Photo of Irene Aguilar Alcantara

Meet one of the famous Aguilar sisters at the Mercado de Paz! (Click to enlarge.)

If you haven’t been to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center‘s Annual Mercado de Paz, which is only open the two days after Thanksgiving each year, don’t miss it!

Here’s my review of the 2010 Peace Market:

You never know what or who you’re going to run across when you’re at the market, and it was with great pleasure and awe that I encountered Irene Aguilar Alcántara, one of the famed Aguilar sisters, ceramic artists extraordinaire, right here in our very own San Antonio, Texas. My husband and I visited Oaxaca in March of 2007 and toured the Aguilar sisters’ studios. There’s only so much you can bring back on the plane, though, so it was a real joy to be able to chat with Irene (pronounced Eee-ray-nay in Spanish) and buy “Frida Muerta,” which Irene is holding in the photo on the right, for a mere $20.

Photo of Cristina Antonio Herrera

Cristina Antonio Herrera, alebrijes artist

Irene is not the only Oaxacan artist present at this year’s Mercado de Paz. You’ll also be able to purchase the amazing work of Cristina Antonio Herrera, an alebrije (ah-lay-bree-hay) artist. Alebrijes are hand-carved wooden animals painted in bright colors. I picked up a tiny frog clinging to the top of a stump for $8. (Don’t tell my husband, though. It’s one of his Christmas presents.)

Armadillos, giraffes, penguins, rabbits, cats, birds, coyotes and more are yours for the taking. Really, wouldn’t one of your friends or family members prefer to receive one of these one-of-a-kind beauties than something that’s been stamped out in a factory?

Photo of Margarita and Rosa's crocheted items.

Keep your head warm and stylish!

Not all of the artists at the Mercado de Paz are from out of town. Many home-grown artists are also present, including the mother/daughter duo of Rosa and Margarita.

I spied the oh-so-wonderful brightly colored toque on the right and HAD to have it, especially when I found out that it only cost $8. As I walked through the market, several people said how much they loved my chapeau. In other words, insta-compliments. The minute I got home, my daughter snatched the toque off of my head and claimed it as her own. Lucky for me, Rosa said that she’d be willing to give me crochet lessons, so I got her phone number. I’ll be calling her over the holiday break!

Photo of Scarlette Dove Jewelry and Mexican Folk Art booth

Swing by Scarlette Dove’s booth and talk to Jen’s mama!

The multi-talented Jen Hernandez, a.k.a. Scarlette Dove, has her artistic wares on display: jewelry, mosaics, purses, pillows, mirrors and more. Is there a medium that this artist doesn’t work in? You’ll find something you love in her booth.

Also, be sure to check out the handmade Christmas ornaments of Susana Segura, priced at a very reasonable three for $5, and an Aztec Calendar coloring book by Aztlan Libre Press for a trifling $10. While you’re there, Susana will fill you in on her work to save Lerma’s Nite Club, the longest-running conjunto dance hall in South Texas.

I’ve only skimmed the surface here, so I’m sure you’ll find your own can’t-live-without-it wonderfulness at the Mercado de Paz, 922 San Pedro at Evergreen. Admission is free, and the market is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Park in one of the San Antonio College parking lots along Evergreen. Don’t park at Bill Miller’s, unless you want to be towed.

The 2012 Mercado de Paz features more than 100 artists, live music, handmade gifts and food. This year’s international artists include Teresa Lopez Jimenez (textiles), Irene Aguilar (clay figures), and the Vasquez Family (Zapotec rugs), all  from Oaxaca, Mexico; Olga Reiche (Ikat and naturally dyed textiles) from Antigua, Guatemala; and Teresa Lino (wool shawls) from Puebla, Mexico.

From the Esperanza Center’s Mercado de Paz brochure; “Peace Market offers a community-based [Black Friday] alternative, giving shoppers the chance to buy directly from artists who create one-of-a-kind handcrafted goods.”