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"LA BOLA DE ORO" Jewelry & Watches

Actualizado: 6 jun

A whole tradition and legacy through time since 1898, when his owner Genaro Vargas Tapia, master artisan, jeweler and watchmaker, began the creation of Totonac regional handicrafts, alongside other expert artisans. Here, an artistic, cultural and jewelry legacy endures to this day inside the enigmatic kingdom of the Totonacapan in Papantla, Veracruz, México.


The Totonacapan, or "The kindom of the three hearts", is located across the sea, beyond the mountains and rivers, in a corner of the world where culture beats in unison with mother earth. This places is known for its air filled with the sweet aroma of vanilla and chocolate, and where the palette of nature´s colors seems to have been created by the Totonac deities.

Papantla, is the heart of this kingdom and "The city that perfumes the world". It was founded in 1230, and home of three world heritages by the UNESCO: El Tajín (archaeology), The Indigenuous Arts Center and the famous Voladores dance flight.

Although many of us have never heard of the kingdom of Totonacapan, this small empire has made decisive contributions to our daily lives that have reverberated around the world. From vanilla to corn, cocoa, chocolate, beans in their various varieties, chili, pipian, allspice, and amaranth. Their unparalleled craftsmanship includes embroidery, jewelry and pottery.

They have been the builders of the archaeological site of the "El Tajin": City of Thunder, between the years 800 to 1150 CE. and were celebrated for the unique construction techniques, natural biodiversity and wildlife: the jaguars or panthers, emblematic birds as Papanreal, tlacuaches, crocodiles; and for their use of colors in their dressing during dances and rituals, sculptures with smiling face motifs, gastronomy and their handicrafts.

It was this enigmatic place were my grandfather don Genaro Vargas, settled and founded the unique jewelry workshop La Bola de Oro in 1898. He brought together a lineage of the region's best artisans, as well as masters from Italy, infusing their creations with their own values and personality, such as perfectionism and punctuality. They opened every day, including sundays, for 125 years, except when the founder's wife passed away.

Our family had lived off this business and expanded it towards regional style fashion. However, this legacy is on the verge of disappearing as the value of the beautiful Totonac jewelry is not recognized by the young population of the place, nor can it meet their current purchasing power or the insecurity of the area.

The last artisan still runs the business, and the specialized machinery that once worked non-stop is now full of dust and preserved hidden along with the molds and designs.


Martin, Victoria y Genaro Vargas.

The Totonac people acquired their wedding attire: the Gargantilla or Nacú, and the famous long earrings that women wore ont heir wedding day.

During their weddings, the Totonac had the custom of providing the bride with an outfit that included long earrings in various desings, heart-shaped necklaces adorned with vividly colored stones, and a palm ring for both the groom and the bride. This finely crafted gold ring was so thin that i seemed to imprison the fingers of the betrothed, never to come off again. They came in two thicknesses: thin and palm-sized.

The day of acquiring the wedding attire was a significant event for both Totonac families. Most of them traveled by bus from the Papantla mountains, an hour away distance from the downtown. Both the groom´s and the bride´s families participated, but the bride had the final say in the selection. After choosing her attire, a simple "no" from her could nullify hours of sales efforts. If she was dissatisfied, she would turn and leave the store, followed by her relatives.



Papantla deserves special mention as it was one of the first spanish settlements, originally named Santa Maria de la Asunción, it became the center of Totonacapan, also known as the region of the Three hearts, "tutunakú" in the Totonac language. The name Papantla comes from the Nahuatl words "papan" meaning a very noisy bird, and "Tlan", meaning "place of papanes".



In the Totonac Cosmovision, it is recognized that we have been sent to this earth as thinking beings, and in our environment, every existint thing has its own owner or protector, oral tradition tell us that there is a being responsible for regulatin everything in nature, including trees, plants, and animals. This being is called “Kiwíkgolo” the owner of the forest.

