded history, lineage, tributes, medicine,
and other important information. Most of these were burned in the
Spanish invasion in order to destroy intellectual, spiritual, and
civic achievements. In San Pablito and throughout the sierra, Amate was
and still is used in offering and curing ceremonies in the form
of cut-out representations of spirits. Since every family needs
to know how to supply the small sheets for the curandero (medicine
person) to cut, this knowledge has continued to thrive even when
Indigenous spirituality was prohibited. In the 1940’s visitors
to San Pablito saw the opportunity to commercialize larger sheets
of the paper, and the crafts economy was born. Embroidery and beadwork,
painting on Amate and cut-out designs called papel
picado have also combined to make up a diverse offering that
keeps many people working.
While the use of paper figures may have diminished
in other surrounding communities, and codices are rarely produced,
the commercialization of Amate has supported the continuance
of its use in ceremony. While the curandero Don Alfonso
García expressed some dismay that certain Amate-makers “think
only about money”, the income from the sale of the paper
also goes into the collections for carrying out ceremonies. The
relationship between the commercialization of Amate and
the continuance of Hñañhú culture is certainly
complex, but the vitality of San Pablito’s culture can largely
be attributed to its daily contact with traditional designs and
their meaning and with traditional knowledge.
Guest curator and photographer Kerin Gould lived
in the community of San Pablito and worked with the Mbithe Hñañhú Cultural
Center, collaborates with local artisans, health workers, and community
organizers and visits the community regularly.
For more information, visit: http://home.earthlink.net/~kering
To raise funds for a new community organization in the Hñañhu/Otomí community of San Pablito in the Northern Sierra of Mexico visit:
The designs, adapted from beadwork, Amate (bark paper), and embroidery, are based on traditional knowledge and belong to this community collectively. Through cafepress the designs are available on a wide range of products. They are offered here to support community projects. Please enjoy the beautiful designs and the knowledge that your purchase will benefit this Indigenous community.