Collectivo Avilés: The talent behind Xalitla Art

“We put love and enthusiasm into each piece that we paint, so that the crafts are of the best quality and can appreciate our culture,” says Samuel Aviles, a talented artisan of the Xalitla pieces found at Lolo.

Today, artisans from Xalitla, located in the state of Guerrero, paint impressive birds, flowers, and traditions with acrylics on clay pieces, hats, and amate paper. For them, continuing the tradition of Xalitla painting has not been easy and although the tradition and the impulse to create have been maintained from generation to generation, they have been threatened by the economy behind the pandemic, the lack of a market for their crafts, and the abuse of some intermediaries who cheapen their work. At Lolo, we are proud to present the work as the pieces of art that they are, full of history, tradition, love, and respect.

Join us as we introduce Samuel Aviles’ story who, together with his family, founded a small workshop that proudly presents the colorful and vibrant legacies that their ancestors left them with.

Samuel Avilés is a Xalitla artisan from San Agustín Oapan, a Xalitla community in Tepecoacuilco de Trujano, Guerrero. Xalitla, which means "Water that runs under the sand" or "place where sand abounds", is a rural community located in the northern region of the state of Guerrero.

In a brief conversation that we had with him to learn about his work and his workshop, he spoke about his beginnings in Xalitla art. He told us how, from the age of 9, he started helping his parents, who came from an artisan family, too, and painted Xalitla art. He started little by little, he told us, making a lot of mistakes wanting to imitate as a child what he saw his parents did. So, he decided to patiently begin with the elaboration of small frets on amate paper. Over time and with practice, he learned to draw until he managed to capture details and landscapes in all kinds of objects. Although at some point he worked with amate paper, he tells us that for him, working with paint and clay is always better, "there is more space to work on these pieces and they are much more useful and lasting." 

Five years ago, Samuel founded the Avilés Collective where five people work today: Samuel, his two sisters, his brother, and his mother, who is 64 years old and is, obviously, the one who has the most experience with the brush. Samuel and his family all work together in their workshop, which is currently established in his home. They spend more than eight hours a day in the family workshop to make their beautiful pieces of art.

Today, the work of artisans like Samuel and his family is of the utmost importance. Along with them, many other Xalitla artisans are considered heirs of pre-Hispanic art, who recorded the events that occurred daily. Thus, with their art, talented artists from Guerrero continue to show the daily life of the communities they live in.

As he continued to tell us about his early stages in Xalitla art, Samuel spoke about how, once he was able to master the free-hand artwork with the brush, he specialized in painting birds because the feathers are what he likes the most; he said it was just like “un juego de colores con el pincel/a play of colors with the brush”. And this becomes obvious every time we see a bird in Xalitla art. We can almost see the movement of the bird thanks to the contrast of vivid colors, as if it were alive.

Later on, after years painting flora and fauna, he began to paint people, now focused on portraying historical aspects, narratives of daily life in the town, which is what his mother likes the most. For this, he told us, Samuel and his family use popular art with which they capture the customs and traditions of the people of San Agustín Oapan, their community, as well as many other shared across Guerrero and Mexico. In general, they like to paint traditions where they had a good time, such as celebrations, jaripeos, weddings, and dances. He tells us that the festival he likes the most is the traditional festival of December 12th, which commemorates the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but that he also likes to teach the daily life of his people, so he paints daily activities like harvests or going to church on Sundays.

Colectivo Avilés is a small workshop that Lolo prides itself to work with. As Samuel clearly stated during our conversation, the brush painting technique of Xalilta, Guerrero, requires patience, talent, but more importantly, knowledge. This is a traditional technique where artisans portray in a unique way their personalities in the way they use color, but they also show the most popular traditions and celebrations, not only from their community, but also from many other communities in Mexico.

For Lolo it is an honor to work alongside these talented family. If you would like to check out Colectivo Avilés' products and other Xalitla artisans we work with, be sure to check them out here. If you would like to learn more about Xalitla art, be sure to check out our blog Xalitla and the Art of Storytelling.

So, what do you think about Xalitla art? Is there any message you would like for us to pass along to Samuel or any other member of his family? What else would you like to learn about them? We read all of your comments and love your kind words, which we pass along to all who are involved in Lolo, so be sure to say hello if you feel like it!

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