Hispanic Heritage: Honoring indigenous culture through pyrography

Hispanic Heritage Month

FARMERSVILLE, California (KSEE/KGPE) — “Pyrography is a slow process there are pieces that can take from one week some more than 3 to 4 months,” said José Juan Alvarez, a Central Valley pyrography artist. 

Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Alvarez — also known by his artistic name “Hui-Chu Kuakari” — meaning “wet dog” in his native language Purépecha — says his love for pre-Hispanic art started at a young age. 

“At the age of 5, I did my first pencil drawing,” Alvarez said. 

Alvarez has lived in the city of Farmersville for more than 30 years and has devoted 20 of those years to pyrography, the art of making images on wood by burning it. 

Self-taught, Alvarez has created more than 250 pieces of art showcasing the history and culture of many indigenous groups of Mexico in his own backyard. 

“At school, they teach us about some cultures such as the Mexicas and the Mayans but in Mexico, there are more than 60 indigenous groups,” Alvarez said. 

Although the pandemic has caused for his art exhibits to be postponed, Alvarez says he has found another way to educate his community about the indigenous cultures, by writing a book. 

“I realized if I can communicate the indigenous culture through art why not do it through writing,” Alvarez said. 

Alvarez says he hopes his art will motivate others to learn about their culture, especially the younger generation. 

“I’ve participated at many schools and the students get amazed by the pre-Hispanic art and many tell me they want to do the same when they grow up and that right there motivates me to keep on going,” Alvarez said.

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