Handicrafts of El Salvador

The artists’ village of La Palma, lies in a pine-covered valley under Miramundo mountain. Here, in 1971, the artist Fernando Llort ‘planted a seed’ known as the copinol (a species of the locust tree) from which sprang the first artists’ cooperative, now called La Semilla de Dios (Seed of God). The copinol seed is firm and round; on it the artisans base a spiritual motif that emanates from their land and soul.

The town and its craftspeople are now famous for their work in wood, including exotically carved cofres (adorned wooden chests), and traditional Christmas muñecas de barro (clay dolls) and ornamental angels. Wood carvings, other crafts and the designs of the original paintings by Llort, are all produced and exported from La Palma to the rest of El Salvador and thence worldwide.

In 1971 the area was almost exclusively agricultural. Today 75% of the population of La Palma and neighbouring San Ignacio are engaged directly or indirectly in producing handicrafts. The painter Alfredo Linares (born 1957 in Santa Ana, arrived in La Palma 1981 after studying in Guatemala and Florence) has a gallery in La Palma, employing and assisting local artists. His paintings and miniatures are marketed abroad, yet you will often find him working in the family pharmacy next to the gallery. Many of La Palma’s images are displayed on the famous Hilasal towels. If you cannot get to La Palma, visit the
shop/gallery/workshop of Fernando Llort in San Salvador, Arbol de Dios

Near San Salvador is the indigenous town of Panchimalco, where weaving on the loom and other traditional crafts are being revived. Many Náhuatl traditions, customs, dances and the language survived here as the original indigenous people hid from the Spanish conquistadors in the valley beneath the Puerta del Diablo (now in Parque Balboa). In 1996 the painter Eddie Alberto Orantes and his family opened the Centro de Arte y Cultura Tunatiuh, named after a Náhuatl deity who is depicted as a human face rising as a sun over a pyramid. The project employs local youths (from broken homes, or former addicts) in the production of weavings, paintings and ceramics.

In the mountains of western El Salvador, villages in the coffee zone, such as Nahuizalco, specialize in weaving henequen, bamboo and reed into table mats and wicker furniture. There are also local artists like Maya sculptor Ahtzic Selis, who works with clay and jade. East of the capital, at Ilobasco, many ceramic workshops produce items including the famous sorpresas, miniature figures enclosed in an egg shell. In the capital there are craft markets, and throughout the country, outlets range from the elegant to the rustic. Everywhere, artists and artisans welcome visitors into their workshops.


The El Salvador Handbook is available now.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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