What is the Significance of Hands in Mexican Folk Art?

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked in the shop is, “What is the significance of the hand in Mexico?”

Hand motifs do appear in many pieces of jewelry and religious iconography from Mexico and though there is no absolute answer to the question,  here are a few ideas.

One of the most obvious answers is that the hand is so important to all of us in terms of making things (hand-made), performing, communicating, praying (especially when 90% of the country is Catholic) and in making us human. This is just as true in Mexico as it is in other places.  The heart in the hand (another common image in Mexico) is a traditional folk art motif, associated with the Shakers, the Amish, and the Pennsylvania Dutch.  It is widely considered to symbolize charity, or to mean something is “from the heart”. Others consider it to represent friendship, love and truth.

The hand motif in Mexican jewelry probably increased after Pablo Picasso’s gift of the silver hand-shaped earrings to Frida Kahlo in the 1930’s or 40’s. She painted herself in them and many nicho boxes and retablos created around Frida’s image contain those famous paintings. Some Mexican artisans make beautiful hand-shaped earrings.

Here are a few pieces we currently have in the shop that can give you an idea…

Nickel Silver Frida Kahlo Necklace & Earrings, Zinnia Folk Arts

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Contact us for this lovely wooden hand covered on one side with milagros. It is $58 and measures 7″ by 4.35″ wide.

Guadalupe EArrings, Zinnia Folk Arts

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This beautiful and amazing carved hand is covered on both sides with milagros. It costs $166 and measures 10.5″ tall by 4.5″ wide.

Nickel Silver Frida Kahlo Necklace & Earrings, Zinnia Folk Arts

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Write a Winning Limerick Testimonial about Zinnia Folk Arts and Choose a Mexican Folk Art Gift!

Write a Limerick Testimonial about Zinnia Folk Arts and Choose a Gift!

Love to write limericks? Or never done it before but would like to win one of the four amazing pieces of Mexican folk art in the photo?

As you know, our First Birthday is coming up soon and to celebrate we’re offering a choice of one of the four pieces pictured here (all valued between $150-$225) to the winning testimonial limerick. Here are the rules:

1. Write an awesome limerick about Zinnia Folk Arts and what you love about it.
1.1 You may submit as many as you like.
1.2  Relatives and friends may submit anonymously by sending via snail mail to Zinnia, 826 W 50th, Mpls 55491. Put a number on the limerick so it can be identified.
2. Submit it to Anne at info@ZinniaFolkArts.com by Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 4:00 CST either in the shop or online.
3. The winner will be notified on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.
4. All entrants agree to permit Zinnia Folk Arts to use their limerick testimonial in online and shop promotion, with credit.
5. The winner chooses one of the four pieces featured in this photo–large wood tigre mask, large hammered tin mirror, large wood hand covered on both sides with milagros or the large blue (no lead) Metepec platter
6. Winner will pick up the gift in the shop at 826 West 50th St., Minneapolis. If the winner lives outside of Minneapolis, the winner will pay for shipping costs.
7. Questions? Please ask!

Here’s some inspiration!

There was a young belle of old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comments arose
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, “When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez.”
—Ogden Nash

There was a young lady named Bright
Who traveled much faster than light.
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night.
—Anonymous


Unpacking the latest Mexican Folk Art Shipment

Ceramics from Delores HidalgoNicho Box with angelMilagro ObjectsSacred HeartsEmbroidered textilesMexican Tin Stars

Here’s  a sneak peek of a small number of the items that were in the last shipment. This is from the trip I took in January and February! So unpacking everything is a little like opening Christmas presents for me.  Everything will be going to the shop at 826 West 50th and will be available when we open but if you see something and can’t wait, let me know through this handy form….Saludos!


New Carved Wood Hearts covered in Milagros

Carved Wood Hearts covered in Milagros

Hola! Just received a shipment of new hearts covered in milagros…some with beautiful golden wings, others are smaller or larger than we usually carry.

Check them out on our website, right here!


Religious Folk Art

Handcarved saints from Guatemala

Carved Wooden Saints

Because over 90% of  Mexico is Catholic, one finds lots of charming and beautiful hand-made religious folk art all over the country. The saints, above, are from Guatemala, another very Catholic country. Religion is a part of every day life in Mexico, from the home altar to crossing oneself in front of every church, to the pinning of milagros, to the omnipresent image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Catholicism is not native to Mexico–the Spanish brought it with them in the 1500’s. In indigenous towns and villages one still finds religious practices that harken back to the days before the conquest.

If you’d like more about each of the pieces, click on the photo!

Mexican Clay nativity set

Josefina Aguilar Nativity Set

Decorated religious bottles

Mexican Shrine in a Bottle

Wooden saint of Virgen de Guadalupe

Carved Wooden Virgin of Guadalupe

Wooden carved heart covered in milagros or charms

Hand Carved Wooden Hearts Covered in Milagros

Gerardo Ortega Nativity Set

13 Piece Painted Clay Nativity Set from Jalisco, Gerardo Ortega


Getting Ready for Valentine’s Day with Mexican Milagros

Metal milagros on wooden hearts

These lovely wooden hearts are covered in small metal charms known as milagros. Milagro means “miracle” and these tiny religious charms  depict legs, arms, hearts, breasts, ears, animals, people praying (just about anything really!) and are generally used to thank or request religious help for a specific problem. When they are not being used by an artisan, they are pinned on the clothing of a saint in Mexican churches or are attached to ribbons to be hung on a church or home altar. The milagros can be made of brass, pewter, pot metal, tin, and even silver. They are especially prevalent in Mexico and Peru but are also seen in Europe and can be known as “ex-votos.”

They can be found right here.



Mexican Milagros

Milagros (“milagro” means “miracle” in Spanish) are religious charms that are prevalent throughout Mexico and are traditionally used to request a “miracle” or thank the deities for miracles that have already happened. One can find milagros depicting legs, arms, breast, eyes, cows, pigs, hearts, lungs–just about anything that one would need help with or for which one may have received help.  Mexicans purchase milagros that are meaningful to them, attach them to altars, shrines, and sacred objects found in places of worship, and pray for help with illnesses, relationships, animals or just about everything. Remember 99% of Mexico is Catholic. Milagros can be purchased in churches or from street vendors outside of the church.

Milagros come in lots of shapes and sizes and are made from many different materials. They might be made of gold, silver, tin, lead, wood, or even wax. One of the most common shapes is the heart, like the one in the second photo. These particular milagros are made of pot metal and are lovely and quite large (approximately 4″ tall). Smaller lead milagros have been used by an artisan to decorate the wooden hearts shown in the top photograph. Every wooden heart contains a different assortment of milagros.

We also have wooden hearts with milagros with tin wings at the shop. Stop in to see them! Or you can shop online right here...