Caravana Americana Showcases the Passion of Latin America’s Design Community

From March 24 to 26, we visited Caravana Americana in Mexico City, where 61 emerging and established designers, makers, and artisans from Latin America showcased their work—from furnishings and home goods to fashion and accessories.
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Hosted by LAGO in an old tram terminal that was in working condition until the 1950s, the event was designed to connect Latin America's creative industry with international buyers and possible opportunities for growth. As we explored the show floor—which hosted two massive turbines that used to power the trams—it became clear that Caravana Americana has become a destination where emerging designers can proudly share their work with an audience that’s passionate about empowering the industry. Even though this event was just the third edition of its first year, it was clear that the curated event has already caught the attention of design lovers throughout Mexico—and will continue to do so as they host more editions. What was even clearer, was the passion that the designers hold for their crafts—as well as a serious respect they have for their culture’s history, traditions, and ideals.  

The third edition of Caravana Americana was held from March 24 to 26 on Dr. Claudio Bernard 111 in Mexico City. The industrial space was formerly home to a working tram terminal and still holds original turbines that were in working condition until the ‘50s. The floor below houses a printing press and regularly hosts talks, exhibits, and other events.

Specifically, a surprising number of designers are basing their business around the task of preserving traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations—some of which hail from their ancient relatives. They’re working with local craftspeople and cherishing their skills, while also introducing a modern design perspective. 

Follow us as we introduce you to some of our favorite brands we discovered—all of whom are making sure these traditional techniques are preserved and reinterpreted for the modern consumer. And stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll share the rest of our top discoveries that celebrate local materials, cultural symbols, sustainability, and functionality.  

txt.ure: Aztec-Inspired Seating Made With Tyle

One of the companies that truly embodied this task of celebrating forgotten skills was txt.ure, a collaborative design project that’s based in Mexico City and is working closely with New York-based furniture company, Luteca. With a goal of bringing back crafts that were popular in ancient Mexican culture, they’re identifying lost fragments of their design history, and reintroducing endangered manufacturing techniques—while updating them for the modern consumer. 

txt.ture’s first collection was made in alliance with master artisan Don Nacho Morales, and includes six designs that are inspired by functional seating pieces that were used in daily life by the Aztecs. Shown here is the tabouret, individual armchair, and wooden core bench—all made with locally-sourced seagrass, or "tyle."

This illustration from 1578 depicts how "tabourets" were used in Aztec life. We were told that the type of seagrass seat that individuals used represented their position in society. Using the same woven technique that their ancestors employed, txt.ure will produce 20 pieces per month, which will be available to purchase through Luteca by the end of May.

Colorindio: Textiles Made With the Backstrap Loom

Colorindio began in 2009 when two women, Libia Moreno and Paulina Parlange, took a trip through Mexico to bring together women weavers from multiple communities who create beautiful textiles with techniques that have been passed down for generations. Today, they work with 22 women cooperatives to help them sell their work and connect them with consumers. When we stopped by their booth, Paulina explained how they’re working to acknowledge and encourage women weavers who create cotton textiles with the backstrap loom, a Mayan technique that's considered one of the most ancient types of looms—according to Paulina. 

The two women behind Colorindio work with women weavers who are masters of the backstrap loom, a weaving technique that was used by the Mayans and is in danger of fading away. They help the women curate their designs into cohesive collections for the modern day consumer.

Colorindio shares: "Visiting Zinacantan with our friends Juana and Pascuala Hernandez in the southern part of the Central Chiapas highlands in the Mexican state of Chiapas."

Paulina explained to us that the traditional use of the backstrap loom originates throughout parts of both Mexico and Guatemala. "The cooperatives help empower the women, since they’re able to double their income using their own skills," she says. 

The textiles the women create often feature ancient symbols that are carefully produced on the loom and represent elements of nature. Because of the intense work that goes into each piece, some of them take up to 60 days to produce.

Peca: A Modern Take on Piteado

Based in Guadalajara, Mexico, Peca is an independent design studio that collaborates with local artisans while exploring natural materials, textures, and forms. Their newest introduction they shared with us was their line of Pita Cushions, which look like clean, modern leather pillows—but are actually so much more. Each cushion includes a section of embroidered details that are created with piteado, a leather embroidery technique that’s traditionally been used to create ornate belts, saddles, and accessories, and embodies the craftsmanship of Jalisco, Mexico. Though this technique has usually been used to create baroque-style creations in Mexican culture, they decided to reinterpret it for the modern home. 

Caterina Moretti, Peca’s head designer and studio director, is shown here working closely with a marble object.

Designed by Caterina Moretti and Justine Trouéau, the leather Pita Cushions feature embroidery that’s created with pita, a fiber that comes from the leaves of the Agave Americana plant—also known as American aloe, century plant, or maguey. Using this Colotlán technique, they’ve created a design that depicts rain falling on a mountain. 

Colectivo 1050°: Pottery From Oaxaca

As a non-profit organization that’s funded by donors, volunteers, and the sales of their pottery, Colectivo 1050° is a project by Innovando la Tradición and is based out of Oaxaca, Mexico. This group of artisans creates handmade clay products that are inspired by Oaxacan traditions, but adapted for everyday modern living. Along with striving to produce products with a fair trade mentality and ecologically-sustainable practices, the artisans work together collaboratively to create simple and functional pieces that can be used in an urban lifestyle. 

The artisans of Colectivo 1050° create designs that are inspired by the hills, soil, aromas, colors, and textures of Oaxaca, Mexico.

The collective represents more than 45 artisans in seven villages and strives to encourage sustainable practices that can help create a better way of life for the artisans. Since it’s sometimes hard to earn a living with pottery, the team behind the collective fears that at least a third of the villages still working with clay will abandon their craft over the next decade. However, they're constantly organizing workshops, courses, and exchanges to help potters develop their skills and knowledge so that they can find success in the marketplace.

Colectivo 1050° works with artisans based in San Bartolo Coyotepec, a town at the center of Oaxaca that's known for working with black clay.  

They’re also doing everything they can to educate potters in subjects ranging from design and technical skills, to organization and marketing. They’re also hoping to educate the public about the importance of this craft through exhibitions, publications, and promotional activities.

Filamento: Lighting With Pounded Copper and Bruñido

Based in Guadalajara, Mexico, Filamento is an independent design studio that crafts lighting fixtures by hand with local materials—and also aims to provide fair trade opportunities for craftspeople. While searching for local materials and artisans, they ended up diving into an exploration of different techniques and processes that celebrate Mexican history. As a result, they currently work with pounded copper and bruñido to create simple, modern light fixtures.

One of the traditional techniques that Filamento is fostering is working with hammered copper in Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico. For years, this skill has supported the principal commercial activity of this town, and includes knowledge that’s been passed down for generations. To create these pieces, eight or more craftsmen work together at the same time around an anvil. Hot copper is literally pounded into its desired form.

Another technique they use to produce their lights is bruñido pottery, which hails from Tonalá, Jalisco, a city that’s become known as the cradle of pottery—thanks to the vast deposits of clay that can be found in the area. This technique includes multiple steps that require pyrite, sandpaper, and river stones to help smooth the clay until it has a buttery, smooth surface.

Make sure to stay tuned for Part II of our experience at Caravana American.


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