Published On: Mon, Oct 3rd, 2016

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

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Having SMA dolls on my book covers motivated me to do some research on these little ladies, known as Marias after the Virgin Mary and I learned two interesting points.


Photo: Joseph Toone

One was how, in the past, the indigenous Otomi grandmothers taught their granddaughters how to sew by making dolls from old cloth.  Charming way to teach a life skill between generations, no?  Well, except that no one understood germs back then.  When the ladies used cloth from blankets that had been on those with infectious diseases, many a little girl became infected and met the Virgin Mary shortly after that.


Photo: Joseph Toone

Second point was how SMA and two neighboring cities (Guanajuato and Querétaro ) along the state next door, Michoacán, were in fierce legal battles to be the official home of these Maria dolls.  If one wins the right to be the official home of Maria dolls it is like having champagne from France’s champagne valley, otherwise one drinks “sparkling wine”.  Or in Mexican booze terms, enjoying tequila from the state of Jalisco (home to the city of Tequila) or sipping mezcal.

So far neither SMA, nor the others, has won the marketing juggernaut as all of the areas have been found to import their cloth and accessories used in the dolls from China. Details, details…..


Photo: Joseph Toone

When I showed my own Otomi supplier of Marias her dolls on the book covers she was nonplussed about having a doll appear with Catrina make up on. However the History and Culture book cover model had her hair altered in a way this Maria seller did not approve of. She vehemently stated that was not her doll! I could not get to understand that none of them were her dolls, but artistic representations with altered clothing the hair ribbons. None of that mattered to her, she knew that image was not how she braided hair!


Photo: Joseph Toone

The book series, San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets, featuring the Maria dolls on the cover will be released on Amazon in October featuring books on Day of the Dead, Christmas, Easter, History and Culture.



Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series.  Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA.  Visit, also on FaceBook.



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