Miniature Crafts and Their Makers
Palm Weaving in a Mexican Town
Picture a throng of tiny devils and angels, or a marching band so small it can fit in the palm of your hand. In a Mixtec town in the Mexican state of Puebla, craftspeople have been weaving palm since before the Spanish Conquest, but over the past forty years that art has become more finely tuned and has won national acceptance in a market nostalgic for an authentic Indian past. In this book, Katrin Flechsig offers the first in-depth ethnographic and historical examination of the miniature palm craft industry, taking readers behind the scenes of craft production in order to explain how and why these folk arts have undergone miniaturization over the past several decades. In describing this “Lilliputization of Mexico,” she discusses the appeal of miniaturization, revealing how such factors as tourism and the construction of national identity have contributed to an ongoing demand for the tiny creations. She also contrasts the playfulness of the crafts with the often harsh economic and political realities of life in the community. Flechsig places the crafts of Chigmecatitlán within the contexts of manufacturing, local history, religion, design and technique, and selling. She tells how innovation is introduced into the craft, such as through the modification of foreign designs in response to market demands. She also offers insights into capitalist penetration of folk traditions, the marketing of folk arts, and economic changes in modern Mexico. And despite the fact that the designations “folk” and “Indian” help create a romantic fiction surrounding the craft, Flechsig dispels common misperceptions of the simplicity of this folk art by revealing the complexities involved in its creation. More than thirty illustrations depict not only finished miniatures but also the artists and their milieu. Today miniatures serve not only the tourist market; middle-class Mexicans also collect miniatures to such an extent that it has been termed a national pastime. Flechsig’s work opens up this miniature world and shows us the extent to which it has become a lasting and important facet of contemporary Mexican culture.