Pre-Hispanic art comes to life on Mexican baker’s cookies

Diego Barranco, a baker from Ozumba, Mexico, created cookies with patterns inspired by the country’s pre-Hispanic art. He defines his work as a “craft with bread dough”.

The Pre-Hispanic cultures are a group of civilizations that settled across much of what is now Mexico from 1500 BC.

The 43-year-old baker says his fondness for these cultures has led him to combine the cultural heritage of this period with his work.

For three years, Diego Barranco has been baking cookies with these figurines. (Courtesy Diego Barranco)

He is particularly interested in the culture of Teotihuacan, which settled in the modern state of Mexico from AD 300 to AD 900. When artefacts depicting the figures were recently discovered there, it was found. felt inspired to make copies with bread dough. , then on cookies.

“I saw the archaeological pieces that the workers in the area had found, like the masks, certain body shapes, that sort of thing. I started to practice with the first masks. We learned as we went, developing more art on cookies, and now we have become much better at it, ”Barranco told Zenger.

Besides baking traditional bread, Barranco has spent the last three years creating figurines with these pre-Columbian motifs. Some of his creations include cookies with Teotihuacan masks, feathered men, knight jaguars (soldiers of the Mexican Empire) and Mexican deities such as Tlaloc (the rain god), Xochipilli (the flower god). ) and Coyolxauhqui (the moon goddess). He also made replicas of the tree of life, a sculpture that is part of Mexican culture and explains the creation of the world.

They come in different sizes and levels of complexity, from a simple cookie with a Mexican figure to a mega cookie with aspects of Teotihuacan culture, like masks and Quetzalcóatl, the feathered serpent. (Courtesy Diego Barranco)

Pre-Hispanic Art on a Biscuit

Prices vary according to the level of difficulty. A small cookie with a simple figure takes about 10 minutes to make and sells for between three and five dollars. An 11 pound “mega cookie” is more complicated. Barranco spent up to three weeks on them and they cost $ 350.

“We made mega cookies the size of a loaf pan, 15 by 45 inches. The first was a tree of life. Four deities are put there: fire, earth, water and wind. Then we made another one based on the art of Teotihuacan. We based it on a temple and added masks and cultural elements. You won’t find work like this anywhere else, ”he said.

People are very interested in cookies, and Barranco says he had to study more of the history of the characters he recreates, in order to be able to tell his customers what they mean.

“We have to have information, to know what we are doing, what it means. For example, you can make a jaguar warrior or a god, and if you don’t know what it is, you have to find out, so that you can explain it to people who ask. It attracts them, ”he said.

Before creating the figures, Diego Barranco researches the history of the pieces, in order to be able to explain it to his clients. (Courtesy Diego Barranco)

Barranco’s work has been well received by clients of his “teotlaxcalli” (divine bread, in the Aztec Nahuatl language) workshop in Ozumba, and by those who visit during festivals and to visit markets and fairs. where he sells his products.

He hopes that the artistic representations of the pre-Hispanic period will continue today. They also connect people to their past.

“I think Diego’s design concept is very interesting. No one here had tried to do this sort of thing before. I see his dedication to each of his pieces. The art he shares through them is unique and his cookies and breads are delicious, ”36-year-old customer Yarmil Rivera told Zenger.

Barranco hopes to pass on his technique to the younger generations. Today, he trains his children to one day take over the business and continue with his recipes and creations.

“They saw how this profession started. We are going to pass the craft on to them because they are going to learn it and not let it die, ”Barranco said.

“I think it’s interesting [to learn this technique] because it is like revisiting and preserving a part of the old pre-Hispanic culture which is still alive through these edible pieces. There is a great responsibility in passing this on to the younger generations, so that our roots and our culture are never forgotten, ”said Erick Martínez, 17-year-old son of Barrancos.

Diego Barranco, who is the mastermind, created two 11-pound mega cookies with pre-Hispanic designs. (Courtesy Diego Barranco)

Barranco says he’s grateful for the response his products have seen among locals and outsiders. He asks everyone to preserve the pre-Hispanic traditions of Mexico.

“I want to move on. Now the market is receptive and people are interested. We fight hard, from the bottom up… Every day we do sketches. We are constantly coming up with new ideas. Hope everyone appreciates our local artisans. There are many in many Mexican communities who are very talented, ”he said.

Translated by Melanie Slone. Edited by Melanie Slone and Kristen Butler

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