In this, our first ever entry of our blog of artesanos, we would like to introduce you to the Romero Roque family of San Gabriel Chilac, Puebla. They are: the sisters, Señora Irma and Señora Margarita Romero Roque, and Margarita's daughter, Señora Marisa Martínez Romero. The Romero Roque sisters learnt to make the famous Chanél de Chilac from their grandmother, a tradition that, to their gratification, Marisa has taken up.
Sadly, to talk about the Chanél de Chilac, we need to address what has become the biggest and less talked about problem that artesanos in México are facing against: Knockoffs. And without a doubt, the Chanél de Chilac, the traditional dress of San Gabriel Chilac, is the most knocked-off traditional garment on the market. As a consequence of its own popularity as the quintessential "Mexican Dress", unscrupulous "businessmen" have flooded the market with cheaply produced imitations that have left artesanos from the community with an ever shrinking demand for their hand-made dresses. Marisa tells us that producing a Chanél knockoff takes only an hour, the process has been completely computerized, where the traditional embroidery design is input into a software that 'prints' it out of an embroidery machine. Making matters worse, there's fierce competition among the few artisans that are left and the determining factor ends up being, not the quality of their dresses, but how cheaply they can let them go for. The sisters tell us that there have been sporadic efforts to get organized but that they have failed due to economic hardship.
Being aware of the crisis, we made our way to San Gabriel Chilac and had the fortune to meet with the Señoras. The goal was to open an outlet for them to produce the authentic Chanél de Chilac as it is meant to be. The motifs are first drawn and embroidered by hand on what would become the different parts of the dress. They are then washed and pressed. The neck line is crochet-knitted and finally all the parts are stitch together with the help of a sewing machine.
We are excited to have built a relationship with the Romero Roque family and are looking forward to share with you their traditional dress.