The xokge, or conch shell, is a spiritual instrument that helps the Totonac people communicate with the forces of the cosmos, includding earth, air, fire, and water. It is also a social communication instrument, as it has been used to call meetings since pre-hispanic times, in dance to open and close ceremonies, in traditional medicine, shamans use it to protect homes, in clothing, conch shells were embroidered on women´s garments to represent fertility,

In Totonac mythology, Chichini, the sun, the one who warms, is the principal god, the most respected by the Totonacs. He rules over the owner of the earth, the milpa, and maize, as well as the rain. The dance of the Voladores is dedicated to the father sun.

The Totonac worldview, which placed vanilla at its core, interpreted the relationship between humans and nature as a coexistence. Each natural element embodied deities or their gifts, requiring people to engage in dialogue or pay solemn respect to the gods before utilizing them. This was the case with vanilla, before the Totonacs entered the forest to collect it, they had to perform a series of reverent acts in gratitude, making it a mystical-religious activity.



In the city of Cachiquin, the vibrant heart of this magical kingdom, children are not only the future but also the resonant echo of past legends. They are taught the value of community from a youn age, begoming the youn guardians of ancestral rituals. Among these, the most revered is the flight of the voladores. It is not mere entertainment but a cosmic dialogue, a commitment to the gods of the four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. Clad in ceremonial garments, they bravely clim a wooden ple that seems to touch the sky, from where they launch themselves ina dizzying dance of spins, descending as if they were divine messengers woven in the air, their lives hangin by a single rope tied to their waists.


At the heart of the community are the women, custodians of skill and tradition. Their hands not only weabe blankets but alse weave and give life through gastronomy. It is not simply pottery, stews, Totonac dishes, or weaving. It is a language, a whisper passed down from generation to generation that speaks of love, history and belongin. Each embroidery tells a story, each ancestral dish conveys love, and each piece of pottery captures the essence of their people. Their healing hands also cure through traditional medicine, using healing plats that the Totonacs have employed since time immemorial to heal physical, menatal, and spiritual ailments.


If Papantla was ever famous, it was when saying Papantla was synonymous with vanilla, whether in New York or Paris, New Orleans or Veracruz. When Papantla, the ancestral cradle and endless source of vanilla, persisted in those days

The earliest historical references to vanilla involve the Aztec emperor Izcóatl, (1427-1440), who conquered the Totonacs in the region, As a result, the Totonacs were required to pay tribute, including vanilla fruits known in nahuatl as "tlilxóchitl", meaning "black flower" .

Vanilla drying racks on the streets of Papantla.

The families dedicated to its production would spread their vanilla drying racks on the main streets in the town center. This is wy, upon arriving in Papantla, the city exuded that enigmatic and exquisite aroma, earning it the name "The city that perfumes the world"

Vanilla planifolia, as it is called, is the seed pod of a delicate climbing orchid, still cultivated in the land once inhabited by the Totonacs. They were obliged to pay tribute to the Aztecs with thousands of vanilla pods, which the Aztecs used in their chocolate. The descendants of the Totonacs cultivate it and call it Xanath: black flower, in the Totonac language.

This plant is an exquisite contribution from the pre-Hispanic world to the old World. For the Totonac people, it was one of the most important plants, which is evident in the series of religious traditions surrounding Xanath, in which the entire community participated. In fact, it represented a cultural symbol similar to what corn represented for the Aztecs, Teotihuacanos, Mayans and Olmecs.

México had a monopoly on vanilla cultivation until the mid 19th century, when the French took the orchids to some islands in the Indian Ocean, including Madagascar, where it is commonly called Bourbon vanilla. In México, the plants relied on a special type of bee, the melipona, for pollination. Madagascar had none of these bees, so the French learned how to pollinate the flowers by hand. Today vanilla cultivation is no longer dependent on bees, not even in México.


They had the utmost respect for the natural environment, something that has not been equaled to this day. This made them unique among other peoples of the Americas, such as the Mayans or the Aztecs, who suffered climatic disasters due to an imbalanced relationship with the environment.

misín (tigre o jaguar—Panthera onca) tiene un papel prominente en la cultura totonaca y la cultura de otros grupos mesoamericanos. En el valle del río Necaxa, la palabra se refiere también al nagual, brujo malevolente que tiene la capacidad de transformarse en jaguar.


PAPAN REAL.. Psarocolious montezuma

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