San Agustin Oapan

  1. billhood
  2. July 31, 2012 12:08 pm

San Agustin Oapan

Our Trip to San Agustin Oapan, Guerrero, Mexico in February, 2005

On the 27th of February 2005, we went to San Agustin Oapan in Guerrero, the home town of the artisans working at Casa Romero. It was the first day of the village’s annual fiesta. Carlos, one of the most accomplished artisans accompanied us to show us the way.

Lilia who helps with the Casa Romero shipments when we are away and is working for Canadian Friends of VAMOS! on special projects to encourage and facilitate VAMOS! children to attend public schools came along as well as a friend and archaeologist Birgit. San Agustin Oapan is on the Rio Balsas. There are several similar villages on the river. All the inhabitants speak Nahuatl and most speak or are learning Spanish. We were introduced to an anthropologist in the village, who speaks Nahuatl and has been studying the artisans of these villages for over 30 years.

The villagers have never been able to support themselves by farming alone as the land is very dry. After the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, which was carried out from Mexico, Acapulco became the main port of trade with the Philippines. The villagers who lived on the trade route from Mexico City to Acapulco, in addition to subsistence farming, travelled and traded in salt and pottery. The painted pottery became well known and reflected their life in the villages and their relationship with nature. In the early 50’s villagers made contact with amate paper makers from Puebla and started to paint on amate which was easier to carry. Their paintings were sold directly to Mexicans and tourists and brought income back to their villages.

Photos from our trip…


San Agustin Oapan is about 4 hours from Cuernavaca by public transport or on local roads. Using the Mexico City – Acapulco highway reduces the time to 2 hours. The bridge on the left crosses the Rio Balsas and you can exit on the far side and then descend the dirt road to the river bed. If you look carefully on the left you can see the road winding down the mountain.
This picture shows the river. It is the end of the dry season so the river is narrower than in the rainy season but it still has a swift current.
On the way we kept seeing Carlos painted on the roadside. We asked Carlos if he would pose beside his name. There was a recent gubernatorial election in Guerrero. Carlos was not the winning candidate.
The women are carrying the flowers to the church
Our first sight of Agustin Oapan. A poor village
The town has pigs everywhere.We stopped at Samuel’s house to have a drink. Birgit asked for a bathroom. There aren’t any in the whole village.She was led to an area where the family keeps their pigs and Birgit was told that the pigs would clean up after her.
The men are playing their musical instruments
We walked to the centre of town where we saw they had made a basketball court.Basketball is very popular and the surrounding towns had been invited to participate in a tournament.Thanks to the support that our artisans have had they now have time to play in Cuernavaca and their team does quite well.
Ladies tapping out a dance.
The church is across from the basketball court.
Just inside the church entrance.
The interior of the church.
Off to Federico’s home for our first meal.
How do we eat this delicious meal?
Okay, we get the hang of it.
The town has lots of hens and we are treated to the local food. Very spicy but delicious.
On the right, part of Federico’s family – his younger brother, a nephew, Federico, his now wife, they were married on Wednesday, March 2nd, his sister-in-law, his niece and his older brother. The house that you see and where we ate our first meal belongs to the family and was built in the last year and a half with the painters’ earnings. They all sign Federico. Serafin is the father and is a widower, he paints and sells in Cuernavaca, there are five sons and two daughters. The oldest son is married and has two children, Federico is next and just married, Rafael and Maximino work in Cuernavaca at Casa Romero, and the youngest and the two sisters stay at home. All live together as an extended family and contribute to the building of their home. It is one of the nicest in San Agustin Oapan and they are very proud of their accomplishments.
Federico’s youngest brother.
This is Lilia hopping over an old door.They have not yet purchased a door or windows for their new house.
In front of their house you can see Will, Serafin, the proud father.
Federico, his then fiancée and Lilia.Federico asked us to take the picture on the left. A picture of him and his soon to be wife in front of the family’s new home. We made an enlargement and left it at Casa Romero. They are expected to pass through Sunday, March 6th on their way to Monterrey where they hope to find new outlets for their work.
We next went to the home of one of the most famous of the amate painters. His name is Marcial Camilo Ayala. He and his brother’s works are in collections in North America and Europe. Their paintings are larger and are sold through an agent. We hope to see some of their work in Cuernavaca before we leave but as of Friday (March 4th) no one had returned to Cuernavaca. We were introduced to Marcial because Serafin and Samuel and Carlos wanted us to meet their teacher. Also it was at his home that we met the anthropologist.
We were offered drinks and were shown photographs of Marcial’s work. It is beautiful. We were accompanied by Carlos, Samuel and Serafin. Marcial is in the white shirt and his brother is in the hammock.
Serafin, Federico’s DadSerafin then led us to a friend’s house that makes wood sculpture out of tree branches. He knew Bill and Patty, who had visited him in San Agustin Oapan and helped him market his work.
This is his friend who showed us his work and then invited us to our second meal.
This time we had a sauce with beans and freshly caught and cooked river fish.
We then moved on to Samuel’s where there was the same kind of family compound. The women work hard cooking, washing, taking care of the children and serving. The only women eating with the men were Lilia, Birgit and I. We had our third meal here.This is a photo of the women’s corner.
All the tortillas were hand made. They were delicious and kept the women busy.
Samuel and his wife.
For a change of pace we headed for the river. This is Samuel swimming in the river.
We were invited for a fourth meal by Samuel’s in-laws who had killed a cow. We declined as we didn’t want to drive back in the dark and it was 6:00 pm and the rodeo was starting. We wanted to leave by 6:30 as the dirt road had some washed out places which were dangerous enough in the daylight. We arrived a little after 6:00 at the rodeo.
We waited until 7:00. The music had started and some horsemen were warming up but the sun was setting and we had to leave. So Will drove us back to Cuernavaca.

A truly amazing experience.
Will and Claudia Graham
February, 2005


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