Anales de Tepoztlán

A short history of la Portada

A few years ago the merchants who are located in front of the arch can be said to have been the precursors or initiators of this tradition, coordinated by Sr. Pedro Vargas Cortés and a group of merchants who granted the church that which in this community we call a "promesa" or, in other words, "an offering to the church". These merchants joined together to buy floral arrangments to decorate the front of the church with festón [a kind of traditional arrangement] and the arch, just at the topmost part. The years passed and this simple ornament grew little by little. Although the motifs were entirely symbolic, they awakened in some persons the desire to improve the decoration, and for this the few persons who were included in this motivated the rest of the merchants. The cost was divided and a quota or contribution was established to cover the cost and, above all, the practice of communal labor. For the year 1990 the began to make the first arch in the present form, but it was a structure made on a wooden base over which rice straw was placed and decorated with plastic flowers which could be obtained at low cost. The merchants put together the flowers and colors in their stalls and then there were people who inserted them into trhe framework.After two years, they decided to change the material for one that would be easier to work and Sra. Josefina López Ramirez had the idea of making it with seeds. With funds from the treasury of the Merchants' Union they made a metal structure which we continue to use to this day. They topped this with plywood and got to work.With the ingenuity of two artisans in particular, Sr. Alfredo Martinez Rojas and Sr. Rafael Carillo Campos, they begin to design and draw the first arches, as well as coordinating the gluing of the seeds which allowed a great variety of colors and textures.

The motivation of the merchants was greater and caused this work to go through very rapid evolutionary changes, as well as beginning to involve more merchants, and even the traveling vendors took a turn. Later, for the year 1994, the young architect Arturo Demesa Ortiz came as a volunteer, starting as simply a draftsman until the following year when he was given the opportunity of designing the portada which was never completed in the form he hoped for given that in these times the community was passing through a social and political creisis. It was in 1996 that he made an important leap, independently elaborating the preliminary proposal, giving it a more transcendental feeling, beginning to use much more elaborate elements in the composition, and creating new and ingeneous designs. Through this, the work has been given an artistic value which leaves behind the artisanal work with which it was initiated.

We hope and believe that this will continue evolving, as new generations come along which we have no doubt will continue this tradition which is now rooted in the community. In broad strokes, this has been a brief history of the Portada.


Return to the 1999 Portada