The best souvenirs from Mexico for great travel gifts
If you are wondering what you could take home from your trips to Mexico that is unique and original, in this post I have got you covered. In fact, I am sharing some of the best souvenirs from Mexico that are typical for different regions.
Before I start, I have a disclaimer to make. I will be writing about the best souvenirs in Mexico, but, not only will I try to cover a good chunk of the territory and their typical unique products, but I will also share only the real authentic souvenirs and art pieces of the different regions.
Most of the objects that today are considered Mexico souvenirs, in the past were considered actually everyday utensils, tools, weapons, clothes, or ceremonial elements. They were made using raw materials from villages and towns and sold in the markets, “tianguis” (open-air markets), traded, and eventually, exported to other countries and colonies.
“Souvenirs”, Mexican crafts, or popular art are also part of the syncretism that is an inherent part of our culture.
The importance of Mexican “souvenirs” or crafts lies in the fact that every product is handmade using many different techniques, and natural resources of their region and exported all over the world. It’s an artistic expression of the country’s regions and its people and
The raw materials with which our souvenirs or crafts are made are all found in nature, like clay, wood, seeds, fruits, agave fibers, cotton, plant dyes, gold, silver, bird feathers, animals skins, and jade, to mention some. Other elements that were brought from abroad were iron, gold, new technologies, ceramic techniques (such as the Talavera Pottery), and more.
Food and drinks are also part of our “souvenirs” or crafts, like tequila, mezcal, chocolate, and candies for example.
So if you are wondering what can I bring back from Mexico? let’s dive into the best souvenirs from Mexico.
For the best organization of this long and detailed post, I have created different sections based on the Mexican State since every region has its own product although sometimes they overlap.
The best souvenirs from Mexico by region
The best Mexico souvenirs from Quintana Roo
Some of the local crafts to Quintana Roo are bejuco & wood utensils and ornaments, honey, jams, spicy salsas, handwoven textiles with very specific patterns, jícaras & tecomates (a fruit that is turned into containers), jewelry made of seeds, wood carving art and paintings.
And, about where to get them, although other blog articles will send you to markets in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, I am going to encourage you to rent a car or hire a driver to take you directly to the local communities around the major destinations.
This way you will have the chance not only to find a cheaper price but, most of all to help independent families and contributing directly to their economy. Plus, going around makes for a great day trip.
The bejuco is a vine that is used to make all kinds of baskets, lamps, and even furniture. Kopchen is the name of one of the local communities dedicated to this craft.
Wood is used to make key chains, kitchen, dining room, and office appliances like napkin holders, serving cutlery, and jewelry boxes.
Wood carving is done by very special Mayan people’s hands, and I can mention Mr. Juan Cima Barzón whose art has traveled all the way to the Vatican. He makes beautiful pieces of art by hand. You can go see them at the Mayan museum in the town called Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
Honey is more than a souvenir. Honey is a very important part of the local economy of the entire Yucatan Peninsula. Beekeeping is a traditional trade amongst the local Mayans, and, usually, all the family members are involved in this activity.
The most interesting part is that we don’t only find the normal honey here, but also the one that is called melipona and that is considered sacred to the Mayan culture for its healing properties.
In Quintana Roo, honey production and selling have become of such importance that the government has created several initiatives to help the local communities turning their production into an organic one. The many groups of people that sell the honey, also diversify and create natural cosmetic products like soaps, shampoos, creams, ointments, mosquito repellents, and even natural alternative medication.
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The best Mexican souvenirs in Yucatan
Actually, the Yucatan Peninsula shares many of the souvenirs and local crafts that are found in Quintana Roo, but, it is most known for the traditional Guayaberas and Hipiles Yucatecos. Both of these are part of the Mexican traditional customs that are still used by many people every day.
The Yucatecan Guayabera is a fresh piece of clothing originally for men. The cotton fabric that is made with is very good for the hot weather of the Peninsula, and, it can be very casual when it is made with short sleeves, or, very elegant when made with long sleeves.
It is said that the Guayabera is not originally from Mexico but from Cuba, or, made amongst the Cubans, but, today, Merida (as well as some nearby towns), is the best place to get them.
The Huipil is a blouse or a dress, that can also be worn for a casual day or, in its most elegant form, as a wedding dress. The fabric used is usually made of cotton and is white, but, what makes it special is that it is decorated with embroidered motives in very bright colors.
