Latin American, Mexican Feathercraft

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The Story of Mexican Feathercraft

Even before the Spaniards conquered Mexico in 1521, feathercraft was already an ancient art. The Tarascan Indians of Michoacan made hummingbird feather capes for their kings. To this day their old capital city is named Tzintzuntzan or "hummingbird".

Birds are prominent in Atztec mythology and Mexican history. An eagle perched on a cactus and devouring a snake-the motive of the present official Mexican seal-was the fulfilment of the Aztec prophecy for the establishment of their capital on the present cite of Mexico City. Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent of the Atztecs, or Kukulcan in Yucatan, was a clear skinned deity that taught the Toltecs all th arts and crafts. Quetzalcuail is the Evening Star that still watches over bis people.

Cortes speaks admiringly of the feather jewels of the Atztecs.

Cuauhtemoc, the eagle that falls, was the last Aztec price that led the final revolt against the Spanish conquerers. Even after his feet were burned, he refused to reveal the lost Moctezuma treasure.

If there is a carved frame, it stands for patient work, artistic taste and a tradition as colorful as the multicolored plumes of the bird. Although feathers of wild fowl are no longer used, the selection of the various qualities, the slow process of dressing a simple paper pattern with very small feathers at the head, gradually increasing in size as the figure is completed, let you hear the haunting songs of birds in ancient forests of mysterious beauty.


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