[Read a version of this story in Spanish.]
At this year’s Festival Internacional Cervantino, one of the most important arts and cultural events in Latin America, a dinner designed to showcase the culinary culture of Morelos state became a milestone in the fight against toxic lead poisoning in Mexico.
During the event attended by the governors of Morelos and Guanajuato, an urgent message was sent to the rest of the country – Barro Aprobado!
The state of Morelos is where Pure Earth lunched the ambitious Barro Aprobado project in 2013 to get toxic leaded pottery off dinner tables and out of homes and restaurants across Mexico. It is a problem that affects about 20% of the population.
To focus attention on the issue, Pure Earth brought in Tlayacapan artisans from Morelos, who had gone lead free under Barro Aprobado, to create 960 pieces of non-toxic pottery specially for the dinner held at the Hotel Villa María Cristina in the state of Guanajuato.
The pieces were beautiful and traditional in every way, except for their use of safe, lead-free glazes.
This meant that each dish in the five-course meal prepared by chefs from three top restaurants in Morelos (Canirac Morelos, Pro Centro de Cuernavaca, and Tesoros de México) could not be contaminated by any toxic lead leaking from leaded pottery.
To create enough lead-free wares for the dinner, Pure Earth brought together artisans from four different families to work together.
It was the first time the potters remember ever working with artisans outside their own workshops. Fostering cooperation of this kind among artisans is key as Barro Aprobado tries to get others in the industry across the country to make the switch to lead-free glazes.
The potters demonstrated their craft by hand-painting and stenciling each piece of the 960 pieces of pottery.
With great food from Morelos’ top chefs served on lead-free pottery created by some of Morelos’ most forward-thinking artisans, the dinner was not only a great showcase of Morelos’s rich culture, but also a crucial opportunity to highlight the issue of leaded pottery and available safe alternatives.
At night’s end, Morelos governor Graco Ramirez made a commitment to spread the success of the Barro Aprobado project from his state to Guanajuato.
The distinctive pieces of lead-free pottery created for the dinner will continue be used for other Morelos state events.
With each meal, the message of Barro Aprobado will spread.
Of the estimated 10,000 to 50,000 pottery workshops in Mexico, only about 100 are lead-free. An estimated 80 million Mexican men, women, and children, have blood lead levels above the WHO standard of 5 ug/dl.
The foundation for change has been laid in Morelos by Barro Aprobado.