Text: Pamela Camacho Lara
Video and photo: Juan Carlos Sánchez
Approximately 45 minutes from Puebla capital, is the community of Santiago Acatlán in the municipality of Tepeaca, Puebla, characterized by being a land of artisans and the Christmas nativity scenes; which are distributed to different parts of the country and the world.
In an interview with Poblanerías, Simón Morales Olivares, a craftsman, explains that in Santiago Acatlán, families have been making Christmas nativity scenes for many generations.
Simón Morales says that he and his family have been working making handicrafts for more than 20 years. And some time later, they decided to have something of their own and started their own workshop; in which they have been working for 10 years.
“Since I remember, when I was child, most of my classmates used to work; since then we started to recognize. More less the 90 percent is a craftsman”, he told.
The Morales family is dedicated to making various types of crafts throughout the year, such as religious representations of the Virgin of Guadalupe, angels, Christs; and other pieces such as turtles, bears, vases, dancers and seasonal figures.
The family shares the tasks of molding, drying, gathering, general and more precise painting; distribution and sale.
They do teamwork, which works for them to get the family business up and running.
Sale in other states and countries
His pieces, in addition to being distributed in Puebla and its municipalities, reach different states of the Republic, such as Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Mexico City.
In addition to the people who go to the workshop and take them wholesale to Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Chiapas, among others.
Likewise, people who bring birth pieces, also in bulk, have arrived abroad such as the United States, Canada and some parts of Europe, says the family.
During Christmas season, the workshop molds around 100 handmade Christmas pieces a day –including nativity scenes– of the largest ones, which measure 80 centimeters. The quantity can vary depending on the size of the pieces, since they make figures from 20 to 80 centimeters.
The Christmas nativities and other Christmas pieces can be buy each years starting on November, during all December and until January 6th.
“Here we are makers, and most of them are craftsmen, We give them a comfortable price, we serve them in a good way and they can find a variety of what they need (for nativity scenes and other Christmas pieces)”, invites you Simon to get your Christmas nativities in Santiago Acatlan.
The prices that the Morales family manages, go from 10 pesos each piece by wholesale, but this will increase due to the size, the material with which they are made and the quantity that is requested.
Christmas nativities elaboration
Christmas nativities scenes consist of eleven essential figures, representing the Child God, Joseph, Mary, the three wise men, the angel or archangel Gabriel, an ox, a sheep, a donkey and a shepherd.
Morales Olivares explains that, they make a latex-based mold of all the pieces; later, when they are ready, they are filled with a mixture (previously made in a container) of ceramic plaster -the most common material- and water.
The mold is filled with the mixture and the artisan spreads it all over the figure with the rotomolding technique for two or three minutes. The formed piece is removed from the mold and quickly placed in the sun.
Also, the time it takes for the pieces to dry depends on two factors: the size of the figure and the intensity of the sun's rays. In order to dry completely, they can spend from one to seven days in the sun.
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Once they are dried, they are restored if they have any breakage, they are carved and sanded to better define the qualities and then they go to the painting process, which consists of three stages:
1.- The first one is with airbrush, where they are painted with base colors such as white, gray and/or gold for the clothes; and color for the skin tone, in a very general way and without so much precision.
2. It is also done with airbrush, and consists of using more specific colors such as brown or black for hair and facial hair, and others such as purple, green, red, orange. For clothing, depending on the character.
3. This consists of painting details such as the eyes, mouth, blush; details in the clothes and complementary elements that require more precision. It is left to dry and, finally, it is packed for transportation.
Morales family workshop is located at Reforma Oriente Street, N.2, Santiago Acatlan in Tepeaca Town, Puebla. Also you can contact them 223 113 7350 to get more information.
Translated by: Luba Michelle García Vega