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Emilio Molinero Hurtado

Ancestral Evidence from the Earth Inspires a Life's Work…

In the beautiful village of Tzintzuntzan, one of our favorite artisans humbly resides and works: Emilio Molinero Hurtado. Since designated a grand master in the Banamex tome, Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art, maybe more visitors come to buy his clay, and maybe a journalist here and there will stop in, but other than that, life remains tranquil and unchanged for one of Mexico's most-unique clay artisans.

As a boy, Molinero helped his father plant the corn. With each plowing and every rain, Emilio became much more interested in the pre-hispanic pottery shards found than in the straightness of the corn rows. He was enchanted by the shapes, designs, and the earthy colors ranging from rich browns to lusty reds. If his ancestors had made these vessels, why not he? And that was more than 65 years ago.

The work ranges from giant ollas (pots) to small duck vessels, authentic to the Chichimeca ancestor's practical and decorative pottery. Although the famous black ducks of Lake Pátzcuaro are long gone, their image survives through Emilio's clay.

Working in a small work shop, his horno (oven) is a subterranean pit in which the clay is fired by wood. After all of these years, luck still plays its role. One tiny air pocket or one molecule of moisture in the clay results in the entire piece exploding during firing. But "Don Emilio" is philosophical about such occurrences…"It happens". And then he simply returns to his life's calling.

Examples of Molinero's pre-Hispanic forms, designs and colors.

L: Formed clay dries before entering the oven for the first firing.
R: The oven from which decades of clay has emerged.

Emilio's attitude, spirit, and sense of humor are only matched by his wife's. When asked how long they had been married, they looked at each other, scratched their heads and burst out laughing realizing that they had been married so long that they could not recall how long they actually had been married. The agreed upon answer was "Forever!".

Though Emilio created a profession other than working the fields, his heart never is far from the land. We always talk about the rain, the crops, and about how beautifully the flowers bloom in their courtyard.

But today it's time to go. Don Emilio is taking his wife to a jarepeo…a Mexican country rodeo. And off they go down the picturesque streets of Tzintzuntzan, as happy as teenagers on their first date.

"Don Emilio" with one of his famous Tarascan Woman with Fish

By Debra Hall
March 31, 2004

ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO