Finding Handicraft
On Your Own

Wooden unicorns from Oaxaca, photo by Patricia Buck WolfSometimes the economic welfare of entire native villages depends on the sale of such items as the wooden unicorn at the right, which was spotted in a mercado in Oaxaca.

However, sometimes towns famous for producing particular kinds of handicraft do not necessarily sell that same handicraft in their own local mercados. Once a family has enough of what it makes stored up, it may bundle up a shipment and send one of its members off selling the handicraft in distant cities; or it may invite a middleman to drop by, who will load the goods into his pickup truck or van and carry them to a distant wholesaler, thus completely bypassing local markets. If the goods are indeed sold locally, they may appear in specialized shops and boutiques, not in the mercado proper.

Nonetheless, those of us who like to meet the artisans and know the home bases of the things we buy -- and possibly run into extraordinary bargains -- might still do well to visit small to medium-size handicraft-producing towns. Just land in town, go to a restaurant, have a nice meal, and then ask the person serving you who in town produces the particular kind of item you are looking for. If the knowledge is not known, most likely, in habitual Mexican fashion, the question will be passed around until someone walks over and tells you exactly where to knock on a door.

Once the courtyard's door is open and you see the great heaps of hats, or clay animal figurines, or hammocks, or whatever, then the cross-cultural fun begins.

If this idea appeals to you, then we have exactly what you need: The List of Handicraft-Producing Towns offered in another section. What could be more fun than dowloading that list, printing it out, and taking it with you on your next trip to Mexico?