Thursday, February 16, 2012

Purepecha Indian Crafts-- A Mexican Treasure

The state of Michoacán is home to four indigenous groups-- the Purepecha being the largest of those, and the culture that is responsible for most of the exquisite crafts and folk art from the region. The Purepecha, sometimes spelled Purhépecha, and also called Tarascan (but that's a long story) developed the most advanced pre-Columbian society in western Mexico. They resisted Aztec domination for decades, only to be brutally defeated by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Today the Purepecha number a little over 120,000.
The Purhépecha language has been called a hybrid Mesoamerican language. Some researchers have suggested that it is distantly related to Quechua, one of the man languages in the Andean zone of South America. For this reason, it has been suggested that the Purhépecha may have arrived in Mexico from Peru and may be distantly related to the Incas. The language also has some similarities to that spoken by the Zuni Indians of New Mexico. 

The ancient Purepecha inhabitants were farmers and fishermen, but later became skilled weavers and became known for their feathered mosaics made from hummingbird plumage. With time, these gifted people also became skilled craftsmen in metalworking, pottery, and wood and stone carving. Below are a just a few of the pottery styles created by traditional Purepecha communities:
Burnished pots from Huancito
Marta Espicio of Huancito

Zenaida Rafael Julian, award-winning artist of Ocumicho

Glazed candelabras by Herlinda Morales of Santa Fe de la Laguna

Maque, a lacquerware made only in Michoacán, is a Pre-Columbian technique using pigments made from plants and insects.
Martina Navarro, master maque artisan

Hammered copper art has been made in the village of Santa Clara del Cobre going back about 500 years in small workshops like the one below.

Workshop of Roberto Castro Hernandez
Purepecha women in dozens of villages around the state make beautiful rebozos and embroidered blouses like those pictured here.
Cecilia Bautista, master weaver of Ahuiran

To see more art by extraordinary Purepecha artisans, please go to where many items are available for purchase. Our mission is to promote the work of talented artisans of Michoacán. By bringing their beautiful handmade goods to a wider market, artists are able to support their families and communities and ensure that their traditions survive.

For more information about Michoacán history and the Purepecha people I recommend the following website by historian,  John Schmal:


  1. Jerzy BarankiewiczApril 22, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I just return from Michoacan, where I took part in Semana Santa with Purepecha people (April 2012). That was fantastic experience. I was very much impressed in an art of the Purepecha: especially in ceramics, wood, stone and fabric art.

  2. Yes, the Purechepa are a very talented people...and you were lucky to be able to see their work in their own environment. I hope you bought some beautiful things to take home, and that you will help spread the word about Michoacan! For people who aren't able to go there, much of the work is available at our website