San Cristóbal de las Casas
Located in the Mexican state of Chiapas, San Cristóbal de las Casas is home to a population of 186,000, with a high proportion of indigenous peoples who make a significant contribution to the thriving sector of crafts and folk art. As the main driver of the local economy, crafts and folk art are embodied throughout ten neighbourhoods of the city, showcasing a diversity of traditional know-how in: blacksmithing, pottery, woodcarving, amber jewellery making and embroidery. Deeply rooted in the city’s ancestral traditions, crafts and folk art are part of everyday life and play a key role in interconnecting urban and rural areas, as well as fostering intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.
The city’s most popular and long-standing cultural event is the Spring Fair and Peace, which takes place every April, and has done so for more than a century. The fair celebrates the start of spring and involves all the artists within the city. While fostering access and participation to cultural life, this multidisciplinary event features traditional and innovative local works of art through performances, exhibitions and markets. The fair pays particular attention to empowering women from indigenous communities. In addition, the square of Santo Domingo Church is often alive with cultural activities, and hosting the traditional tianguis (open-air markets) for crafts and folk art.
Committed to giving a new impetus to the crafts sector, in 2012, the city launched the Maya World Textile AC Centre. This hub has enabled the city to foster the crafts sector by providing creative spaces for research, protection and promotion of local crafts, in particular Maya textile. Thanks to close cooperation between public and private institutions, as well as civil society, this centre has benefitted nearly 800 artisans from 30 different indigenous communities in a three-year period. It has now become a nationally ranked model for the protection and promotion of crafts and folk art.
As a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, San Cristóbal de las Casas envisages: mapping the creative sector under the methodology of Participatory Action Research of Fals Borda to support and orient creativity-related policy development at the local, regional and national levels; implementing the Creative Design and Crafts and Folk Art Center, a multidisciplinary creative hub to foster exchanges among and between local and regional artisans and creative entrepreneurs; strengthening cooperation between local governments, academia, civil society and the private sector to fully integrate culture and creativity within integrated and sustainable policies and plans; positioning the city as an international reference point in crafts of folk art by consolidating international cooperation with other Creative Cities; and multiplying artistic residencies to nurture the mobility of artists within the Network, and to encourage research, development and innovation of crafts products.