Quinchamalí and Santa Cruz de Cuca pottery


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Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© Erwin Campos Ramírez

Chili’s Quinchamalí and Santa Cruz de Cuca pottery is embedded in the mestizo cultural tradition of central Chile and is characterized by black functional and decorative objects with white accents, created using techniques dating back centuries. Functional items include pots, fountains and tableware. Decorative items include figurines related to the peasant landscape and local characters (such as the guitarrera, a peasant woman carrying a guitar). Potters sell their creations in their homes, at local stalls, at the Chillán Market and at craft fairs, as well as through intermediaries. Women hold the knowledge and practices of pottery, forming female lineages with distinctive styles. A source of social and economic autonomy, the practice highlights women’s non-subordinate role in gender relations. However, the viability of the element is threatened by demographic and environmental factors and precarious social contexts. With young people moving to urban areas, the possibility for transmission is diminished. Access to raw materials is also becoming increasingly difficult due to a loss of biodiversity and soil degradation. Furthermore, the absence of regulation favours the appropriation of the intellectual property around pottery knowledge and its use by designers and artists for profit, without sharing the benefits with the practitioners.