When a Disney film, “Coco,” spotlighted a small Mexican town where almost every shop makes guitars, it suddenly made ornate, white guitars famous. Underneath the new pop icon, however, lies a variety of much finer instruments—and a rich craft going back generations.
Story by LAURA FRASER
Photography and videography by ANDREW SULLIVAN
The now iconic white guitar made famous by the Disney film “Coco” was created in Paracho, a small Mexican town where almost every shop makes guitars. Underneath the new icon lay centuries of craftsmanship.
The word artisanal has become so shopworn that it’s almost devoid of meaning. (To wit: we once saw a pizza outlet on the outskirts of a small town in northern France that was fashioned in the style of an ATM-kiosk under the following sign: “Artisanal Pizza.”) In stark contrast to this sorry state of affairs, we would like to suggest a few items for holiday shopping made by some of the masters we profiled in 2019.
By EDITORS OF CRAFTSMANSHIP QUARTERLY
You’ve read the news: traditional 9-5 jobs are in decline; a patchwork, “gig economy” of contract workers is rushing in to take their place; and colleges can’t keep up with these changes. The resulting chaos creates at least one unaddressed challenge: In a world with fewer shared ladders for advancement, how do tomorrow’s workers build pathways to success?
By TODD OPPENHEIMER
In a small, indigenous Mexican community in the mountains of Michoacán, a band of determined women led the overthrow of a criminal cartel. Their victory gave the town a new sense of purpose by reviving its traditional livelihood, its capacity for self-government, and its communal spirit.
Story and photography by ANDREW SULLIVAN
You have probably never heard of the term “acequia,” but it describes one of oldest, most common-sense systems of irrigation on the planet. The basic idea is to use, and share, a river’s natural patterns instead of the predominant American system—namely, trap it, pipe it, and race to be the first to use it. Our writer tours the globe to track down its history, and its leading practitioners.
Story and photography by ROBERTO LOVATO
In the 1500s, a Spanish bishop turned a collection of pueblos around the Mexican town of Patzcuaro into a center for craftsmanship. The people here are still making and marketing their wares in much the same way they did hundreds of years ago. Now they have to overcome tourists’ fears about drug traffickers, real or not.
Story by LAURA FRASER
Photography by JANET JARMAN
Our burly white pickup truck is rolling down the highway about ten miles east of Oaxaca, Mexico, when the ominous dilemma that will define the future of mezcal rises into view. To my left, sitting beside me on the pickup’s…
Story and photography by GRACE RUBENSTEIN
Felipe Ortega has devoted his life to creating the perfect pot of beans—and an unusually audacious way of looking at culture. Over the years, Ortega’s journey involved such an unusual combination of the traditional and the non-traditional that it puts a very old question into very new light: What’s the right way to look at cultural progress? Should we put a fence around our unique traditions? Or should we share them, welcoming the opportunity to mix with new ideas?
By DEBORAH BUSEMEYER
Photography by KITTY LEAKEN