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Original idea, illustrations and writing Karin Andrea Hinojosa Hjort Photography: Karin Hinojosa Miguel Hinojosa

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The Tenango



Origin from Tenango Elaboration Tenango as Economic Activity Brand Name The Tenangos on an International Level

THE TENANGO At first glance, a Tenango is an embroidered cloth with multicolored cotton threads, which through different figures represent the flora and fauna of the region, and serve as a nice decorative piece; however, it involves much more. The Tenangos are a form of cultural expression, in which artists draw figures on cloths, which are later filled with colorful threads (by embroiderers). The stories are told by well-made strokes embroidered in colors, which create iconographic pieces with the final product being an aesthetic piece that represents Tenango de Doria and the nearby communities, such as San Nicolas, San Pablo el Grande and San Bartolo. A Tenango is an imaginary moment of those who plot them, creating a blast of shapes and colors.The tradition of embroidery is transmitted from generation to generation, and is usually learned from an early age. The meaning of the embroidery is diverse and subjective depending on the embroiderer, for some people it represents the farm life, for others, flora and fauna of the region, while others express the ritual activities in the region; but something that everyone agrees with is that it represents something mythical, imaginary, nonexistent. .


ORIGIN The township Tenango de Doria, located in the State of Hidalgo, is the place where these beautiful embroideries come from. Tenango de Doria is one of the largest municipalities in the Eastern Sierra and is located in the region known as Sierra de Tenango or Sierra OtomĂ­ -Tepehua. San Nicolas and San Pablo el Grande are two of the closest communities to the county seat. It is said that the first Tenango embroidery was done in the community of San Nicolas.

Township Tenango de Doria

There are several versions of how Tenangos originated; however, the pioneer of this art is still unknown, and it is not known if the precursor was a man or a woman. The story that is told most frequently said is about the Cirio. The Cirio is the benchmark to of some caves with cave paintings of which, , nowadays only the outlines can be appreciated. They are deteriorated because they are outdoors. It is said that these paintings are similar to the Tenangos ones. One version says that the pioneer of the Tenangos was a lady who was taking care of for her sheep, and suddenly she found these figures in the caves, so she imagined drawing them on a cloth canvas because this material presented the best quality for embroidery at that time The other fabrics used in those days were poplin, satin and the terlenka, but they were very difficult to embroider on. The other version says that the cave paintings were deteriorating constantly; so people decided to preserve that image by transferring it into a blanket. And although its origin is a mystery, both versions refer to the Cirio and the images captured in the caves.



ELABORATION Putting together a Tenango takes several months; it is a totally handcrafted work that requires a lot of dedication, but the delay of time does also depends on the size of the blanket to embroider. The process the embroidery goes through consists in getting the raw materials, cotton and colored threads, and in what could be considered the most important part: the stroke. Drawing is crucial for the development of a Tenango; very few people can do it within the communities. It can be said that it is a gift to know how to draw these figures; although it is something you can learn, it is something one is borns with.


The Tenango can be done from something really simple, from a creative and imaginary figure, to create more complex and distorted figures. From its inception to date, the Tenangos have had many changes, the original remains with imaginary figures, but nowadays represents people’s customs and traditions, as is the case of with the community of San Bartolo.

Nowadays many mythical and autochthonous figures or figures of vegetation, among others, are combined.: Years ago, women used to embroider with a reduced variety of colors, generally brown and yellow or red and black were used. Artisans mention that “it may be that there were only two colors because it was easier or because there wasn’t enough money to produce them” but as time went by and with the use of technology, now we can appreciate an infinity of colors. Nowadays, many combinations are used to obtain a broader pleasure in the people “Now to embroider a cloth at least 10 colors are used and therefore more investment is needed.”

And how do you distinguish a good embroidery? To distinguish a good embroidery one has to see the back; if it has threads everywhere, it is a bad embroidery. On the front it has to look like it was ironed without the need to do so. The final product can never go laundered, since it is believed in small communities that the product was already used.

Nowadays, there is a greater application versatility of Tenangos; previously they worked only in pieces like the tablecloth or table runners of various sizes, and now the Tenango is also used in both traditional and modern attires. One thing that must be recognized is that no Tenango embroidery is like another one; each one has elements that distinguish it from others, either in the stroke or in the shape of embroidery, hence it makes them unique and original. .

Photo provided by the Tourism and Cultural Magazine Infotur Hidalgo.



