Poinsettias, handmade glass ornaments among Mexico’s key Christmas exports

The Christmas trade is big business in Mexico, which exports everything from ornaments to holiday candy to the United States and other parts of the world.

While Christmas-related goods represent only a fraction of Mexico’s $346.5 billion in total exports to the U.S., the nation’s poinsettia exports are expected to total around $15.9 million in 2019, while Christmas ornaments generate $3 million to $4.5 million annually.

Each year, the towns of Tlalpujahua and Chignahuapan in Central Mexico produce about 150 million pieces of blown glass ornaments, the majority of which are exported to the United States, Central America and South America.

Both towns have built their economies around the production of Christmas ornaments, with factories and workshops producing products year-round.

Chignahuapan, located 117 miles northeast of Mexico City in the northern highlands, has a population of some 75,000 people. The town’s main claim to fame is the production of Christmas tree ornaments.

“Eighty years ago we started with [ornaments] in the town, and about 20 years later, the artisans decided to start putting their own touch, creating different figures and designs,” Tirado Saavedra, the mayor of Chignahuapan, said in an interview with Mexican news outlet La Opinión. “We have around 400 artisan workshops that work and prepare all year to have the spheres ready for the Christmas season.”

Saavedra said all the ornaments manufactured in Chignahuapan are made of handmade blown glass, no plastics.

“Its handling is more risky. It has as advantages that the sphere of blown glass is of higher quality, brighter and is handmade rather than plastic, which tends to fade,” Saavedra told La Opinión.

Factories and workshops in the cities of Tlalpujahua and Chignahuapan in Central Mexico produce 150 million Christmas ornaments annually, the majority of which are exported to the U.S. Image: Gobierno de Tlalpujahua

Mexico’s other Christmas ornament town is Tlalpujahua, on the opposite side of Mexico City, three hours southwest. In Tlalpujahua, roughly 1,600 of the town’s 25,000 inhabitants work making Christmas ornaments.

Tlalpujahua produces around 80 million pieces of glass Christmas ornaments annually, of which 60% are exported to countries such as the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Malaysia, Japan and places in Europe, according to the local government.

Verónica Pompa, a glass blower and ornament maker in Tlalpujahua, said sales to tourists and exports make up a large part of the town’s annual business.

“They have come from France, Germany; they congratulated us for our work. Here everything is a craft work, without machines, as any single sphere is made by hand,” Pompa said in an interview with news outlet Mi Morelia.

Another Christmas export from south of the border are poinsettias, known as flor de nochebuena in Mexico.

Around 40 million poinsettia flower cuttings are exported from Mexico to parts of the United States, as well as Germany, the Netherlands and Japan, according to the president of the State Council of Producers of Ornamental Plants in Morelos, Mariano Oropeza Sosa.

In 2018, Mexico’s poinsettia exports totaled around $633,000 for 35,000 rural farming families across the country, who depend on the production and marketing of ornamental plants such as poinsettias, orchids, anthuriums, succulents and potted roses, among others, according to news outlet El Tiempo.

Mexico ranks fourth in the world in producing poinsettias, behind the United States, which accounts for 90% of all poinsettia exports globally. The value of potted poinsettias sold in the U.S. totaled $149 million in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

However, there is one holiday tradition that Mexico relies heavily on U.S. producers for annual supplies – the Christmas tree. The U.S. will export more than 600,000 Christmas trees to Mexico in 2019.

Mexico mainly imports Christmas trees from Oregon and Washington State. This year, the demand for fresh cut Christmas trees in Mexico will top more than 1.1 million trees, according to PROFEPA, Mexico’s environmental protection agency.