Papier Mache Butterflies

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Unlike most folk art styles, which involve hundreds of artisans, these decorative papier mache butterflies are handmade by just one Mayan family in Izamal, a small village located in Yucatan State.

They are steel wire shaped, covered with layers of newspaper and engrudo, hand painted with acrylic colors and lacquered with an acrylic varnish.

Thanks to an ingenious hanging device, the butterflies lie separated from the wall creating a "standing" illusion.

paper mache butterflies on wall

A New Folk Art Style
The Pech family began making papier mache butterflies 15 years ago copying the models from a small collection of dissected butterflies.

The production was sold localy with limited succes until we met the family and began selling the butterflies in our store.

They soon became our best seller and Copal Store started to be known as the butterflies store. To cope with the large demand the Pech family hired new artisans and expanded the number of models avalaible.

The Butterflies and Mesoamerican Cultures
Archaeological sites and codices account for the importance of butterflies in the Pre-Hispanic cultures:

The Teotihuacans represented butterflies in stamps and jewelry, in temples and palaces stone-carvings and in painted ceramic vessels used in ceremonial rituals.

The Toltecs decorated the pectorals of the colossal Tula warriors, known as Atlantes, with butterflies. The Mayans sculpted them in the Chichen Itza temples.

The Aztecs used them to decorate the warriors' shields and represented them in stone and feathers crafts.

Xochitquetzal their love and joy goddess was represented with a butterfly body and wings and a human face and arms.

The Mazahuas called them the daughters of the sun because they wake up in April with the spring.

The Nahuatl word for butterfly is papalotl; many places were named after these insects, like the Papaloapan river in Veracruz state, the Papalotepec mountain in Mexico state and the town Papalotepec in Guerrero state.

A Special Visitor
Every year from November to April thousands of monarch butterflies arrive to Mexico from Canada to spend the winter in the forests of Michoacan state.

Many indigenous people from the area of Michoacan believe that the butterflies are the souls of their dead children that come every year to visit them. The monarch butterflies arrive in the end of October when the Day of the dead celebration is held in Mexico.

Monarch butterflies in Michoacan

Monarch butterflies bathed in the sunshine in Angangueo, Mexico.

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