The craft villages outside Oaxaca

This is the last day of our trip, and no trip to Oaxaca would be complete without seeing some of the outlying villages which have become famous for their arts and crafts. Within a 50-kilometer radius of Oaxaca City there are dozens of small towns, many of which specialize in a particular art tradition. Often combining ancient and modern techniques, most of the region’s voluminous output comes from families that have spent generations becoming known for a particular item. We visit three of these villages, one famous for its black pottery, another for its art pottery and a third for its amazingly painted wood craft.

The layout of each village is similar, in that we walk through the village and are invited into different houses where the family living there has developed an expertise in a certain craft. We might have expected each house to specialize in a totally different craft, but here every family in one village makes the same items, but just interprets them differently. As we wander through their homes we can see the family members at work as well as browse through everything they have for sale. Some have just a few shelves with items on them while the more successful have huge rooms full of their art. We are delighted to discover that there is very little pressure to buy, and the families seem quite happy to share their skills with us. As we get to know the village we soon learn that the quality from family to family varies significantly, and while all are good, there are some that have rightfully earned a national reputation.

The economic advantages of this system of involving a whole village in the production of a craft soon becomes apparent. The differences between the small towns that have such a craft, and the towns that don’t are evident everywhere we look. The working villages have much building going on, and the standard of the homes is greatly improved
We are flying back to Puerto Vallarta tomorrow and it is not possible to buy what we want and get it home. We decide to wait until we return another time and are better prepared to make our own economic impact on the small villages. But it has been a fascinating way to spend our last day in Oaxaca

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