The Huipil is still used a lot in the local communities, and mostly by the elderly women, but, it is making a come back even in the cities, and now, we can find a very wide variety of modern designs used by modern women too, like me.
The best souvenirs from Mexico – Campeche
Campeche is the state where I find one of my favorite pieces of local art and craft: the Jipi Japa hat.
The name of the hat comes from the Mexican name of the palm tree whose leaves are used to make it.
The origins of this hat are found in Ecuador, but, the same style of hat became famous under the name “Panama hat”.
In Mexico, the hats are made in the towns of Bécal and the Hacienda Santa Cruz in Campeche state. In its origins in Mexico, the hats were (and many still are) made by Mayan hands.
The “original” version of the hat in Campeche is white and a beige sand color, but, today we can find a lot of different colors in them that are a result of natural dyes.
The most interesting fact about the making of these hats is the fact that the fibers can only be handled or manipulated while inside a cave, in order for the darkness and the humidity to maintain their flexibility.
Another interesting fact is that this special souvenir is made mainly by women and children while men are tending to their crop fields.
I lost mine and I miss it. Must make my way to Bécal very soon.
You should also consider including a stop to Becal in your Yucatan itinerary.
The best Mexican souvenirs from Chiapas
Oh! Chiapas, Chiapas, magnificent Chiapas!
Amber, coffee, cacao, textiles, traditional clothing and accessories, art, and sweets.
In Chiapas, you will find yourself trapped under the spells of all its magic. The smell of chocolate and coffee, the sounds of the street vendors, and the sight of their colorful and artfully handmade textile. I swear you will want to buy everything. It’s art in its most row expression.
In Chiapas, we can find jewelry made of amber, a corn alcoholic drink called pox or posh, top quality coffee beans, Mexican chocolate bars, dresses, blankets, pillowcases, dining room cloths, textile coasters, and much more. Sweets, pastries, and cookies make for perfect gifts for anyone and they can be found at the local markets of San Cristobal de las Casas, the cradle of Chiapas Culture.
In terms of the textiles, we can find the ones that are made with a machine or more mass-produced in the local markets, but, if we go to Zinacantan or San Juan Chamula for example, we can still find the textiles made with the “waist loom”, with which they still make traditional clothing as well as the more modern designs.
Mexico Souvenirs from Oaxaca
Oaxaca my love!
I have mentioned before that Oaxaca is one of our most diverse states, and so, to talk about it we have to talk about hundreds of little towns with many different cultural traits, but, for an easier description, we can say that Oaxaca is divided into 8 regions, and, as I also said before, each region has its food, its traditions, and of course, its craft or souvenirs.
Oaxaca is also one of the states where the majority of the best souvenirs of Mexico are.
Cacao, coffee, alebrijes, black clay, mezcal, textiles, goldsmith techniques, tinsmith, palm, wood carpets (made with the foot pedal loom), Oaxaca cheese, red clay, green clay, leather goods, wood grinders.
Oaxaca is also the region where you can find the most important Mexican food tradition.
The cacao is used to turn it into Mexican chocolate to drink hot mostly. You find it all over the place in the city and the nearby towns. The hot chocolate in Oaxaca is made with the very famous wood molinillo (grinder), which is made from scratch and by hand in the Santa Catarina Municipality.
It is very interesting to share that the craft of the molinillo is very old, and, it is still being passed on from generation to generation.
Los alebrijes are the favorite Mexican souvenir from Oaxaca. They are are pieces of art made of carved wood and painted in really bright colors. Their origin is said to come from a dream that their inventor had.
Black clay is the second most popular souvenir from Oaxaca. Black clay is a ceramic technique that was discovered in San Bartolo Coyotepec, a community 30 minutes away from the city of Oaxaca.
The wool carpets of Teotitlan del Valle are the third most popular souvenirs or crafts of Oaxaca.
These are also very special pieces of art as there are hundreds of designs envisioned by the makers and then produced one by one in the very intricate and old machine called the “food pedal loom”, and, of course, what makes them more special is that the colors in the carpets are made with natural dyes.
Mezcal, divine mezcal! What is there not to love? Mezcal is the hard liquor made here with at least 5 different kinds of agave plants.
Mexico souvenirs from Mexico City
Mexico City doesn’t have ONE specific souvenir. Mexico City has them all.
