San Lucas Evangelista in Tlajomulco, Jalisco, is known as the cradle of the craft of the molcajete. Molcajetes are also made in Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla and the State of Mexico.
In San Lucas, there are sculptors who can carve just about anything you want, from a molcajete to a life-size statue to a desk plaque, out of the extremely hard basalt rock that abounds in the hills directly above their pueblito.
Victor Cocula Navarro says that molcajete-making has a long history in San Lucas.
“It has always been the trade of my family and one day a neighbor dug up a metate (a ground stone tool) in the local cemetery, which amazed all the craftsmen of the village. It appears to be some 600-years-old, decorated with the head of a dog. The quality of workmanship is extraordinary. There are no tell-tale chisel marks on it anywhere. In fact, it’s so smooth it appears to have been machined. We can’t explain how it was done, but it suggests that sculptors have been at work here for a long, long time.”
This traditional pre-Spanish three-legged mortar and pestle is the mixing bowl for salsa. The food is left in much larger chunks, unlike using a modern blender or food processor. And the demand for this item is growing world-wide.
In Guanajuato, located in central Mexico, local artisans start early in the morning to mine the regions granite from the volcanic hillside. It is tough work many of them have done their entire lives. It is a long process, taking the stone from the mine, carving it, working it into a finished piece. it is a laborious process. It is very hard work and not everyone can do it.
Jose Natividad, a local artisan says, “Most people don’t want to get covered in dirt, to work this hard. It is also badly paid. That’s why no one wants to do it.”
A single molcajete takes around six hours of labor, yet these artisans often sell their product for less than $10 a piece.
Victor Cocula is well known in San Lucas Evangelista, the cradle of the craft of molcajete, as one of the craftsmen dedicated to the production of metates and molcajetes, as well as other stone products.
He says that his family taught him how to mine the stone and then bash and carve it into a shape fueled by imagination. After years of experience, Victor says he needs only to look at the stone to know exactly what he will make of it.
"Nowadays, tools such as sharp hammers and axes are used, which we call picaderos, and with them we shape the stones we extract - using a pickaxe, shovel, bar - from the mines that are located in the foothills of Cerro Viejo," Cocula said.
The Cocula family make their living from the sale of these products and when the seven-person receives large orders, usually from restaurateurs in tourist areas of Mexico and other countries such as Colombia, they hire neighbors to help out.
Check out the molcajetes we sell here at Sojourns:
Information and pictures taken from John Pint/ expatsinmexico.com, CGTN America/ Mexican artisans follow Chinese villages’ e-commerce model and efe.com