Monday, February 10, 2020

The Town of the Dolls

If you have ever been to Mexico you have probably seen them... the rag dolls that are for sale in the souvenir shops or being sold on the sidewalks by native women.  These dolls, with their round, broad faces and their braids with colorful loops of ribbon, have practically become a symbol of Mexico.  They are sometimes referred to as "Marías".

 A larger than life-size "María" outside a souvenir shop

Although they are now made in many parts of Mexico, their origin is a small town in the state of Querétaro called Amealco.  Amealco is located about a half hour from the hotel where we stayed on Saturday.  It is was designated as a "Pueblo Mágico" (Magic Town) by the Secretariat of Tourism for its picturesqueness and cultural significance.   We actually didn't know any of this, but at the hotel they told us that it was an interesting place to visit.  So we got back into the car and took a drive through the countryside and climbing up into the hills.

 As in most Mexican towns, the principal church and city hall face a pretty town square.

It wasn´t until we saw the metal sculptures on the square that we realized that this was the home of the traditional dolls.

That realization was confirmed when we saw the stalls selling local handicrafts.  Amealco and the surrounding countryside has a large population of the Otomí tribe.  There are about 20,000, and they are the largest indigenous group in the state of Querétaro.  It is the Otomí women who make the dolls in their homes to supplement the family income.

This vendor showed us another type of doll made by the Otomí, and this type predates the popular "Marías".  In the Otomí language they are called "nonó" which means "mother".  The mother holds a baby in her arms.

And here is a real-life "nonó" with baby slung behind her in her shawl.

The Otomí women are also noted for their embroidery work.  Notice the "quesquemetl", the triangular, poncho-like cloaks that are typical of several of the indigenous tribes of Mexico.

The town hosts a festival and a national competition for handcrafted dolls each November.  
Facing the main plaza is a small doll museum with a wide variety in styles.

These dolls are inspired by the painting "The Two Fridas".

This set of dolls represent the traditional "Dance of the Little Old Men".

Some photos taken while wandering the streets of this charming "Magic Town"...

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