San Miguel de Allende
April 24, 2002
It is a beautiful and clear Palm
Sunday in San Miguel, and we are anxious to purchase the intricate palm
weavings only for sale on this very morning. We have admired the dried
palm weavings seen here in homes, but (a) we had to be here on Palm Sunday
to buy them, and (b) we dare not bring them back to the States as they
are made with fresh palms, herbs, and some with wheat, seeds intact. At
long last, we can bring our purchases to nuestra casa to enjoy without
fear of confiscation!
Only two blocks from our house is the Church of the Oratorio on Calle
Insurgentes. This particular church is said to have the best selection
of palms and we find the front plaza of Oratorio filled with weavings
of every size, design, and combination of decoration.
Sensing we are prospective buyers,
each vendor beckons us to their spot where handmade creations are carefully
displayed on a piece of cloth on the ground. Our favorites are fashioned
from fresh, green palm fronds that will dry and keep well. The weavings
are beautiful and complex depicting hearts, crosses, and the body of Christ
with some incorporating fragrant rosemary and chamomile. Many have stands
woven into the base so they may sit upright. Others are made from dried
wheat decorated with brightly dyed palm fronds with glitter and images
of saints glued to the center. We of course have to have these, too.
It is a leisurely morning with time to visit with each vendor, watch their
children play, and enjoy seeing the families coming to mass in their Sunday
best, many from ranchos surrounding San Miguel. The Church of the Oratorio
has the largest congregation in San Miguel de Allende which is made up
primarily of indigenous peoples. In years past, Oratorio was callously
described as the poor church for Los Indios while San Miguel's prominent
and wealthy attended La Parrochia or Las Monjas. Over the years, it is
the Indians who have triumphed. As the congregation swelled, so did church
coffers with pesos from the devoted. Today, Oratorio continues to be the
keeper of many of San Miguel's oldest and most beloved traditions incorporating
Catholic and indigenous symbolism into one, especially during Holy Week.
We enjoy watching women weaving
in the shade of the plaza, seemingly without effort as they laugh,
gossip and initiate sales.
"Mine are better than hers". "I use more herbs than
much more aromatic!" "See how finely I
weave?" they taunt, always giggling.
In San Miguel there is concern that
palm weaving will become a lost art because teens are not interested in
learning the craft. But on this morning there are many mothers and daughters
working side by side, and we have no fear that palm weaving will disappear
in our lifetime.
In the end, we buy more than we can carry and wonder if the Indians believe
that we are tan religioso. We head off to breakfast elated with
our purchases and filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the morning.
So much folk art treasure for mere pesos!
May 8, 2002
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO