Friday, July 30, 2010

San Miguel made the list again!

San Miguel de Allende scored big time in the August, 2010 issue of Travel & Leisure.

Not only is San Miguel rated as the fourth top city in the world to visit but it is rated number one in Mexico, Central and South America.
I totally agree!

San Miguel is known worldwide for its old world flavor, delightful climate, colorful history and art colony ambiance. It is a dreamland for shoppers, with gourmet restaurants, music festivals and a steady diet of cultural events.
Yet, despite its renown and worldly fame, San Miguel de Allende with its bountiful marketplaces and centuries-old architecture, still retains much of its natural character as a storybook town from another and long lost time.
My October guided tour of San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding area is already full. My next trip is scheduled for January 11 - 17, 2011. Please let me know if you are interested in joining me and I will put you on the mailing list. Buena viaje!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Friday market in Patzcuaro

When I am at my home in San Miguel de Allende, I love to make a little side trip over to Patzcuaro. Friday in Patzcuaro is always on my agenda for the Plazuela de San Francisco is transformed into a busy little market every Friday morning.
I just adore buying these little pots to decorate wreaths. I also bought a big bag full to have on hand for a group that is coming to San Miguel in April of 2011. On our agenda, we are going to spend one afternoon painting and decorating individual tin nichos and a few of these tiny pots just might be the perfect adornment.
Beautiful hand embroidered tablecloths and blouses.
Hand made baskets that are woven near by in the village of Ihutzio.
I bought this handsome woven tray from this little guy for 150 pesos, roughly $11.50 US!

These bowls and platters are made over in Capula where the majority of the clay Catrinas are made. I met the craftsman who makes these ceramics last time I was in Patzcuaro in April and in the market today, he and I recognized each other. It was like old home week.
I find this very interesting... I was in a little French restaurant in Denver and they had for sale a line of dishes from France that were hunter green (like the bowl in the bottom right corner) with the same pattern. Pretty wild!
The bowls with lids are the perfect vessels to serve salsas in.

Two gals on the way to the market.
This lady was selling a farmers cheese that she had made.
The wooden spoons and molinillo (the traditional wooden spoon that is used to mix hot chocolate) are made in the mountain village of Cuanajo which is also known for their wood furniture.
The traditional jarro de barro (clay pot) is used to make hot chocolate and ponches (hot mixed fruit punch with sugarcane alcohol.) I use one by my stove to store my wood spoons and other cooking utensils and another one as a cookie jar.

The Friday market is great people watching, many of them are dressed in their native clothing and it is full of different crafts from the area. There is also a great section of beautiful plants and flowers.

It's a wonderful experience and one I look forward to every trip.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My San Miguel de Allende Dogs

The dogs around San Miguel de Allende are just as friendly as the people! These two guys were just hanging out by their front door checking out the people that walked by. They're like the old couple on the front porch.
He just woke up from a good siesta. I love the colorful wall behind him, the colors of the Mexican flag.

I could not have staged these two perros any better. I just cracked up on how they were lying. It was hot out and what a better way to cool off than lying on the cold stone pavers and leaning against the cool brick wall.
Talk about hilarious. I rotated the photo and it still works in a goofy way. Dog Pilates! This Cocker had been out and about with his t-shirt on. He was waiting patiently for someone to let him back in.
This Perro is an antique ceramic mold that was used to make large papier mache dogs. I found him in an antique store in San Miguel. So life like.
Meet Frida! I met her at Shacter's house when she was just a little puppy. One year later, she is still so full of life and loves to play non stop.
Bravo attacking the fountain at Rancho Casa Luna just outside of San Miguel de Allende. Besides his fixation on the fountain, he loves to chase down rocks that I throw. You can meet both Frida, Bravo and some of Bravo's buddies if you join me for one of my tours of San Miguel and the surrounding area. One day we have a cooking class out at Rancho Casa Luna. Another day, the Shacter's home is one my stops to view his incredible folk art collection.
This guy was relaxing on the steps that led up to the church's courtyard. I guess you could say that I am just like many of the dogs of San Miguel, I too love to sit in the jardin and watch life go by! Viva la Mexico.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Juan Torres, a great artist near Patzcuaro

