Olinalá Boxes

Also known as cajita de Olinalá, this type of craft is carved and painted by artisans from the state of Guerrero, in southern Mexico. The boxes are famous for their intricate designs and citrusy aroma.

Cajita mía de Olinalá,
palo-rosa, jacarandá.
Cuando la abro de golpe da
su olor de reina de Sabá.
Gabriela Mistral

Talented craftsmen need several days to fabricate each one of the boxes, mainly because the process, which is extremely long and complex, involves the use of different natural materials, such as chia seed oil, and several minerals. Artisans have been making this type of lacquerware since pre-Columbian times with traditional techniques. 

Traditionally, the boxes are made from linaloe wood. The linaloe tree grows in the mountainous parts of Guerrero, where the town of Olinalá is located. The citrusy aroma of the crafts comes from the very expensive linaloe oil, which is rubbed on the boxes as a finishing touch. Other pieces, such as trays, chests, vases, mirror frames, and plates are also made by Olinalá artisans.

President Luis Echeverría presented a very elegant Olinalá piece as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit to Mexico in 1975. Today, the cajita de Olinalá stands as one of Mexico’s great treasures.