I bought this today. It is a small piece – about six inches on each side. An interior decorator’s dream.
This is the information that came with it: The Santos Salvador family comes from the Nuju (or otomi) village of San Pablito, high in the mountains of Puebla where their community still speaks their native language, Nuju. They are recognized for their creative designs on papel amate, the hand hammered bark paper.
The Nuju are the only tribe remaining in Mexico who continue to make the lapel amate, paper that was originally used for recording the Mexica (Aztec) codexes.
The art of bark paper making was hidden from the Spanish invaders by the Nuju and survived through the centuries because the spirits and gods cut from bark paper was, and continues to be, used by the Nuju cunaderas in their spiritual work. Many of the families of San Pablito are involved in the paper-making process, but the paper made by the Santos Salvador family has received national and international awards for the combination of delicate and imaginative cuttings.
The paper is made from the bark of the jonote tree, corteas (cuttings of bark) are taken from the tree by other tribes in the surrounding villages. The Nuju of San Pablito cook the bark in a hot bath, white lime and ash added in order to soften the pulp and then wash it. Bleach is added to the pulp in order to receive the color from the natural dyes of flowers, ash, earth, bark, and other plants.
The pulp strips are then laid out on a board in a grid fashion and hammered with a flat stone until the grids merge, creating sheets of solid paper, and are dried in the sun. To hammer the paper they use the same type of flat stone that has been used since pre-hispanic times.
When visiting San Pablito, the sounds of stones clacking can be heard from every direct of the dense, beautiful mountainside.
The final presentation is actually two pieces of paper of two different weights, a heavier piece of the bottom, and a more delicate piece for the cutout. The thinner paper is made, dried in the sun, folded and snipped with scissors in designs that depict the various gods and animals of the Nuju. Good figures are represented with roots for their feet. In their hands hold peanuts, coffee, pineapples, mangos, chilies, all indigenous crops from this region of Mexico.
Finally, the delicate paper is applied and pressed to the heavier base while the bottom piece is still in the drying process.
In addition to the cut paper, the Santos Savaldor family has developed several very interesting methods of decorating the bark paper with with paper patterns and textures by adding intricate beadwork and fine stitchery into the weaving of the paper, both of which are ancient skills that are still used by the Nuju women to create their blouses.
~ Enrique Santos Salvador
San Pablito Pahuatlan, Puebla 73100