Last week, I left San Miguel de Allende early so I could get a head start on the day. It was a beautiful morning when we rolled into Capula on our way to the taller (workshop) and home of Juan Torres.
The property is quite big with his taller, chapel art studio, greenhouse and home. Juan Torres was born in Morelia in the the state of Michoacan and he started drawing at the age of seven. He has built houses and haciendas as an architect and is also a well known painter and sculptor. This elegant sculpture graces the entry courtyard of his home. I love the elongated body of this angel!
Juan Torres has always been fascinated with Death and it appears everywhere in his work. In 1982, he was the first to make these Catrinas from clay. Many have worked in his taller under his guidance and these new artists have passed their knowledge and skills down to their siblings and children. Because of this explosion of talented artists, Capula has become the capital of clay Catrinas.Torres has perfectly captured the Calavera Catrina, the skeleton "conceited lady." I can picture her promenading down the Reforma in Mexico City in the early 1900's.

The Calavera on the Catrina's right is Emiliano Zapata. Zapata was the legendary hero and leader of the Mexican Revolution. He was raised in extreme poverty surrounded by large haciendas. He started recruiting peasants for an insurgent army way before the Revolution officially started in 1910. Later he was ambushed and gunned down by government troops in 1919. Zapata was quoted as saying, "Prefiero morir de pie que viver siempre arrondillado." (Better to die on my feet than to live forever on my knees.) I picked this Catrina out for a client of mine. It will be meticulously wrapped so her delicate fingers will stay intact.

The taller of Juan Torres will be one of my stops on my guided tour, Artesans & Architecture, in February, 2011. If you are interested in joining me, please send me an email at

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jose Guadalupe Posada

When I am in San Miguel de Allende with my group on one of my guided tours, I frequently get asked about the Catrinas and the origin of them. I was in Patzcuaro earlier this month and on the way over, I stopped in the town of Capula which is known all over Mexico for its clay Catrinas. So I thought I would write a little bit about the history of the Catrina.

Jose Guadalupe Posada was born in Aguascalientes in 1852. It was his brother, a school teacher who taught him to read, write and draw. He then went on to the Academy of drawing and learned lithography and engraving. After teaching in Leon for a few years, he moved to Mexico City where he was an illustrator with La Patria Ilustrada whose editor was Ireneo Paz, the grandfather of the famous Mexican writer, Octavio Paz. He later became chief artist at the publishing house of Antonio Vanegas Arroya.

Pictured above is a drawing by Diego Rivera and Posada at his engraving table. Posada produced thousands of illustrations of miracle stories, games, advertisements, love stories, rare events, natural disasters, legends.... He wanted to make the Mexican aware of their conditions and provoke their emotions. Many being illiterate, these illustrations made a huge impact.
"Tender Entreaties - with which young girls forty years of age invoke the miracle working Saint Antonio of Padua, praying to him for comfort." In other words, these old maids are praying for St. Antonio to find them a husband!

The fascination of the Mexican people with death goes way back to the time of the Aztecs. For the Aztecs, death signified not an end but a stage in a constant cycle. Worship of death involved worship of life, while the skull, the symbol of death, was a promise of resurrection.

Posada reached the peak of his artistic skills with the creation of the Calavera, the skeleton, as part of a political satire. This well known image of La Calavera Catrina is an etching that he did in 1913. The Catrina, a conceited female dandy, mocks the European-influenced ruling, upper class during the reign of Porfirio Diaz. The word Catrina is the feminine form of the word catrin, which means elegant. Today, the Catrina is one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations and a symbol that has been mass produced.Posada's Calaveras assume various costumes as shown here with this Fandango. The Fandango is a style of folk dance and music. Two dancers face each other, dancing and tap-dancing, each taking turns as the "lead", trying to out dance the other.
Posada vividly expresses the grim justice of the Revolution in this powerful Calavera.