Mexico City gathers all the Mexican traditions, and, arts, crafts, and souvenirs are not the exceptions.
Mexico City is full of street markets, street vendors, and very unique and sometimes overwhelmingly enormous spaces in which we can find the very best souvenirs, local crafts, and arts.
Bargaining in Mexico city is allowed, as, it does get tricky to make sure we are buying the real deal.
One of the best spaces to go for souvenirs and crafts is La Ciudadela Market where we will find a wide variety of them that will make perfect gifts for family and friends, and the best part is that we will find them at a very good price.
Even though there is no unique craft here, I do have to say that the best souvenirs from Mexico City are found in the very sub-urban (not related to suburbs) cultural markets like the “Mercado del Chopo” that happens every Saturday morning.
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Mexican souvenirs from Puebla
Sweets like camote, drinks like the Christmas cider or the raisin liqueur, and of course, the internationally acclaimed and sought: Talavera pottery are the highlight of the souvenirs from Puebla.
Talavera is one of the first arts & crafts inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity representative list. This inscription means protection to the generational practice of the craft and recognition of the dedication and commitment to continue passing on the knowledge.
Talavera is a ceramic technique that combines the pre-hispanic practices and the imported technologies, colors, and decoration motives and technique by the Spanish.
The practice of this craft continues being a family “business” in which all the members are involved in the process, from the extraction (of the raw materials) to the selling and distribution of the pieces made.
One of the main traits of the TALAVERA ceramic is its beauty and the uniqueness of every piece.
We can find all kinds of pieces made with this technique among which plates, vases, pitchers, flowerpots, sinks, Christmas ornaments, tiles, perfume containers, and mirror frames, to name a few.
The talavera ceramic is a “shiny glass finish” of a white base, and, decorated with several patterns and designs in bright colors like green, yellow, orange, blue and, also black.
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Mexican souvenirs from Michoacan
I feel like Michoacan is the state with the most arts, crafts, and souvenirs in the whole country.
I do believe that Oaxaca and Michoacan have a close tie though.
In Michoacan, you can find copper, leather goods, spirits, musical instruments, Christmas ornaments, sweets, clay, textiles, wood, jewelry, and all kinds of traditional crafts that represent many different local communities of the area.
Here are some of the towns in Michoacan and their crafts which you can buy as real authentic souvenirs for you to get when visiting.
Patamban Michoacan and their “pineapples”
Patamban is a Púrepecha potter community. Half of their population is dedicated to the pottery craft.
They are known for making shiny and “natural” texture ceramic pineapples. To give color the clay, they use natural dies.
Paracho Michoacan and their guitars
Paracho is also part of púrepecha, but, the craftsmen that make the guitars are the “tecos” indigenous group. Paracho is known as the world capital of guitar making (The Spanish word for this craft is: lauderia)
The craftsmen of Paracho are experts in guitar-making but they continue developing their skills and adding new techniques. They make 4 types of guitars, classical, flamenco guitar, popular, and Texan.
They use woods like spruce, rosewood, walnut, ebony, granadillo, maple, cedar, and mahogany. Some of the woods are now imported but many are still found in our country.
The artists of Paracho not only make guitars, but they also make other strings instruments like violins, mandolins, and double basses.
The craftsmen of Paracho can get to make 1000 guitars weekly, without industrial technology help.
Copper and Santa Clara
This pretty little town is actually called “Santa Clara del Cobre” because many of their craftsmen are dedicated to working with copper by making beautiful pieces to use as appliances or to decorate special spaces in homes, offices, and more. This is the ONLY town in Mexico that works the copper.
We actually have mentioned the copper big pot in our food article. Santa Clara del Cobre is also famous for the delicious carnitas made here in the huge copper pots.
This craft has been alive in Santa Clara since colonial times. The practice was brought from Spain in 1553 and it has been passed on from generation to generation. This is what makes Santa Clara del Cobre nationally and internationally recognized.
The technique used with the Mexican copper is called “martillado” (hammered), and, depending on the size of the piece, the hammering can be done by one person or several at the same time. Witnessing the craftsman at work is a fantastic sight.
Here below are some other local communities that create arts, crafts, and souvenirs for you to take home.
- The Capula Catrinas. Capula is the name of the town and the catrinas are the very famous skeletons that serve as an icon during the day of the death festivities. These are made of clay and painted in beautiful bright colors and incredible details.
