In Mexico the Native Indians developed architecture and various arts and crafts during the centuries that preceded the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish Conquest occurred with the coming of Europeans into Mexico. Their presence caused great confusion and disorder in the lives of the people and their art. Large stone temples that had very detailed designs and construction were designed and painted by the Mayan, Toltec, Aztec, and Incan civilizations. But most of their works at art were destroyed during the conquest or deteriorated. We can, however, have an appreciation for the art that remains because it was created using clay, gold, silver, feathers, and other materials that were available. The large pyramids were built, and temples were placed on top of them. Clay was formed and made into bowls, plates, and fine sculpture. Stones were carved with different stones, and jewelry was made from gold. Some of the surviving examples of arts and crafts were inspired by religious requirements and beliefs, funeral practices and the adornment of nobility.
Spanish influences are seen in the contemporary arts of Mexico. The arts and crafts are done in a contemporary way, and continue to be handed down to the next generation in a traditional manner. Because many of their arts are unique to particular villages, they are resistant to outside influences. An example of a contemporary art that is done in Mexico is the Huichol yarn paintings. These are very colorful yarn designs that are created by the Indians who live in the mountains. The yarn paintings are created to serve two purposes: as a religious purpose and others to be sold in the local markets. This art is traditional, and is done following certain rules depending on the intended use.
Another contemporary art that is done in Mexico, is called Amate paper. This art made by the Otomi Indians of San Pablito in the Sierra de Puebla. This art has unusual beauty that seems to convey some of the magic for which it was created. The paper is made from the bark of amate trees, and is strong, crisp and has a nice surface that shows the texture of the tree bark. The designs frequently use human forms that sometimes represent spirits or other elements of nature that are important to the Otomi culture. Many of the figures are not realistic but have a symbolic ornamentation.
One common traditional motif that is used by the Otomi culture is the two or four-headed bird of the Mountain which protected the home.
Amate paper is an ancient art coming from pre-conquest times when paper was used for clothing and later for keeping records. The Amate paper is now used primarily for making symmetrical cutouts for magical