The Otomi people of Queretaro
Before coming to Queretaro I looked into craft in the area and found out about the Otomi indigenous people. They live in Cadereyte de Montes municipality about an hour east of Queretaro and Amealco de Bonfil municipality, about an hour southeast of Queretaro. Different Otomi villages specialise in ceramics, doll making, weaving and crocheting. Otomi women used to use tie and resist dying techniques for their clothes, but unfortunately this tradition has died out.
Niek and I took a day trip to Amealco and Mexquititlán, where we saw examples of what appeared to be traditional dress, with women in long skirts with aprons over them. The drive up to Amealco is very industrial, and it is only once you head into the old centre that you see vivid colours and a bustling community. However we didn’t see many examples of local crafts and so decided to head to the smaller village or Mexquititlán to see if we could find out any further information.
From the road we could see 2 large cone-shaped buildings and so headed towards them to investigate. Sitting in front of her home and shop we met an Otomi lady that was working on a plastic sack full of the traditional dolls, adding an element to each at a time. She was working on adding the headdresses to all before moving on to adding the eyes. She explained to Niek that a man collected them once a week and sold them for her.
We have since found out that most women will travel to surrounding towns like Queretaro to sell these dolls, and actually they make very little if any profit on them. If they don’t make enough sales in a day they will not get the bus home, but will sleep on the street hoping to make the sales the next day. These dolls have evolved in to souvenirs for tourists but were originally a skill kept within the family. Mothers would teach their children how to make these and they would then have them as a keepsake before passing the tradition on to their children.
The Otomi woman also explained to Niek that the cone structures we had seen from the road used to store grain, so we went to have a look but were forced to stop for a beer as there was a sudden downpour. After our second beer the clouds cleared and we had a quick walk around the structures, which are now mostly used by teenagers to hang out.
In the centre of the village we saw examples of the Otomi language painted onto the side of a shop, with images to show what the words mean. The language is still used widely in the area and a local teacher is working with children as young as 2 years to make sure it continues.
We will make more visits to these communities and will update you here, so keep checking out our posts!