- The Ocumicho devils: Ocumicho is the town are also made in clay, and, they represent the devil. It is important to mention that the tradition of the Day of the Dead in Michoacan is still widely celebrated.
- Wood carved furniture from Cuanajo, Zitacuaro, Opopeo and Pichátaro.
- Textiles from Patzcuaro: table cloths, table mats, coasters, bed spreads, clothing and so much more.
As you can see, Michoacan is a very good place for you to buy really authentic souvenirs made by internationally renowned artists, craftsmen, and craftswomen hands.
Mexican souvenirs from Guerrero
From this state, I will only mention the pretty Mexican town of Taxco, where we of course find the very famous and sought Taxco silver.
Silver in Taxco is sold at an extremely good price, and you can find all sorts of objects made with silver.
Modern designs, unique souvenirs made in silver, silver key chains, silver jewelry combined with natural stones, ornaments, mirror and photo frames, jewelry boxes, you name it.
Taxco is definitely one of my favorite places to go shopping, plus, it is super fun to walk around and enjoy the sights.
Mexico souvenir from Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango, San Luis Potosí & Zacatecas.
When we talk about the best souvenirs in Mexico, we definitely must always include Huichol art.
Huichol art is also internationally recognized, so much that there is a fantastic piece of work being exhibited at the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre de París, and there is a documentary made by the producer Michael Fitzgeral y Echevarría.
It is important to mention about the Huichol art that the name of the craft is the same name of the indigenous culture, “Los Huicholes”, and, their creations are intensely connected to their traditions and their religiosity.
As a souvenir the Huichol craft offers jewelry, belts, home decorations, toys, frames, masks, and other things, but, the most important creation of them is the pictures or likeness’ made with thread and colorful tiny beads. These creations are a form of communication of the Huicholes with their gods.
How does Mexico protect its creations?
I didn’t want to finish this article without mentioning what we call “Denominación de Origen” (Appellation of origin).
This is a certification that is given by the patent’s office and results of the popular use and recognition of a craft or a name.
The main example for this is the “Tequila”, a very popular souvenir, and, a name that is now protected as a brand.
Unfortunately, many arts, crafts, and authentic local souvenirs are still in need of protection, mainly things that have to do with textiles. Many people in Mexico still depend on their craft’s creation and commercialization, and, if their designs or techniques are copied, stolen, and industrialized, the result is a devaluation of the worth of their work.
Mexico needs to do a lot of work still to protect its arts and its crafts for the benefit of the country and its people.
Souvenirs, and arts and crafts making are very close to my heart because I know how important they are for the livelihood of the communities, and, through my travels, I have come to realize the titanic work that is involved in the making of every piece.
In Mexico there are situations when bargaining is possible, and, others when it should not be done, and, less these days when the cost of living is increasing and the resources are becoming scarce and more expensive.
As visitors and travelers, we must be aware that the best Mexican souvenirs are the ones that are handmade and therefore most authentic.
But they take a lot of time and effort.
A real traditional craft doesn’t start and finishes at the local markets. All the authentic souvenirs that you are looking for usually start with the extraction or collection of the raw material, the designing or imagining of the end product, the process of creation, the marketing, and distribution.
Please, be mindful of bargaining. Ask locals. Inquire about fair prices. Look closely at the pieces you are interested in, and of course, don’t let anyone take advantage of you, but please, help us give the Mexican arts, crafts, and authentic souvenirs the value that they have.
I really hope I was able to transmit once again the love and admiration I have for the work of our craftsmen and women. And remember to buy local when you visit Mexico.
About the Author: Bianca Muñoz
Bianca is a woman, Mexican, a traveler, an ally, a dreamer, a creative, 100% human and so much more. Bianca has +20 years of experience in personal travel throughout 3 continents, and many countries, cities, towns, and communities. She also comes with +20 years of experience with customer service in the hospitality and tourism industries. A passionate advocate of her country (despite it all), an amateur writer & blogger, an art lover, a certified yoga teacher, an entrepreneur, a neophyte researcher, a philosophy fan, and knowledge obsessed, she has one dream and mission in life:
“To achieve, through her venture, for travel to be considered and used as a tool for a better education and human development in Mexico”
And, even if in baby steps, she is making the dream, come true through her brand: