May 16, 2017
Paper has been an indispensable element for the development of almost all cultures of the world. In pre-Hispanic Mexico this was not different. (Watch the video)
Centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards to these territories of America, the Mayans, the Aztecs and other cultures already used paper for religious, social and cultural purposes.
The name that receives this paper in Mexico is “AMATE”. This is elaborated since then using the bark of a tree called Jonote. The process starts from the selection of the tree, which must be at least three years old. Afterwards, the bark of the selected tree is detached, which is left to dry and then submerged in water with ash and lime. All this is put to the fire to boil it for several hours after which the fibers of the Jonote have softened so it is possible to separate them into much thinner ones. These fine fibers are placed neatly on a wide flat wooden surface and they are gently tapped with a flat stone in order that the fibers (still wet) join together. When a thin and uniform layer of adequate size is achieved, the entire board is dried in the sun for two or three days after which it is possible to detach from it a thin dry membrane, perfectly integrated, soft and malleable, that is, Amate Paper. (Watch the video)
At present, this paper is elaborated following the same traditional process that the prehispanic peoples used for its manufacture. The specific place is the town called San Pablito, in the center of Mexico.
The inhabitants of San Pablito use this paper for religious purposes in which they show their beliefs in pre-Hispanic deities, although at present these merge with the catholic ones that the Spanish conquerors imposed from the 16th century. (Watch the video)
Since the mid-twentieth century the development of Amate has acquired strong craftsmanship, which has served to the people of San Pablito and neighboring towns get extra financial resources for this activity.
The techniques used in the work on Amate Paper are cutting and painting on it. The motifs and themes range from the mystical and religious to the natural, which is mainly shown in the representation of flowers, deer and birds of exuberant plumage. In these paintings it is possible to appreciate the intense and varied color that reflects the cosmovision of the inhabitants of this region of Mexico, expressed in very particular and so pleasant compositions that invite us to immerse ourselves in them to enjoy them in a much more intense way.