It’s 9 in the morning and Don Mauro Quintero knows that he has to load his burro with a few liters of water and bags to carry the stones. “Chó, chó,” he calls, and the burro quickly climbs the winding road.
Don Mauro has walked the trail hundreds, maybe thousands of times. It makes no difference to him whether he wears tennis shoes, huaraches, or boots. “My parents came from Dolores. My 12 brothers and I were born here, and ever since I can remember, I have been a molcajetero (a molcajete maker).” A molcajete is a traditional Mexican basalt salt mortar. He explains this on the way to the mine, where we will see the largest molcajete in Mexico—possibly in the world.
“I grew up with molcajetes,” he says. There is a notion that only men can make this classic, and possibly essential artifact of Mexican cuisine. Women are considered unable because of lack of expertise, because of tradition, and because of the strength required. They are “limited” to only producing the stone pestle of the metate—the flat grinding stone, or the tejolote—the stone pestle for the molcajete. To make a molcajete, Don Mauro takes a stone and shapes it into a molcajete in a process called tecatear. He then sits down, grasps the stone with his bare feet and begins to carve. A medium-sized molcajete takes a day to make.
After crossing the winding road of loose, blue, black, and red stones, we arrived at the mine—Las Coloradas. Mauro’s son, Juan Quintero “Pollo,” is already there. “I always dreamed of making the largest molcajete in the world,” Mauro said excitedly. “We live in Comonfort, a town that is known for this craft, but there is no icon that identifies us, that portrays what we do.”
Recently, while he was mining with gunpowder in Las Coloradas, he discovered the largest rock that could be made into a molcajete that he had ever seen. He knew that his dream was at hand: “I had already made a big one, 1.5 meters in diameter. This one will measure more than three meters across,” he told us, as he continued to carve the stone with the pike. “Here we are blacksmiths, carpenters, watchmen, molcajeteros, we do everything,” he said. He explained that they make the pike, their main tool; they melt the iron and shape it. “I have been working on this project for three weeks now, since finding the stone. I have slept here in the truck to keep away the envious who might want to destroy what I have made, or steal it.”
Currently, the monumental piece is on exhibit at the patio of the City Hall in Comonfort. Soon, the City Council will decide where to place it. “Probably around the exit to San Miguel,” says Ruth Franco, the coordinator of tourism promotion in Comonfort.
Franco explains that when the Quinteros began to work on the project, they investigated the requirements to register this artifact in the Guinness World Records. The organization replied that there is already one three meters high somewhere in Europe.
Between working the mines, making giant molcajetes, enjoying homemade food with a good sauce, time flies.
The locals of Comonfort speak proudly of Chamacuero—a place with collapsed stone walls—which is how Comonfort was known in the past; when it was a town through which nomads would pass through. Then they discovered that the area was fertile for growing avocado, pomegranate, orange, peach, and guava trees. They also describe its tourist attractions: the church of San Francisco de Asíssi, with its three gold altarpieces dating from 1800; the archaeological zone of Los Remedios; the hot springs; the colorful sawdust carpets that Catholic devotees create along three streets of the historic center on the last day of December; and the murals in the old municipal presidency building that tell the town’s story.
To learn more about artisan tours in the city of Comonfort, contact Ruth Franco: 412 142 1786.