Patzcuaro, Part 3B

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Okay – I’m already in Guanajuato and I haven’t even finished my post about Sunday in Morelia. We rented the taxi – our driver’s name was David – and drove around the lake. David had lived for some time in Utah, so he spoke some English, but it was rusty.

We started out by stopping in Tocuaro – famous for mask making. David took us to see Felipe Horta, who was raised in a mask making family. I found out later that my mother and I had visited with his uncle seven years ago, but he was dead now. He was very nice, and allowed Wheat to videotape and take pictures of his workshop. He makes masks for feast days and theatre work. His wife makes costumes. His son was over at a table, painting masks with car paint. Although Felipe joked that this was why his son was going crazy, I assure you he had the proper face gear.

Apparently, Felipe has visited the United States quite a few times. He has some work in a gallery – I don’t remember where – and has participated in annual mask shows in Chicago. He has also been the working artist for a couple of schools. After doing a web search, I also found some information about another Horta: Juan. He has a big gallery website, and even has a lesson plan written about his family!

Of course, I bought something. After pointing at several of the elaborately carved masks with skulls and devils, I found that those were out of my price range. I ended up choosing a cow mask with REAL cow horns – I tried to bargain with him to throw in a small jaguar mask for my husband, but he just laughed. I think he came down about 25 pesos. Then he said that his masks would go for four times that much in the gallery in the U.S. I have no idea how I am going to get the mask and its horns home intact.

From there, we passed on to Erongaricuaro (and yes, I just typed that from memory!) Nothing special is made there, but we went through a crowded market to see the church there, called El Senor de la Misericordia. In Puacuaro, we stopped by and met a family who runs a cooperative that makes items from chuspata, or bull rushes. They gather them on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro, and weave baskets and other things from them. I bought a scorpion and three smaller animals meant for keychains: a turtle, a pig, and a hummingbird.

In Santa Fe, they make pottery (alfareria) out of clay (barro) as opposed to ceramic work. I bought two little dishes with handles and two jugs. They were about an inch high. I was surprised at how large the town of Quiroga was. We have acquaintances from there that run a taqueria by the same name in Norcross. We stopped and browsed some of the many shops selling wooden items and leather. There were a HUGE number of educational games stored in little boxes with slide lids. I almost got a stamp set to make loteria cards, but didn’t.

I also ran across one loteria set that I had seen sold on E-Bay. It has loteria pictures, but each square also has a Disney, WB, or other bootlegged character in the square. They were not that attractive, and cost 10 pesos more than the other sets I had bought, so I didn’t buy it. We also visited the Cathedral of San Diego.

When we got to Tzintzuntzan, we went to see the monastery, which was a great as ever. There is a grove of ancient misshapened olive trees in the courtyard. Wheat took pictures of those and of the chapel. I stopped briefly in the market in front of the gates of the monastery and checked out some bordados, but they didn’t have as much detail as the ones I’d bought the day before. David then took us up to the Tarascan ruins. They are examples of step pyramids and were plastered and painted in the past.  They were very interesting, but I didn’t realize that we weren’t going to spend more time in the markets. I should have spoken up.

We ended the trip with a visit to another Tarascan ruin: Ihuatzio, or the Place of the Coyotes. We had the whole place to ourselves, except for three boys who tried to cajole David into paying them to “watch his taxi.” I always wonder what they mean by that… is the taxi going to drive away by itself?

We returned to Patzcuaro and had a bite to eat before going to the bus station to find a bus home. Unfortunately, we seemed to have missed the last Primera Plus (luxury) bus, and had to ride a less luxurious line called Purepechas (another word for the Tarascan indians of Michoacan). They didn’t leave until they had the bus more than full – there were people standing up in the front of the bus. It was the longest ride ever, even though it only took an hour. At one point, a person in front of us closed the only window providing fresh air and I thought I would go crazy. Luckily, her father was sitting behind with us, and told her to open the window again. The only thing that got me through the ride was looking over the shoulder of a young gentleman who had a video IPod playing Madonna videos.

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