KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hispanic Heritage Month honors the rich culture that contributes to the Kansas City metro in September and October but people who live in the region seek out decorations from that culture year-round.
It’s possible because of a long and complicated process that gets those products from remote parts of Mexico to the Kansas City metro.
The massive showroom floor at Casa Mesa Imports showcases furniture and decorations with journeys to the United States as intricate and complicated as their designs.
“You don’t need glue, you don’t need anything, you just hit the paper over the table,” said Oscar Fernandez over zoom, while showing off Amate paper like the decorations that are at Casa Mesa Imports from his business in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Fernandez is a key piece of a supply chain that takes products like amate paper from the rural, mountain communities outside Mexico City, where it’s been made for hundreds of years and gets it to the states.
First, it’s created in San Pablito and sent to Fernandez in Guadalajara. He puts it on iron frames and when there are enough to ship to wholesalers in the United States, he packs them in containers with other items and sends them toward the border.
There, the shipment goes through Customs and eventually shows up to Casa Mesa Imports in Kansas City.
“Incredibly unique, very durable, and it baffles everybody that comes in here,” said Casa Mesa Owner Chris Nixon, referring to the Amate paper.
That’s the journey for just one of the varieties of products Nixon sells, after spending more than 20 years building up relationships with the people making the items themselves, usually by hand, and people who are well-connected with artists all over the country, like Fernandez.
The long process also means that many pieces aren’t exactly alike and often have slight deviations from previous pieces, meaning that Nixon often has to manage expectations for American buyers who expect exact copies on tight timelines.
“I don’t think there’s a true angle anywhere in here,” said Nixon. “They don’t have fulfillment centers. I can’t order up to 20 [tables] next week. They have to make them.”
Nixon says he plans on going back to Mexico in the next few days and weeks to stock up for the Day of the Dead.