For thousands of years, pumpkins and other gourds have served as containers, and are household tools generically known as guajes. Archaeological excavations and mentions in codices present abundant evidence of their use in ancient Mexico.
Guajes are hung out to dry, gutted and polished. They are used to this day, especially in Mexico’s central highlands and in southern areas of the southeast. Over time, decorating techniques have developed, ranging from carving representations of everyday life into the guaje’s unfinished shell to highly sophisticated designs involving pumpkins that are shellacked and lacquered, in Michoacán, Guerrero and Chiapas.
Living examples of current guaje use are xicalpextles produced in Chiapa de Corzo, that local women use to transport fruit and other produce on their heads, particularly in Oaxaca’s Zapotec country; guajes that are the preferred vessel for drinking pozol in Tabasco; atole cups, decorated in bright shades of red in Acapetlahuaya, Guerrero; gourds used to sell traditional tuba drinks on the streets of Colima, always covered with a highly-starched napkin; pumpos and atoles in Chiapas for serving pozol and keeping tortillas warm; and bead-decorated gourds used by central highlands Huichol peoples in their ritual ceremonies.