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Taxco's Zócalo


Come, Explore Taxco!

Taxco is one of the world's treasures, a Mexican colonial town known the world over for its silver. To those who have already visited it is beloved for its architectural and geographical beauty and for the kindness and generosity of its people.

Photograph: Santa Prisca




Sr. Francisco “Chico” Gómez Aviles
Taxco Guerrero, Mexico December 15, 1926/March 21, 2002.

El Maestro Chico Gomez at work.Chico Gomez began working at an early age as did so many young Taxqueñan boys. First working in his father’s grocery store on the zócalo, he later apprenticed to a carpenter whose taller was in the old customs house where Spratling also had a taller before moving down the street to the Casa Roja and las Delicias. Chico was not at all fond of the carpenter’s machines, fearing to be a victim in one of the of the common accidents. He moved on, next working in orfebreria, a job from which he also departed finally settling on what would be his great art–engraving.

Chico’s talent with the engraving tools which he himself formed allowed him to work with the best of Taxco’s silver designers–from Chato Castillo to Janna Thomas and William Spratling. His humor, his enormous talent and his creativity gave him a lifetime of choices in his work and gave him the companionship of Taxco’s finest. He kept his his humor, his skill and his fine eye for engraving up to the last. Chico Gomez was a charming and talented man who is missed by many of us in Taxco.



Penny Chittim Morrill
San Antonio, Texas, February 4, 1947
Though so many people have written about Taxco, authors from many perspectives and from many countries, no one has affected the town like Penny. Her two books on Taxco celebrate the silver jewelry industry in Mexico in text and photos. She also organized an exhibition of Taxco's celebrated silver designs that traveled across the United States originating at the San Antonio Museum of Art and closing at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware -- Maestros de Plata: William Spratling and the Mexican Silver Renaissance.

Candid and forthright, Penny described herself to us as a "border kid" incorporating the cultures of both southern Texas and Mexico. Her grandparents were contemporaries of William Spratling. They renovated a colonial building and opened their hotel in Taxco in 1931. Leaving Taxco in 1942 to return to the States during the war, they were soon back on southern territory opening a hotel in Acapulco in the 1950's. Penny and her family spent a year there, Penny attending first grade at the bi-lingual McGregor School. Returning to the United States with her family, Penny was back in Mexico in 1964 visiting her grandparents who had then retired to live in Cuernavaca. This was her first exposure to Taxco where she met many of her grandparents' friends, including William Spratling.

So affected by her exposure to Mexican culture, Penny attended college majoring in Mexican Art History at Newcomb/Tulane University in New Orleans. She went on to recieve her doctorate from the University of Maryland. Asked to describe her attraction to Mexican jewelry, Penny had this to say,

"Mexican silver jewelry is powerfully formed, an aesthetic that is both ancient and quite distinctive. Silver designers in Mexico have created some of the most imaginative jewelry in the world because, while they adhere to the pre-Columbian past, they blend these forms with a prevailing style. The jewelry of Fred Davis, Valentin Vidaurreta and Sprating is filled with references to Art Deco and, later, Modernism. These designers also erased the line between high and low art by inspiring craftsmen to become artists."

Penny looks to the future working with Taxco's contemporary designers to bring their work to the attention of collectors and of those who appreciate fine design and craftsmanship in silver around the world.

If you would like to buy any of these wonderful books just click on the picture of the book that interests you.


Ezequiel Tapia B.
Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico, August 12, 1935

In Taxco, in much of the rest of Mexico and in many other places around the world, the name Tapia is synonymous with exquisitely produced silver sculptures. Not so well known are his jewelry designs which are less Mexican in character than his sculptural work, but equally beautifully crafted.

Tapia was born to a stone cutting family in Pedro Martin, a small suburb of Taxco. At thirteen he began working along side of his father producing reproductions of pre-Hispanic sculptures which were sold to collectors such as William Spratling and Diego Rivera. As a boy, Tapia visited Rivera's studio and with Rivera's panache he asked the young boy, "What is in the stone?" I believe this question is not original to Rivera, but it had a great effect on the young boy. Even today he deftly incorporates stones into his work in silver. They may be carved, incised, highly polished or roughened to enhance the overall design, but in the end they are essential to the finished work.


