Calaveras, alebrijes, muñecas… what’s on your shopping list? Mine always includes Mexican folk art and handicrafts when I’m here. If my story on Mexico City’s Museum of Popular Art inspired you to shop Mexico, then here’s a list of some of my favourite things to buy and my favourite places to buy them:

Mexican Folk Art and Handicrafts to Buy

Calaveras (skeletons)

There’s no better evidence of Mexicans’ celebration of death than in their light-hearted approach to the after-life depicted in the tiny dioramas of skeletons playing in rock bands or dining together and the life-size calaveras dressed for weddings, parties, and almost anything!

Alebrijes

These fantastic, colourful, painted wood or paper mache animals are wild. On our first trip to Mexico many years ago we caught a taxi to a tiny village in the countryside near Oaxaca in search of whimsical wooden creatures and paid ‘guides’ (local teens) to take us to the homes of their artisan families to buy them. It was quite an adventure. Now they’re everywhere. Lucky you!

Muñecas

These lovely handmade dolls with happy faces, long dark hair and vibrant-coloured dresses and aprons are originally from Chihuahua, although these days you’ll see indigenous women selling and making them all over Mexico City.

Huipil

Worn by Mayan women since pre-Hispanic times, you could once only find these traditional blouses featuring prettily embroidered patterns in the Chiapas region, though now you’ll also see them everywhere.

Rebozo

These bold-striped hand-woven shawls, inspired by pre-Hispanic costumes and still worn by indigenous women in Mexico; they make wonderful wearing for winter by adventurous fashionistas, or are equally stunning framed on a wall.

Jorongo

A simple, rustic, woolen poncho with only a slit for you to slip your head through; they generally feature indigenous motifs and are super-warm.

Mascaras

You’ll find all kinds of fantastic mascaras (masks), from rough-hewn, clay, pre-Hispanic masks, to more modern, colourful, surreal-looking masks, such as the wild ‘kurkuvi’ mask, made in the likeness of the God of Fire.

Where to buy Mexican Folk Art and Handicrafts

Museo de Arte Popular

The ground floor gift shop of the Museum of Popular Art is excellent with a huge range of fine quality products from all over Mexico (including all the items above), and sold at fair prices.

Fonart

The official Mexican government handicraft stores have high quality products, and while prices might be higher than the markets, profits go toward supporting and promoting artisans all over Mexico. I like the shops at Avenida Juárez 89 in Centro and on Paseo de la Reforma 116.

San Angel

Head to this leafy, affluent suburb (worth a visit for the cobblestone streets and colonial architecture alone) on a Saturday and you have a choice between shopping Bazaar Sabado, the compact open air handicrafts market, the art market on Plaza San Jacinto, a handful of chi-chi shops around the squares, as well as a rather upmarket indoor market off the square selling expensive textiles, vases, and wood carvings of exquisite quality, but at prices you’d expect to see in the USA or Europe.

Mercado Ciudadella

A large handicrafts market on Balderas, near Cuauhtemoc metro, in El Centro, Mercado Ciudadella isn’t as good as it once was, but it still offers up a huge selection of arts and handicrafts, as well as souvenirs. Expect to find everything from to glass swizzle sticks with cacti on the ends to colourful Lucha Libre mascaras.

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