Recently had a chance to hang out in the coppersmith workshops of Santa Clara del Cobre in the mountains of Mexico.
Copper has been worked in this area since pre-Hispanic times. Although the Spanish introduced new techniques, one native one that was kept was that of smelting, as it was more efficient than European techniques. For this reason, bellows seen here are very different from Europe.
Most of the town’s population, 82%, is employed in the making of copper items. There are 250 registered workshops in and around the town, which process about 450 tons of copper each year. This generates an income of about fifty million pesos a year. Many of the copper items made are of a utilitarian nature – cooking utensils, various types of containers, pots, pans, plates, shot glasses, clocks, jewelry, vases, beds, tables, chairs, light switches, counters, sinks, even bathtubs, and much, much more, all in copper. However, since the 1970s copper jewelry, and many other non-essential items has also been made here.