Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This is the view from our hotel window in Morelia, the capital city of the neighboring state Michoacan, on Sunday night, as we wrapped up our four-day trip there with our friends Vicente and Donna.

We started out on Thursday and headed straight to Paracho, the guitar capital of Mexico. This little town, which has little to brag about except its amazing guitar makers, has hundreds of guitar makers in one town. (This is typical of Mexico, where towns will routinely specialize in one craft item. There are towns that specialize in knives, particular types of pottery, copper, silver jewelry, and rustico furniture, to name but a few. It's hard to understand how anyone can make any money with so many competitors!) At any rate, Vicente and I were on the search for good guitars. Vivente had provided the cover art for my poetry book, and in lieu of pay, he wanted me to help him learn to play guitar. After playing many guitars in many shops, we ended up with guitar maker Jesus Leon, and bought sister guitars (according to Jesus) for about $240US. The guitars are made with Mexican rosewood and Canadian spruce. Here, Vicente and I pose with Jesus:

From Paracho, we headed south to Uruapan, a very Mexican town with few gringos. We did run into one very interesting gringo lady who had bought an old textile mill in Uruapan in 1952, and has been running it ever since. They make beautiful cotton fabric, hand dyes and woven on manual looms. The process of using these looms requires a very aerobic dance to keep the shuttle flying at the right speed and keep the fabric smooth. Here are some photos:

Michoacan has been called by some the most beautiful state in Mexico. The national park in Uruapan certainly supports this idea with its tropical plants, waterfalls and wildflowers. We spent time in this park on Friday, taken by its beauty:

Patzcuaro is a beautiful town well known for its Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. It is on a beautiful lake, and tourists descend on the town and the islands in the lake where the rituals and grave decorations are spectacular. We will, of course, be celebrating the Day of the Dead this year with our friends Curt and Judy, from Maine, who are making a return visit to Lake Chapala, so we won't be in Patzcuaro for the festivities. We were there to enjoy the ambiance of the town and see the amazing crafts for which Michoacan is famous. Here is the interior courtyard of our hotel in Patzcuaro ($41US):
Patzcuaro has a very different, wide plaza, with no gazebo and lots of trees:
Nearby Patzcuaro is Santa Clara de Cobra, a copper mining town which specializes in all types of copperware. We were able to visit a workshop and watch the artisans pound the copper into beautiful plates, vases, and other household items. Here is the process of hammering the hot copper ingot. This piece would eventually become a copper sink:We ended up our trip in Morelia. Morelia was the site, on Spetember 15, of a bombing during the celebration of the "grito," the declaration of independence from Spain read evey year on the eve of Independence Day. Eight people were killed and hundreds injured. It has been blamed on a drug gang who wanted to make a statement against President Calderon, who is from Morelia. The bombings took place in this plaza.

You would never guess that this was the scene of such a violent, tragic event on Sunday, when the plaza was full of people eating, buying balloons and enjoying the day. Below is a poster protesting the massacre of dozens of students in Mexico City by the government 40 years this month:

One of the most appealing things about Morelia is that it is a vibrant, clean city. We happened to be there for the final night of the Morelia International Film Festival, and we were able to catch an Israeli film while we were there. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Morelia is the abundance of well-preserved colonial architecture. Here are some examples:

We returned, safe and sound on Monday, in time for me to race off to class. Here are Vicente and Donna, our travel companions, my book collaborators (Donna did the translation), and good friends:

No comments: