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CBC Highlight: Let’s Work, the 7th book in the First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art series (Cinco Puntos Press 2019)

Palm has been used for centuries in Mexico for baskets, mats, hats, children’s toys and other items for household and personal use. In the 1950s a family in the state of Puebla began making figurative miniatures from palm for sale. The son of the founder of this new artisanal form, Flavio Gallardo, continues today and has taught approximately 30 other residents of his small town how to make the craft. This workshop made the pieces for Let’s Work. The artisans are able to use the money from production of these figures to supplement their incomes. The diminutive figures are sold in folk art galleries and in museum shops around Mexico.

Ballerina figure made by Flavio Gallardo and Basilia Sánchez of Chigmecatitlán, Puebla.

It takes from two to four hours for two people, usually a married couple, to make one small figure. Couples work together, usually at night, after other household chores have been completed. It takes tremendous skill and patience to make each piece.  

Flavio Gallardo and Basilia Sánchez, heads of the workshop that made the figures for Let’s Work.

Most of the pieces in Let’s Work are slightly larger than an American quarter or Mexican 10-peso coin. 

Cynthia Weill first encountered miniature palm weavings while visiting the State Folk Art Museum in Oaxaca, Mexico. The museum staff helped her locate the makers, a group of artisans in the village of Chigmecatitlán in the Mixtec Mountains of the neighboring State of Puebla.

Bryant Boucher works all over the world as a professional photographer. This is his first book for children.

These books make use of crafts created by artisans mostly from the State of Oaxaca to illustrate basic ideas for children in English and Spanish.  Because Weill observes each stage of the artisanal process and takes copious field notes and photos, The Field Museum of Chicago has made all of these crafts part of its permanent Meso-American collection.  The miniature palm pieces in the bilingual Let’s Work:  Mexican Folk Art Trabajos in English and Spanish were made by artisans from Chigmecatitlán, Puebla, Mexico.

Cynthia is Director, Center for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College of Education.   www.cynthiaweill.net

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