Made by Otomi women in the Tenango Valley of Hidalgo, Mexico, this multicoloured textile square is embellished with embroidered whimsical characters and crisp graphic shapes. Commonly known as tenangos, this style of embroidery can be traced back to pre Aztec Meso-America with the symbolism, iconography and colour ways of the pieces reflecting the time-honoured traditions and beliefs of the Otomi people. Traditional designs featured on Otomi textiles are said to originate from prehistoric wall paintings located in the Tenango region and symbolise man living in harmony with the natural environment.
An economic crisis caused by a severe drought in the 1960s devastated the predominantly subsistence farming region of the Tenango Valley. Considering alternative ways of making a living, the Otomi looked to their artistic heritage. Successfully melding modern ingenuity with ancient traditions helped restore the rich cultural inheritance and ethnic identity of the Otomi Indians, in addition to assuring international recognition of Otomi embroidery as an art form in its own right.
This tenango, with its use of vibrant saturated colours and graphic floral and animal motifs, characterises the elaborate and intricate embroidery that has found favour with national and international buyers. As an example, in 2011, the French fashion house Hermes released exclusive designs for upscale scarves and handkerchiefs featuring colourful and eye-catching tenango designs as a means of '...preserving and passing on from generation to generation the ancestral techniques that yield products of excellence.'
Wendy Circosta, Research Assistant, 2011
Aviva, Laura, Otomi Modern, www.handeyemagazine.com, 2 November 2009, viewed March 2011
Alcanta, Edna. Hermes incorporates Mexican Indian embroidery into designs, La Prensa, www.laprnsasa.com, 7 March 2011, viewed March 2011
Mexico's vanishing textile tradition, www.mexicantextiles.com, viewed March 2011
Tenangos history, Human Rights Communication, www.iamcr2009mexico.unam.mx, 2009, viewed March 2011
Textiles of the Otomi, Barry Stern Galleries Brochure, 2010