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Sections of Chiapa de Corzo


The crafts produced in Chiapa de Corzo are a clear example of the cultural richness of this beautiful colonial city. Works in wood are outstanding, as is the embroidery work and lacquer, which are the main craft products.

Lacquer: Lacquer work is of pre-Hispanic origin. In the ancient cultures of America, the rinds of fruits and vegetables such as squash, tekomate, jicara, huacal and pumpos were used for domestic and religious purposes. Some of these rinds were left plain and others painted with a refined technique called "laca" or "maque." With the arrival of the Spaniards there were some changes in the technique of painting. During the 19th century the transformation of the original lacquer process were consolidated as a mixed technique, which has remained the essential characteristic that identifies chiapacorceña lacquer. To manufacture lacquer several different raw materials of mineral, vegetable and animal origin are used. The grease called axe is obtained from the female of the insect cocus axin. The chia oil is obtained from the toasted seeds of Hispanic salvia or from argemosa ochroleuca sweet and dolomite (of mineral origin) called in Chiapa de Corzo "tizate." These products are used in the lacquer base and are also natural colorants for decoration.

Lacquered objects: In order to lacquer an object, it must first be thoroughly polished and smoothed. Then sisa oil is prepared by mixing finely ground and sifted dolomite with the axe grease and chia oil or linseed oil. The mixture is applied uniformly all over the surface before applying the colorant in finely powdered form, and then it is left to dry before polishing by hand or a burnishing tool. More axe oil is applied before polishing the piece again, and this process is repeated as many times as necessary to obtain the desired thickness. Then it is let to dry for several days, after which it may be decorated.

Decorated Lacquer: The decoration process begins by cleaning the object with a cloth or cotton dampened with gasoline to remove any remains of grease from the lacquer base. Then the mineral powders are mixed with chia oil or linseed oil. The decoration is done with brushes made with cat hairs inserted into the shaft of bird feathers. First the petals of large flowers are pained with the finger tips, then some white is applied for shadowing, and after its dried, small flowers are painted with the brush, and finally the leaves are painted, applying first the green then the yellow for shadowing.

Working technique: Axe oil is heated and dissolved in a pan, and when it is liquid and hot, a portion is applied and spread by hand onto the surface using the palm and fingers. Then dolomite is sprinkled on and spread in the same manner, repeating the process a second time. On the third coat of axe oil, colorant powder is sprinkled on and smoothed in the same fashion as the dolomite.

The raw materials used are:

  • Tizate: White earth (dolomite,) is mined underground. The processing consists of soaking, then sifting, drying and grinding the substance to be later mixed with grease of animal origin.
  • Axe or aje: Animal grease extracted from the insect coocous axin similar in shape and behavior to the prickly pear cochineal.
  • Axin: A soft and warm yellow ointment, made from flies born on the timbre tree (in Chiapas case). They are boiled in order to extract the axin, which is packaged in corn husk leaves.
  • The aje grease: Obtained by boiling the live insects, stirring constantly until a yellow substance emanates from them. At this temperature, the substance is ground in a mortar and then decanted through a sieve in to a container of cold water, and left to stand for two days. After this, it is washed in cold water.

Wood carving: Wood carving is very popular in all Latin American countries; and due to the existence of large forested areas, there is a wide variety of woods available. However, the original inhabitants of these lands preferred to carve stones rather than wood.

With the arrival of the Europeans, new ideas about wood-working came into being, and with them new styles, designs and applications. The necessities of the new religious cults demanded images of saints. At first they were brought from Europe, but the numbers imported were insufficient, so local production of sculptures and carvings was initiated. Indigenous apprentices assisted the master craftsmen, and thus the imported art received an indigenous interpretation that transformed it into a mestizo art. Thanks to this process it was possible to finish the decoration of churches, which according to their baroque and plateresque styles current in the epoch, needed images, altars and all sorts of wood works.

Although wood sculptors still receive orders for religious images today, their main line of work are the creation of small figurines, decorative items, kitchen tools, furniture etc. The prevailing themes for carvings in Chiapas are the representation of indigenous people from the different cultures, masks, saints, slings, representations of animals, copies of the mudejar fountain in Chiapa de Corzo, and ornamental frames. The woods preferred by the artisans are cedar, redwood, cupape, primavera, guanacastle, guayacan, cypress, pine, hormiguillo and fir.

Embroidery Chiapaneco: The regional dress for the women of Chiapas, internationally recognized for its elegance, consists of a wide skirt fully covered with flowers hand embroidered with silk thread. Currently not only garments, but also tablecloths, rugs and shawls are produced with this technique, with the intention of diversifying the traditional embroidery. To make the regional dress first the "tul" (an open mesh cloth used especially for embroidery) is cut. The design of the decoration is drawn on paper, then the tul is placed on top and the embroidery begins from the edge of the skirt. For the creation of the flowers, a stitch called embollado (knot stitch) is used. The small knots are stitched, then a flower, then another section of small knots. Then the leaves are embroidered and the seeds. When the skirt is done, a blouse made with thin silk is made and then joined with the skirt, sewing together the ends of the skirt last.

Parachico Masks: One of the main festivities in Chiapa de Corzo happens during the month of January - the Fiesta Grande (big party) in honor of Saint Sebastian. This particular event is marked by the entrance and dances of the so-called Parachicos. These characters wear a carved wooden mask, representing the indigenous people's typical image of the Spaniards: wide forehead, curly side whiskers, straight nose, blue eyes, moustache, trimmed beard and pink cheeks. In addition, the Parachicos wear a clumsy wig made of ixtle (natural fiber used in to make rope,) and wear a shawl tied around their waists, black pants, a multicolor cloak, a handkerchief around their necks, and an embroidered sash. The production of Parachico masks is one of the state's most representative crafts. Today it is carved from cedar wood, the details of each one is according to local tradition and the artisan's taste. After carving the mask it is painted with brushes.

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Amatenango del Valle Chiapa de Corzo
Comitan de Dominguez Palenque
San Cristobal de las Casas San Juan Chamula
Selva Lacandona Tapachula
Tenejapa Tonala
Tuxtla Gutierrez Zinacantan

Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Crafts, Laquer 1 - Photo by Sectur

  Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Crafts, Lacquer
Ç Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapanecas - Photo by Secretaria de Turismo de Chiapas
  Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapanecas
Ç Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Crafts, Candles - Photo by Sectur
  Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Crafts, Candles
Ç Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Parachicos, Folklor Chiapaneco - Photo by SECTUR
  hiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Parachicos, Folklore Chiapaneco
Ç Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Artisan working the Laquer- Photo by Adalberto Rios
  Chiapas, Chiapa de Corzo, Artisan working the Lacquer

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