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The embroidery of Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, Mexico.

The word “Tenango” comes from the Nahuatl language and means “In the place of the walls”. On the walls that are in this town, there are cave paintings that are inspired by the famous and colorful embroidery that is made in this municipality.

Tenango de Doria is a municipality in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, located in central-eastern Mexico. In addition to hosting pre-Hispanic and historical places, such as the church of San Agustin, patron saint to which they hold a popular festival on August 28; or “El Estribo” a natural landscape from where the indigenous people, during the French invasion, rolled large stones and threw them at the French from the top of the Sierra. Its gastronomy is also worth mentioning: corn and banana leaf tamales, cheese bread and piloncillo or metate chocolate delight the most demanding palates.

Tenango de Doria, is also famous because it houses different communities mainly from the Otomi-tepehua community such as: San Pablo el Grande, Santa Monica and San Nicolas, where the colorful and traditional TENANGO is mainly made, that embroidery that immediately makes one think of Mexico.

This famous embroidery represents hours of work by the artists who create it. Yes artists, because to define and fill in the shapes of the drawings, which are previously captured by them, you need a lot of accuracy, dexterity and a lot of patience. On white or colored cotton, silk and linen canvas, the daily life, customs and worldview of the Otomi-tepehua community is captured with colored or single-colored cotton threads. These unique pieces, have no equal or similarity with any other, in them we can also find some members of the wild fauna and flora of the region; as well as the occasional local celebration, patron saint festivals, carnival weddings and also the Day of the Dead.

What is the origin of TENANGO?

Although there is no exact theory, there are three versions that can explain its origin. The first indicates that in the 1960s there was a tremendous drought that produced a social and economic crisis; then it was necessary to look for an economic alternative for the community, and the answer was to draw and embroider on canvas the worldview of the community, that is, TENANGO.

The second theory explains that there was a time of guerrillas between indigenous communities and the Otomies ran to take refuge in a place called “El Cirio”. There they began to draw on the walls of the place and, from those cave paintings, the TENANGOS were born.

The third is, its creation is attributed to Josefina Jose Tavera, originally from the community of San Nicolas, where she is known as the initiator of the first TENANGO.

What meaning do the colors have?

Just as we see that in the elaboration of the eye of God, an important element of the Wixarika (Huichol) community, colors have an important meaning for protection, which is the first objective of the Tzicuri; We also find that in the elaboration of TENANGO the colors express a language: for example, the color red represents good, the color black evil; green is vegetation; the orange color the fire; the blue color, the moon; and finally the brown color, the earth.

TENANGO embroidery is a heritage that struggles to survive against various factors of this capitalist sphere in which we live. Globalization, cultural appropriation, are two situations that have threatened this artisan technique in recent years. We remember how large fast fashion industries are, such as mango, have painlessly “taken” the “tenangos” and made them decorate sweaters and other pieces of clothing, of course, machine-made, and offering them for sale at prices two or three times greater than that of the Otomies artists.

To create an 80 cm x 70 cm piece, the artist will perform the most exact stitches for 32 hours, after which their eyes will tire a little more. Thanks to the parents and grandparents who want to inherit this traditional knowledge to future generations, children from 7 years of age begin to color the drawings and embroider them little by little, always clear under the benevolent eyes of an adult.