I visited with Tapia in his workshop and met a few of his silversmiths. I was surprised at their relative youth given their technical skills. As has everyone else in Taxco, I had seen many Tapia sculptures winning first prize in the annual Silver Festival. Producing a sculpture takes at least three months of very hard work. The first step is in a technique called repoussé. A form made usually in a base metal like antimony is made from a design first executed in gesso. Sheets of silver are lain over the form and then a hammer is used to pound the silver into the form. Tapia uses 970 silver (970 parts of pure silver to 30 parts of copper -- sterling is 925) for his sculptures because it is softer to work and it retains more of the white quality of pure silver. Once all of the parts of a sculpture are ready, they are soldered, or joined together, using pure silver and a very noisy and sophisticated process operated by a very talented silversmith.


Tapia and his wife had six children and two followed him into the silver business -- Ezekial and Carmen, his daughter who has already won an award in Taxco's Silver Competition and Festival. Tapia himself has won many of these awards, the first in 1966 when William Spratling was one of the judges. He went on to win nineteen of the forty silver competitions he entered and no doubt he will win many more.

To see some of his work, visit his store in Taxco called Exel Tapia at No. 15-C Calle Real de Cuauhtémoc. The telephone number there is (762)622-0416. Please also see his advertisement on by clicking here.



Manuel Gutierrez Morales
Taxco Guerrero, Mexico, 1925
Manuel Gutierrez passed away; he will be remembered.

Manuel Guiterrez Morales
Manuel Gutierrez with his wife Hermila, and daughter Sofie

One of Taxco's native sons, Manuel Gutierrez was born in 1925 and began working at the age of fourteen learning the craft of tin work as a helper at Hector Aguilar's Taller Borda. In 1945 Manuel married Hermila Fitz Urquiza who was just fifteen at the time. Manuel was then working in silver becoming a contratista, or contract worker, along with Luis Flores. Aguilar would give them a design saying, "Here's my design; give it life." For his work, Manuel earned just 49 pesos a week, never receiving a raise. He worked for Aguilar until the month long strike in the early 1960's. During our interview while talking about the strike, the gentle Hermila spoke up about that strike with much heart to say "fue una trampa [it was a trick]. When Aguilar realized the men were going to unionize, he put all of his property in other people's names, then said he was bankrupt and closed the doors." That was on Christmas eve when the men were met in the morning at the workshop doors by Aguilar's attorney saying the shop was closed and they were to go home. Manuel, trying to soften Hermila's anger, did say that while working for Aguilar he was allowed to work for other people if he had finished his production for the week so he was able to earn a little more when he worked quickly. When the doors to Taller Borda were closed workers were let go with small compensation for their years of labor if there was any compensation at all. After working for Aguilar from 1939 until 1960, twenty one years, Manuel received two wooden work benches as retirement and one copper model of a panson peon or chess pawn. "Many workers received nothing."

Master Silversmith, Manuel Guiterrez.After the strike Manuel found that he was doing better financially and that his income was more stable. He began a business with his sons Pedro and Armando called "Taller Tres Hermanos" selling to owners of some of the better wholesale shops in town -- Sra. Alicia Ortíz owner of Dulce Plateros, Andrés Mejia owner of Galeria de Arte en Plata and Miguel Pineda. I didn't meet Manuel until the mid 1980's when I saw the beautiful work he could do making of a hard metal something soft and alluring. I spent hours in his tiny workshop watching as he drew silver wire in thirty foot lengths softening it with the flame of a torch as it hardened from work. I watched him take these silver strands and twist them using a hand drill and braid the twisted silver by hand as if it were hair and later making bracelets. The process was extraordinary, complicated, knowledge and labor intensive. At the end of a few days there were several beautiful bracelets lying on the workshop table.

Manuel, like so many of the talented people in Taxco, knows his craft as well as he knows how to sleep. It is something he does even now in his eighties as if it were as natural as taking a breath. One can't help wonder where the genius lies.



Ignacio Martínez González
Teneria Guerrero, Mexico July 31, 1953
Born in San Juan Teneria, Guerrero, Nacho’s parents soon moved their five children to the small village of Temisco in Morelos. When he was eight the family moved to Taxco and by the age of nine he began working in the taller of Miguel Romero in Ojeda where they made closet keys and silver animal pins inset with shell. At fourteen, Nacho moved on to work in the taller of Arnulfo Sandoval, there mastering the art of cutting silver. At fifteen, with all of the skills of a silversmith, Nacho returned to work in Romero’s taller. Two years later he moved on to work with Cutberto Jaimes where over five years Nacho increased his skills in stonework. From twenty-three to thirty-five he worked for the Plateria la Mina, the Casa Morelos taller, and again for a while with Cutberto.

