My name is Cesar Carbajal, and I'm a third-generation popotillo artist. Popotillo is a traditional Mexican art that uses natural products such as beeswax and dyed straw to create paintings.
For me, popotillo is more than just art—it was a source of comfort when I was close to death. In 2013, both of my kidneys failed. The doctors put me on dialysis, and there was little hope I would get a transplant. I became depressed, but by doing my straw painting, I discovered that this helped keep my mind occupied.
Each straw is kept to the longest length possible. The art is labor-intensive. After spreading warm beeswax onto paper or other surfaces, I arrange thin pieces of dyed straw to create the image I want. The straw is colored using natural dyes made from plants and vegetables and boiled or soaked in agave juice or aguamiel.
Since the Pre-Hispanic era diverse materials have been utilized to paint without paint. An example of this is called Straw Mosaic Painting.
The Straw Mosaic Painting is a species of straw that is washed and dried in the sun,once dried it obtains a yellowish color, afterwards, it is stained with diverse colors, this results in long sticks of different colors.
The grass is first hand-dyed. Before European contact, exclusively natural dyes were used and the straw was soaked in aguamiel or agave juice.
Then the artist draws a design, which is then covered by a fine layer of “cera de Campeche,” a special type of beeswax. The straw is then cut down to workable sizes, sometimes as fine as a single millimeter in length. The artist then carefully presses the pieces of straw into the beeswax. When the design is finished, a fixative is applied to protect the finished work.
The use of this technique has passed from generation to generation, normally this work would pass from father to son, and it would become a way to maintain the family.
People are often surprised by my art, and even many people who have traveled the world and have participated in many art shows are often unfamiliar with it.