Walking down the streets of Pilsen, it is common for one to come across many Mexican restaurants and varying trinket stores, each as authentic as the next.
On 18th Street, Efrain Loza owns and manages Artesanias D’Mexico, a Mexican folk art and retail store. He brings the products directly from 14 different states in Mexico. From the store windows, one could see the decorative colors and vibrancy from the handcrafted work.
“We’ve been open approximately 17 years. I am pretty sure that I was one of the first to bring Mexican art into the neighborhood,” said Loza.
The type of art that the shop contains varies from sombreros, painted tamale style flowers, to fragile Catrinas (ceramic skeleton figures).
“If you pay attention to the Mexican art, you could see how (the art) is progressing. The brighter and the older ones, and now the darker browns are more elegant and you could visibly see a difference,” Loza said.
According to Loza, the women that make the tamale-based flower art suffer a lot, cutting themselves on the leaves and spending hours at a time manipulating the material. The tamale-based flowers are difficult to make. They are first hung outside and dried out until the material makes a sharp, sandpaper like substance. Then they are painted by multiple layers and folded into their desired shape.
Generally open all year, the store only closes when Loza travels to Mexico to gather more art, but this past year he said safety concerns prevented him from going.
“It’s dangerous to travel to Mexico because of the delinquency. They have robbed from us once before in Oaxaca,” said Loza. “They stopped me in Jalisco as well.”
Because of the risks of obtaining the art, Loza is eager to retire soon. With aspirations to sell all of the artifacts before then, he plans on keeping the art in his home if all else fails.
His shop is located at 1644 W. 18th St, and is open 10a.m.-7p.m. Monday through Saturday.