PHOTOGRAPHY BY VICTOR PRADO
Walk through the UNESCO World Heritage–designated center of Puebla, a colonial city 70 miles southeast of Mexico’s capital, and you’ll spot vibrant Talavera ceramics on nearly every surface: vases, dishes, flowerpots, and countless tiles on the facades and interiors of Baroque churches, former convents, and hotels.
Authentic Talavera—which can be made only here and in a few surrounding towns—is created by molding, drying, and firing local clay. The pieces are then glazed, and the resulting creamy white background is stenciled and handpainted with intricate designs (always with natural pigments, such as cobalt oxide) and stamped with the maker’s mark and registration number before being fired again.
Although Mexico’s native peoples had already been making pottery for millennia, the roots of this style go back to ninth-century Europe, when majolica ceramics spread across the Iberian Peninsula thanks to the Moors. When the Spanish founded Puebla in 1531, they brought artisans from the town of Talavera de la Reina, in Spain’s Toledo province, to decorate the city. For a piece of cross-cultural history you can take home, stop into the city’s most famous—and oldest extant—producer, Uriarte Talavera, which opened in 1824.