At thirty-five, Nacho had surpassed the skills of a master silversmith; he had become a jeweler or joyero. He opened his own taller though he continued to learn from other talented joyeros and silversmiths in the community. He shared projects with Chico Gomez, Coco Castillo and others during that period and enjoyed the comradery of the of this group of especially talented men.

We met Nacho several years ago when we needed someone who could cut silver models for our designs that were small and highly detailed. He did the work beautifully and we began learning of his other skills. Nacho can make a repair in any piece of jewelry–in gold or silver, with diamonds or zirconia. And, his repairs are artfully done to exactly match the work of the original piece. This is one of his great talents.

Another of his notable skills is the creation of gold and silver crowns for Santos figures. Here in Taxco his work can be seen in the churches in Ojeda, Santa Prisca, San Miguel and El Chorillo on the saints days.

Of all of the things that Nacho can do with a piece of metal or stone, he prefers creating fine jewelry, especially designing and making engagement and wedding rings. “When I see a beautiful stone, I begin to design.”



Alberto Ulrich
February 2, 1936/November 21, 2002

Researching a book on Taxco that I am currently writing, I visited what was once Spratling’s home in Taxco-el-Viejo and had the unanticipated pleasure of meeting Alberto Ulrich. Alberto bought Spratling’s property shortly after the accident that ended Spratling’s life in the mid 1960's. As much as Spratling, Alberto had a fascination with pre-Columbian art and he also loved Spratling’s silver designs. Alberto was excited about my book and gave his every attention to answering my questions. Over time, what meant more than that interview to both me and my husband was our growing friendship with Alberto; one that was cut short by his sudden death.

Italian, Alberto, and his American wife Carol arrived in Taxco in the 1960's. Wealthy, adventurous and unconventional, they built a large house just across from Spratling’s home on Calle de las Delicias. In 1967, Alberto bought Spratling’s business and properties, both here in Taxco and in Taxco-el-Viejo. There Alberto built another large home, leaving the Spratling house and pool as they had been upon Spratling’s death. Alberto was a collector, not just of houses, but of many things ranging from motorcycles to Peruvian weavings and breed cats. He was a vibrant human being curious in the extreme, but with a core strength that saw him through his many ups and downs and close calls. He was a social man with good friends all over the world and his dining table was rarely without several guests.


Alberto was also controversial. There are as many rumors and stories told about him as there were about Spratling. But, in our encounters with this unusual man we found him magnetic–full of humor, ready to take off on an adventure at a moment’s notice, and open to challenge, not characteristics of many men in their sixties. On a lark, one year he even visited us when we traveled to Coroico, Bolivia. We miss his telephone calls from faraway places and we miss his enthusiastic nature. When someone like Alberto dies, the world loses a bit of its luster.




Sra. Jane Keenan Tissot
Canada, July 25, 1932/August 10, 2003.

I met Jane Tissot in the garden of her gracious home in 1990. I was looking for an apartment and she had a few of the best in town. This brief meeting led not only to a great apartment, it led to a fond friendship with this unusual woman. Jane came to visit a friend in Taxco in the 1950's, just after graduating from art school in Canada. Her infatuation with Mexico came from her love of Rufino Tamayo’s paintings, but Jane was to find much to love about Mexico and she spent the rest of her life here in Taxco.  


A Study of Neighbor's  Child.A Study of Neighbor's  Child.Just twenty-three when she arrived, Jane soon found work managing a honey collecting team for the thriving honey business of German born Henrick Schlubach at his ranch in Taxco-el-Viejo. Leaving for Taxco after working there for several months she moved into one of Natalie Scott’s houses. Jane soon married and began a family with French born Felix Tissot, owner of a noted ceramics business in town. With two children to raise and a business to run, Jane left her fine art for the more commercial painting of ceramics.


When she was divorced at age forty, she had a beautiful home, Casa Aguilar, she had her two children, she had the income from four apartments and she had the talent and drive that brought her back to the canvas. Unlike most foreign residents in Taxco, Jane had quickly become fluent in Spanish. She involved herself in the Mexican arts community here and in Mexico City and soon became a “must visit” for intellectuals and artists visiting Taxco.


My friend Jane was strong willed and held strong opinions. She followed political developments here in Mexico and in the world with an avid interest, she always had flowers in her home, she made bread every week and saw that all her friends had a loaf. She had tremendous insight into the soul of Mexico and an equally high regard for the country. And, she was a fighter, never afraid to rock a boat or confront what she thought not right. Jane was a most interesting woman and will always be remembered for her character, her humor and her humanity.


Here are a few of Jane Tissot's Paintings



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