THE TENANGO AS AN ECONOMIC ACTIVITY Agriculture is the predominant economic activity in the town of Tenango de Doria and nearby communities, such as San Pablo and San Nicolas. The most cultivated products are corn, beans, chili and coffee. The textile industry is the second largest source of income of for the people, and this is possible thanks to their embroidery. Although embroidery takes place throughout the year, it is in the rainy season when most of the inhabitants are engaged in embroidery. What is surprising is that not only women embroider but men too. Artisans tell us that men customarily help them when finishing their work early; for example, on days when they go to collect firewood and arrive early home or in the rainy season when they cannot go to harvest. Whether by necessity or pleasure, embroideries made by men are worthy of admiration. This is a clear example of gender equality in this craft. The elaboration of Tenangos is a natural economy that has not been exploited up to its full potential, because there are no associations that promote this craft.



BRAND NAME Mexican artisans survive in poverty, and the craftsmen who are dedicated to the development of Tenangos are no exception. This craft has become very popular in many parts of the world, but the reality is that artisans and communities don’t derive much benefit. Unfortunately there are predatory middlemen who buy the artisans’ work for a minimum price and then resell it for thousands of pesos. It has not been possible to legally protect Tenangos; therefore artisans do not receive royalties for the use of them or the inspiration drawn and copied to various products such as plates, bags, tennis, and draperies

The current governmental administration headed by the governor Francisco Olvera is working on the brand’s name in order to protect the Tenango embroidery drawings. The brand stands for providing craftspeople the benefit of marketing in new distribution channels. In the case of handcrafted textiles such as the Tenango, it is intended to denote the idea of a unique product quality, which has value in its manufacturing process, which can be adaptable to different products, and which is an original design of the State of Hidalgo.



THE TENANGOS ON AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL The Tenangos have transcended borders and are world-renowned for their beauty, their unique shapes and bold colors. There are several designers who have been commissioned to replicate the Tenango in their products, and to show this craft to the world, such as the brands Covalín Pineda, Hermès, Mara Hoffman, Valentina Wohlers, Dalia Pascal, among others. The Tenangos serve as a source of inspiration not only to great designers but also to bloggers or websites that talk about design.

The photos in this section were obtained from the Oficial Web pages of the mentioned designers.



Angelica is a great example of a persistent woman, she has overcome many obstacles during her life; however, she continues with her work and is now an embroidery leader and a source of inspiration for many people to move forward. Angelica, with the help of her husband Manuel Tolentino, has created the largest store selling Tenangos in the township of Tenango de Doria. In this interview Angelica talks about how she has learned this art and how the successful outcome of embroidery keeps her moving on.

At what age did you start embroidering? “I learned to embroider when I was 6, my mom did not teach me, but I learned by staring at other ladies when I was in first grade. I only studied the kindergarten and just up to the first grade because we didn’t have enough money to buy books, uniforms or any costume for festivals.” What inspires you? “I imagine something beautiful, creative, likable for client, something beautiful I’ve seen throughout my life. I do not use books or samples, everything comes out of my imagination.” Angelica says that to knowing how to draw Tenangos is something that one is born with, and that everyone is capable of doing embroidery but not drawing. “The difference that has made me grow as an artisan is drawing, because I adapt them the drawings to what the customers wants, if they want something simple or something more complex I do it; this is the great advantage of being able to draw, without having to ask someone else to do it for me.”

Approximately how many craftsmen are engaged in this art? “For embroidering 80% of women, and 5% of drawers”. What about young people? “I taught this to my daughter, I told her that she had to learn, not out of necessity, but because I do not want this tradition to get lost. The funny thing of this craft is that everyone has their own style, everyone draws depending on their imagination.”

“I have liked this whole thing of painting and embroidery since my childhood. I did not study any major, this is my studio, to me this is my school, and this is my story. To me this is my life, my source of working, my source of living, my kids and many people eat out of here, and you don’t have an idea of the satisfaction and pride that I feel to be for being like I am now.” This is how the traditional craft survives as a memory and a practice, which in case of being unprotected could be lost. Is crucial to revaluate and rescue the Tenangos. THE TENANGO 27



CONTACT Tourist Information www. Ministry of Tourism and Culture Blvd. Everardo Marquez Num. 202 Col. Cuesco, C.P. 42080 Pachuca de Soto, Hidalgo, México. Teléfono: 01 (771) 71 76400 Tourist Information : 01 800 71 826 00

Social Communication Lic. Bárbara Cajero López 01 771 717 6400 ext 1885 71 8 46 05

Karin Andrea Hinojosa Hjort 01 771 202 3701

The Tenango  
The Tenango