Basketry and Woven Crafts
Weaving straw, palm fronds, and reeds is among the oldest of Mexican handicraft traditions. Mat- and basket-weaving methods and designs 5,000 years old survive to the present day. All over Mexico, people weave petates (palm-frond mats) that vacationers use to stretch out on the beach and that locals use for everything, from keeping tortillas warm to shielding babies from the sun. Along the coast, you might see a woman or child waiting for a bus or even walking down the street while weaving white palm leaf strands into a coiled basket. Later, you may see a similar basket, embellished with a bright animal—parrot, burro, or even Snoopy—for sale in the market.
Like the origami paper-folders of Japan, folks who live around Lake Pátzcuaro have taken basket weaving to its ultimate form by crafting virtually everything—from toy turtles and Christmas bells to butterfly mobiles and serving spoons—from the reeds they gather along the lakeshore.
Hatmaking has likewise attained high refinement in Mexico. Workers in Sahuayo, Michoacán (near the southeast shore of Lake Chapala) make especially fine sombreros. Due east across Mexico, in Becal, Campeche, workers fashion Panama hats, called jipis (HEE-pees), so fine, soft, and flexible you can stuff one into your pants pocket without damage.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition