Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beautiful Bateas

The Michoacán town of Quiroga is named after the man the Purepecha Indians affectionately call Tata Vasco or great- grandpa. He was the Archbishop Vasco de Quiroga who in the 16th century established the crafts industry in so many pueblos in Michoacán, crafts which continue to this day.
What you see here is the artesania that actually comes from Quiroga: brightly painted bateas or wood plates. Most of what is sold in the souvenir shops that line the main street is not artesania and is not made by people in the town either, though there are some real artisans who live in pueblos just a few kilometers away. Quiroga is where one goes to eat the best carnitas, but it's not the place to go for fine crafts.
Except for this man, Antonio Anita Mejia, the last remaining artisan in Michoacán who does this work. I didn't use to pay much attention to the large bateas I would see at the various concursos (competitions) as I was more focused on the unusual, extremely laborious technique called maque. But I have new found appreciation for his work. Antonio makes those brightly painted chairs, and his trasteritos (little dish racks) are also wonderful. They have recently become one of my more popular items. The colors are lovely... each piece is vibrant and makes one happy just to look at it. But it's the brush strokes, obviously displaying a rare talent, that make this work special.
Trasteritos can easily be hung on the wall and are great for holding tequila glasses, spice jars, or toiletry items in the bathroom. I had fun painting one of these unfinished carved trasteritos to use in our house in Morelia. It worked as a shelf for our glasses, but wasn't nearly as beautiful as Antonio's. I wish I had known about him then.
I actually don't know a lot about Señor Anita, except I remember the first time we met--which was just last year-- he told me that he has been working to support himself since he was 12 years old. He has a wife and children in Quiroga who also help out with the business, which like most artesanos is located in the family home.

Click on the photos to enlarge. To purchase painted bateas and trasteritos, or unfinished ones to paint yourself, go to: