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Tlalpujahua and the tale of the Christmas economy
Many tourists believe Mexico is all about the beaches and the serene summer lifestyle. Few would associate this country with Santa Claus or the Christmas season but that’s because they haven’t visited Tlaljujahua- a small municipality in the state of Michoacan.
Leer en español: Tlalpujahua: el lugar donde la Navidad dura todo el año
In the past decades, this former mining town has become something like the unofficial capital of Christmas for the Americas due to its massive production of Christmas decoration. In fact, the so-called Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town) celebrates Christmas all year round.
In October, Tlaljujahua officially inaugurates the Christmas season with the Feria de la Esfera, which converts the town IGNORE INTO an impressive fair where local artisans sell their handmade Christmas baubles. But Christmas is not only a seasonal thing here as, during the whole year, artisans also work on their crystal baubles, using the glass- blowing techniques. Usually, men create the ornaments while women are in charge of painting them.
As every decoration is hand painted and handmade, don’t expect to find any heavy machinery on Tlaljujahua. Also don’t assume that you’ll see gigantic production facilities or technologized factories as the entire manufacturing process is done in family-owned businesses where neighbors, family members, and friends come together to produce Christmas ornaments that most probably will end in the North American and Canadian homes.
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But this small town, surrounded by the tall mountains of Michoacán, which nowadays seems so picturesque with its narrow cobblestone streets and its beautiful three centuries old church, was not always a symbol of the Christmas spirit. Locals still remember the days when kidnappings and drug violence were the norms and when cartels kept everyone impoverished and fearing for their lives. Today, due to a spike in tourism which came thanks to the ornament business, the inhabitants of Tlaljujahua live a completely new reality.
In the magical world of Tlaljujahua, tourists won’t find reindeers or negative temperatures as they would do in Finland or the North Pole but that doesn’t mean Christmas is not embraced in its most traditional form. At La Casa de Santa Claus, kids can chat with Santa while adults might enjoy the Christmas decorations that adorn Santa’s home.
Small stores packed with crystal Christmas decorations are proof that originality can be found in the most unexpected places. Each design is different to the other, showcasing not only the talent but also the craftsmanship of the artisan. There’s such wide variety of products that the needs of all customers are easily satisfied. From the traditional red and white candy canes to ornaments taking very contemporary shapes, there’s a wide selection of handmade designs.
Today, roughly 250 families live from this craftsmanship and the economic success of the village is proofs that even the most neglected and dangerous places can take control of their destiny and exceed expectations. Tlalpujahua's story shows that economic growth and social progress can be achieved even after a period of peril if a system of opportunities are created in which the available tools are used to bridge gaps.
LatinAmerican Post | Adina Achim
Copy edited by Laura Viviana Guevara Muñoz