Angélica Vásquez Cruz
Defender of Women's Self-Expression
In March of 2009 Angélica Vásquez Cruz received the National Arts and Sciences Award in the "Arts and Traditions" category. Her award was presented to her by past President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, at the Presidential residence of Los Piños.
Angélica says it was a wonderful experience for her and her family as she was allowed to bring her parents and children. It was the first time on an airplane for her parents and she took special pleasure in the fact that it had always been one of her father's dreams - to fly.
Already the notoriety this award has brought her has changed her life as she travels extensively as an invited guest for craft events, socio-politcal events both national and federal.
On June 24 she flew to Toluca to accept the Woman of Valor Award. This award is very special to Angélica because it acknowledges her work for women's rights in Mexico.
Angélica Vásquez lives at the top of a rocky road. You must park at the foot and walk up the hill to reach her home. The challenging climb is worth it! Here you will find a deeply spiritual woman who is strongly influenced by indigenous legends and Mexican history.
Her home is her sanctuary and she loves the night so often she works until the wee hours of the morning. She regards each piece she makes as special - no two are exactly alike. Nor does she produce a large volume of work.
A staunch advocate of the rights and talents of women, Angélica's preferred theme is women and their significance and multiple life roles. She has fought hard to make herself known in a highly traditional culture where men take the center stage.
She began to work in clay when she was a child of seven, learning from her parents. Back then, everything she made was utilitarian to be sold at the local tianguis (markets). When her father began making planters in the form of muñecas (dolls), Angélica was responsible for decorating them with details such as butterflies and flowers. By 11, she contributed arms and faces wishing all the while she could do non-utilitarian work of her own. Her parents regarded this as strange and convinced her at the time, that no one would buy such work.
Married at the age of 18, Angélica had four children in rapid succession. Ultimately abandoned by her husband, she went to live with her in-laws and began fighting her uphill battle to be recognized for her own artistic work.
Unfortunately, none of Angélica's children will carry on her tradition in clay. This is occurring more and more in Mexico because making a living as a folk artist is very difficult. Once Angélica leaves the world, her imaginative designs will leave with her.
Angélica's creations encompass a wide spectrum: small ethereal but spirited angels, to majestic female figures and large sculptural compositions. Due to their complexity and detail, the latter can take up to four weeks to create. She refers to such pieces as "temas completas" (complete themes), in that they convey her interpretations of historical and contemporary subjects, such as the Mexican Revolution or the Abastos market (usually the largest market in a town). Although her artistic expression is achieved through old folk arts techniques, her themes can often be considered "modern."
Her use of two types of clay contribute to texture and varying coloration - they are unpainted. She has, however, developed natural substances, agobes, that are additional sources of color. Agobes are very time-consuming to make, based in clay and colored with natural substances such as volcanic ash and stone. Some change color when fired, while others do not. For example, green becomes beige and another type becomes gray if fired one way, and blue-white if fired another way.
Angélica begins by creating the base, to which other pieces are attached once it has dried for approximately an hour. Her pieces are fired at the home of her parents, in the oven shared by all members of the family.