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Hidden Gems / Hidden Gems: State of Mexico

Artisans & Authentic Crafts in the State of Mexico

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If you’re looking for art, there’s more to the State of Mexico than Aztec architecture. The state is full of traditional handicrafts, and some are as old as the pyramids.

It’s one thing to go to a local market and bring home a souvenir, but it’s another to learn about the process behind it. In the State of Mexico, many local artisans will not only show you their work, but they will give you a hands-on experience you’ll never forget.

That way, when you bring home a souvenir, you’ll also bring home the story of how it was made.

A very common craft in the State of Mexico is a type of clay sculpture called a Tree of Life. These were originally created to teach stories from the Bible, but today you can find sculptures depicting anything from history to childhood toys.

Many artisans will actually open up their studios to you so that you can see how a Tree of Life is made. One good place to visit is the home of Javier Ramirez Hernandez, who has been making these sculptures for nearly 30 years. Some of his creations reach up to nine feet tall and weigh two tons.

Javier’s creations have been seen all over the world, in venues ranging from museums to the Vatican. But you can just go to his workshop in Metepec to take a look at his latest creations.

Another great place to get hands-on experience is an hour away in the pueblo of Malinalco. There you can take look something a little more fashionable: the art of shawlmaking.

Artisan Camelia Ramos Zamora carries on her father’s lifework, making silk and cotton shawls with pre-Hispanic methods that involve all-natural dyes and handlooms.

You might even get a chance to try weaving your own creations, and you’ll definitely go home with a wearable piece of art. And that’s definitely not something you can buy in any gift shop.

Tune into The Travel Detective with Peter Greenberg each week on public television to watch more of Peter’s Hidden Gem adventures.