Puebla, Mexico, Sep 25 (EFE).- For generations, artisans from the San Nicolás de los Ranchos municipality in the central Mexican state of Puebla have used volcanic stones from the slopes of the Popocatépetl volcano to make utensils, sculptures and decorative items.
The artisans use the stone’s unique texture to give it different shapes and create items such as the traditional molcajete, a pre-Hispanic mortar and pestle, and the metate, used for hand-grinding corn and other grains into flour.
Nowadays, they also create daily use items including plates, napkin holders, picture frames, incense holders, religious images and pots, among other things.
The men of the Apantenco family, originally from San Nicolás de los Ranchos, have kept this art alive for four generations.
Marcelo Apantenco told EFE that he has created objects since he was six years old, when his father and grandfather taught him how to sculpt the stone.
For 50 years, the family has gone to the slopes of the volcano to collect the stones, this being the most complicated part for them since they do not have a means of transport, and have to take them to the house by donkey or horse.
Once they have the stone, their house’s patio becomes a workshop, where they spend over eight hours a day working to complete orders or make pieces that they later sell door-to-door or in markets.
“The stone we work with here in the village is volcanic rock of Popocatépetl, which is the best because it is hard… and yields better results. The stone that is delicate, softer or smooth is the one we call porous and that does not work,” Marcelo Apantenco explained.
José Alberto Apantenco, a stone craftsman since the age of nine, is dedicated to keeping this art alive after following in the footsteps of his father.
He said that it is a long process since the tradition of creating the pieces by hand is maintained.
For him, the first step of extracting the stones from the earth using two long sticks, then and transporting them to his home, is the most complicated.
Next, he selects the stone most appropriate for the item to be made and, after tracing his design onto it, he begins to hit the stone with a hammer until the sculpture is achieved.
Some sculptures only take only a day or two while others can take months due to the complexity of the design or shape. EFE