Mexican artisans win legal battle

Mexican artisans launched legal battle against companies for plagiarizing their artwork

Mexican artisans win battle against Liverpool and Nestlé
Mexican artisan shows her artwork – Photo: Valente Rosas / EL UNIVERSAL
English 11/07/2018 13:35 Abida Ventura Mexico City Actualizada 14:35
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Artisans from Hidalgo, with the support of lawyers and cultural promoters, have launched a legal battle against companies like Nestlé and Liverpool for plagiarizing and appropriating their traditional iconography, something drawers and artisans from Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo, have produced for centuries.

A couple of weeks ago the Tenangos Drawers from Tenango de Doria Association A.C. condemned the wrongful appropriation of their traditional iconography in a pair of shoes sold in Liverpool (department store). Both the company and the manufacturer announced their commitment to work with the artisans.

According to the cultural researcher and promoter, Carlos Arturo Martínez Negrete, who represents the association, Liverpool agreed to train their staff on the topic and to open spaces for the artisans inside their stores. The shoe manufacturer based in León, Guanajuato, who designed the shoes without referencing the Tenango community, agreed to place a tag on the shoe to explain the reference, to donate goods to the association and to collaborate with them in order to create products that can be commercialized in the future.

This agreement sets a precedent, according to Martínez Negrete, in the defense of craft-works and traditional iconography. He says that: “it's a huge achievement that invites other companies to assume their moral, ethical and social responsibility, for the common good”.

Martínez Negrete, along with experts in cultural legislation and lawyers such as Carlos Lara and the José Manuel Hermosillo, have monitored the complaint filed in the Public Prosecution of the Republic (PGR) by the couple formed by Adalberto Flores Gómez and Angélica Martínez against Nestlé, for allegedly plagiarizing a series of designs the company used in a set of mugs for Chocolate Abuelita. In order to start this procedure in 2016, the artisans had to register their embroidered designs in the Copyright National Institute (Indautor).


Martínez Negrete and Lara affirm that although the process has been a long one, the outcome might be positive. And although the complaint is running its course since September 2016, Nestlé's legal representatives are trying to reach an agreement with the artisans. But in the past Nestlé attempted to strip the artisans of their copyright before the Indautor, arguing that the mugs were an original creation by Mike Infierno, a Mexican artist.

In Mexico, the government has created laws to protect the communities, such as the Culture Law and the Cultural Rights Law. These laws have presented the artisans an opportunity to vindicate themselves, to defend their communities and their rights, their art, and traditions. They have also gained visibility and recognition as artists.

Companies like Liverpool and Nestlé make a profit off indigenous art and iconography, while artisans struggle to make a living. Nevertheless, Lara claims that these companies meant no harm: “it's about understanding each other, it's about will. These companies have acted out of ignorance, but we see there's a will to reach agreements”.


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