The Otomi are the first largest indigenous ethnic group in Mexico, located primarily in the Sierra Madre area.
Traditionally their economy was based on agriculture, which is why many of their religious beliefs and practices relate to the spirits present in the seed of cultivated plants or the forces of nature like the sun and the rain.
In the ‘60s the severe drought that devastated the agricultural economy of the area caused the Otomi people to engage in trade with their textile articles, creating a style of embroidery and sewing that is less elaborate than the traditional one. Otomi embroidered fabrics, generally on a background of natural white cotton muslin, are known as “Tenangos” and depict very colorful scenes of everyday life, such as the sowing and the harvest rites and numerous animals, such as hares, deer, armadillos, parrots, trees and floral patterns to signify man in harmony with the natural environment and as a reminder of the importance of agriculture and the benefits derived from nature.
Above the town of Tenango, the heart of Otomi embroidery, is a large rock formation with many caves where there are ancient rock paintings of birds and animals which, according to a local legend, inspired the Otomi embroidery figures.
The embroidery stitch used for these beautiful masterpieces is called “false satin stitch” because the satin stitch is made only on the front of the fabric and not on the back, to save threat. It takes more than three months of embroidery to complete a sheet of about two square meters.
With their bright colors, the graphic style of the drawings and the bold use of positive and negative space, the Tenangos are an example of a wonderful art form that blends tradition and modern ingenuity.
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