Otavalo Staurday Market
Volcano Quilotoa Lagoon

Returning To Calderon and Figuras De Masa Pan!


Wednesday Day 13

Today is Calderon, home of the world renown figuras de masa pan. At 9:30 my guide, Patty, arrived and we were off. I was excited as I had not been to Calderon since 2006, and the city had sprawled out like so much crab grass! It’s funny how things change after nearly 30 years! More importantly the trip in 2006 was quick, and I hardly took in what was really changing at that time.

We arrived to the city during some sort of a revision or review of credentials for vehicles. Car and trucks of all shapes and sizes were lined up for as far as the eye could see, and even where they couldn’t.

It didn’t seem to have any impact on us, and after about a 10 minute search of the streets, we found a location we were looking for.

My hopes were to find the original families that I had worked with in 1972, who were among the pioneers of this handicraft art. So with great anticipation we entered the humble shop of Cecilia Trujillo.

Bread Dough or Figuras de Masa Pan in Calderon, Ecuador.

After introductions we began to examine the current offerings. I knew changes had been made to the dough for the classic and original figures, and the improvements were obvious. The surprise came when we were shown a new process using cornstarch.

A typical depiction of a rural bus in Ecuador, displaying the quality of more than 40 years ago for these figures made from bread dough.
here's one of the more current examples clearly displaying a major improvement in quality.

This example above is roughly 40 years old. Compare the quality to the bus below for obvious differences.

The quality was very different, and had an immediate appeal. The figures were not painted with a varnish as the originals were, so the finish was opaque, and the colors were more pastel and soft in their hues. I also noticed that the facial figures and details were far different. 

Musical clowns made from a dough of flour and cornstarch. Exclusive from Calderon, Ecuador.

The classic figures made from bread dough had rather primitive and crude facial features and details for hands and clothing. The work to make the classic figures was tedious, as so many pieces were smaller than a kernel of wheat, and manipulated with a toothpick. The classic figures were bright and gaudy, and still well made.

It wouldn't be complete without the Christmas tree ornaments.

However, to compare the new designs to the classic would be unfair. The facial features and expressions are something that could be compared to that of cartoon characters, making them much more appealing and warm. Larger in size, yet seemingly very durable, a whole new line of figures is now available.

I think she likes it!

What a great smile! I think she likes it.

I was anxious to find out about the families I knew from decades past. The news that the entire family had given up the business within the past year, and that our host was one of the few remaining of this historical art form in Ecuador, left me saddened to the core.

There's no

How could you not love that face?

The passion was still flowing with Cecilia Trujillo, to do what she could to keep this art form from dying out. A kindred spirit emerged and ideas were exchanged on how best to expose and promote this decades old art form. 

A commitment was made to come out during working hours when I could get videos and photos of just how these figures are made, and at the same time collect more about the history of how it all started.

This is Cecilia Trujillo at her shop where these figures are made in Calderon, Ecuador.

Things change, as it is never ending. There are those that out of negligence have become extinct, coupled with apathy and hopelessness. The figures made from bread dough have not died out. The internet may well be the resource that helps avoid such an end.

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Alan Jarrett
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