What is Tampico?
Tampico, a natural vegetable fiber derived from the Agave Lechuguilla plant, is often referred to as "Mexico's Natural Wonder" in recognition of the exceptional characteristics that it imparts. Used as an all-natural fill fiber in the brush-making industry, this fiber has proven its distinct worth, as it possesses exceptional water retention characteristics, excellent biodegradability and superior heat and chemical resistance.

Taking its name from the Mexican port from which it was exclusively shipped in the early days of trade, Tampico, is also sometimes referred to as istle or ixtle fiber. Its native environment is the dry, rugged highlands of northern Mexico, where the fiber is derived from the spiny, cactus-like Lechuguilla plants that populate the semi-desert region.

How is Tampico derived and processed?
While methods of preparing Tampico for the brush-making industry are continuously updated by the development of new equipment and technology, the gathering of the raw Tampico material has essentially remained the same. It is speculated that the indigenous people of Mexico were the first to discover Tampico's viability, using the fibers to produce shampoo, rope and, later, brushes. The harvesting methods they employed are still in use today.

The process of gathering Tampico begins with workers called "talladores" taking to the hills in search of the fiber bearing plants. They are equipped only with burros, woven baskets, husking knives and long handled devices called "cogolleras" for snapping off the stem of the plant without exposing their hands to its barbs. Shaped like a spearhead, the pithy stem at the center of the plant is snapped off gently to avoid damaging the rest of the plant, which will then generate a new stem. The stem is then husked revealing a handful of wet fiber that is allowed to dry under the bright sun. In a single day a worker can gather several large baskets full of raw Tampico.

The Tampico fiber is then received at our processor's collection terminal, where it is sorted for length and packed into large bales for shipment to our processor's plant. At the processor's plant, the Tampico fiber does not undergo any structural changes. It is merely processed in a manner so as to assure uniformity of length, stiffness and color.

Once there, the Tampico is initially assorted according to size, color and stiffness. Following that, the Tampico is dyed if it is off-color. It is subsequently cut to size and combed on automatic mixing machines specifically built by our processor to process Tampico.

The repeated combing by machine and by hand ensures that fine lint and bent strands are removed. The necessity of uniformity is apparent in the actions of the workers who, regardless of their specific tasks, are never seen handling a bundle of fiber without automatically picking loose material or removing an oversize strand.

Although machines built by our processor specifically cut, comb and mix Tampico, these machines serve our workers rather than the opposite. Except for Tampico's color and dryness, the fibers are virtually unchanged from their natural state. The skilled hands, practiced eyes and careful scrutiny of the workers are responsible for the quality of the finished Tampico. The processing that the fiber undergoes, when it is combed and dressed, serves merely to enhance its appearance and performance so that when it finally reaches our customers it is ready for the brush-making equipment.