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
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.
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.
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.
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.