Xalitla and the Art of Storytelling

Guerrero’s hands are historically known to create grandiose artisanal work, and once again they have proven themselves deserving of this recognition. In this week’s blog we are honored to highlight Xalitla art. Xalitla is an indigenous town located in the Alto Balsas region of Guerrero known for their detailed drawings. Artisans here portray their customs and traditions in amate paper sheets, manifesting in this way the soul and body of this town. This beautiful tradition of popular art has a form of inspiration where true codices appear representing the diverse agricultural, social, and religious activities that characterize the daily lives of this indigenous region.

Xalitla is a population of nahuatl affiliation that is situated in the town of Tepecoacuilco, in the state of Guerrero, between the towns of Iguala and Chilpancingo, two hours from the famous town of Acapulco. Its name means a place where sand is abundant. What makes Xalitla so unique is the talent of their artisans, who turn their drawings into a special and unique form of art. 

Amate Mural in Color by Javier Martínez Pedro . Mural de Amate part of the collection of the Museo de Historia Mexicana

Although most of the town makes their livelihood of this oustanding artisanal work, Xalitla drawing is a newer form of art that began in the 50s (less than 100 years ago!). They began their form of artwork after the Tepecoacuilco dam was built, which dried their river and hindered their farming and agriculture, forcing them to turn to ancestral knowledge of drawing and become masters of artisanal work. At first, their drawings were made only in amate paper, but as years went by, they turned to other materials that expanded their reach, particularly, clay, wood, and cuatecomate or cirian (a coconut shaped seed).

Papel Amate by Pedro Martínez

Xalitla is a gold mine of historic art. Their artisans are able to turn a simple salt shaker into a narrative of their December celebrations or a piece of wood into a mystical mask. This artisanal work is drawn by experts who learned the craft at a young age by their parents, who in turn were taught by their parents, and so a generational tradition takes place. As mentioned above, Xalitla people focus their drawing in their indigenous traditions and cultures in an attempt to narrate what they are and what they do, carrying great pride in their Nahuatl ancestry. In their work, we can appreciate different categories of their lifestyle and popular culture. If you look closely at their work, you will find images of: 

  1. Popular celebrations such as local and neighboring fiestas, jaripeos, and danzas.
  2. Traditional stories being told.
  3. Agricultural practices and the daily activities that take place.
  4. Flora and fauna of the region, particularly birds and flowers, but also other forms such as fruit, vegetables and other animals.
Bookmark in amate paper

Xalitla artisanal work is drawn entirely by hand and brush, with no special tools to make their perfect strokes, using only paint or ink of different colors. In their work there are three different styles in the use of color, starting with only black and white, then the use of two contrasting colors, and, lastly, the use of a variety of colors to highlight certain images, such as the feathers of a colorful bird. For some of their drawings, especially those that tell stories, we can observe an elaborate frame, which is perfectly lined by hand. Moreover, for their work on clay, Xalitla artisans have their own workshop where they make their own pieces from scratch and/or sell them to other localities for their own artisanal work.

Though sadly under-recognized, Xalitla artwork is so important that they have won several national and international cultural awards. With this recognition, we at Lolo feel proud to join Xalitla in their efforts to elevate the talent of Mexican and indigenous artists as well as to promote the traditions of these regions.

Here is a step-by-step gallery of our lotería shot glasses and how they are painted: (be sure to check the out here)

So, what do you think? Is Xalitla art new to you? Would you like to see more Xalitla pieces? Let us know and don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list where we share our weekly blog and provide first looks into our offers and new products! If you would like to check out our Xalitla products, click here!

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