Many artist were influenced by Posada's works, muralist Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Rivera compared Posada to Goya in the way both artist portrayed the events of the time.
Above is a detail from Rivera's mural, Dream of a Saturday afternoon in Alameda Park. Posada is arm in arm with the Catrina, while Rivera is holding her right hand with Frida Kahlo behind him.
Jose Guadalupe Posada died at the age of 62 and was buried in a pauper's grave. It wasn't until shortly after the Mexican Revolution in the 1920's when French artist, Jean Charlot encountered Posada's illustrations while visiting Diego Rivera. While Posada died in poverty, his images live on as fine examples of Mexican folk art!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Women of Cocucho

Last week, I arrived at my home in San Miguel de Allende. I let the dust settle and then I headed over to Patzcuaro and some of the surrounding villages for a few days. Cocucho is one of my favorite towns. These women were on the their way to church in their dark blue and black striped rebozas. Usually you can tell what village most of the ingenious women are from by the embroidery on their blouses and the colors and patterns of their woven rebozos.
Even the youngest ones dress like their mothers.
Cocucho is a small mountain village where Cocuchas (pots) are made from the barro (mud) of the volcanic clay in the area. It is usually made by the Purepecha (or Tarascan) Indian women. You rarely see many men in town for they are in the mountains tending to their fields and cutting firewood or off working in the states. These Cocuchas are used to store corn and rain water. Believe me, it rains a lot. In earlier times, these pots were used for burial. Angelica Rodriguez Acensio is very proud of her Cocuchas and she should be. They are gorgeous.
Most of the homes are the traditional troje. A troje is a four sided cabin made of pine planks with a steep roof, no windows and one door. Being that Cocucho is high up in the wooded mountains, lumber is readily available.

The pots are made by the coil method and only a form is used to shape the lip of the pot. The smooth face of the pot is achieved by varnishing it when the clay is still moist with a corn cob. After the pot has sufficiently dried, the firing process is next. Wood is placed over the pot in a big heap and then set on fire. You know when you are in Cocucho, for there is always smoke in the air!
I shot this little piece of video in Uruapan during the parade of artisans. It is of the float from Cocucho. Click on the right
- Women of Cocucho
The one girl is full of giggles when I shot this photo. All such happy people!
Embroidery is big in this region and this was their day for selling yarn. The 16th century church in the background is one of the beautiful painted churches that is part of the Bishop Don Vasco Route.
I just purchased a large cocucha from this lady and she was more than glad to pose for me. I love the colors and her happy face.
This gentleman was proud to show off his cocucha. It's taller than he was, but then again, he wasn't that tall! Many of the cocuchas vary from less than a foot to seven feet high.

Cocucho and many of the 16th century painted chapels in the area will be part of my Artesans & Architecture tour in February of 2011.
Join me, it will be a trip of a lifetime!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Las Lupitas

In my wanderings around San Miguel, I occasionally will buy a few of the wonderful and colorful papier mache dolls!

If you can believe it, papier mache originated in China, the inventors of paper itself. They used papier mache to make helmets which they strengthened with layers of lacquer dating back to the Han Dynasty (BC 202 - AD 220)! In Europe, the papier mache industry started in France and Spain in the mid 1700's. Eventually this craft came to Mexico and the papier mache dolls were created. They are commonly referred to as Munecas de Carton. Muneca in Spanish means doll and carton referrs to cardboard. They also have been called Munecas de Carnival, Las Lupitas and even, Munecas de Puta (puta meaning prostitute.)

Their painted on, old fashion looking swim suit has evolved. The hair styles have changed, earrings and glitter are more common and some even adorn a funny little hat. Many times there will be names painted on the front of their chest, like Lupita, Maria, Luz... I've never seen a Robin though.

There are several families in Celaya (less than an hour drive from San Miguel) that have been making the Lupitas for over a hundred years.
With a glue gun in hand, I secured these Lupitas to the top of the armoire in one of the bedrooms in my casa in San Miguel. Originally, I just had them sitting up there and my brother was tired of them falling over ever time he opened the armoire. Unfortunately, they will need skin graphs if I have to take them down! I particularly like the red head with the bee hive hair doo.I bought this lithograph a while ago in a little store in San Miguel. I had it framed with a simple glossy black frame and it hangs in my guest bedroom.If you can believe it, bought several of these little chairs at Cost Plus a few years ago and I love to use them with my Lupitas as a centerpiece when having a Mexican dinner party. My Mom and I have decorated our Christmas tree at the casa in San Miguel with the girls. It's even fun to use a Lupita as a decoration on a birthday gift.
These Lupitas were cleverly arranged and glued on a wall in an entry of a beautiful home over in Patzcuaro. As an interior designer, I have always thought gluing them on the wall, standing up, like a border in a girls room would be great!

There are endless uses for these Lupitas!
You Go Girls!