The Electric OM … Puerto Vallarta Art!

Another wonderful aspect of Puerto Vallarta; please go to see this incredible art and an expanding part of our landscape!

The Electric OM

This well-known piece in the Tile Park is so good, it’s tattooed right on Natasha’s arm. Or is the tattoo so good that it’s a piece in the Tile Park? Sometimes it’s hard to determine what is inspired and what is inspiration. Regardless of which it is, the electric om(s) are near and dear to our hearts. They’re the pulse of the park.
What Is “Om”? In many eastern philosophies, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism the word “om” is regarded as the sound of all things; the vibration from which literally everything and everyone originates. It is found in the hum of the earth, the bedrock itself. It is the sound of ants marching, and bees making honey. It’s in the ocean waves, and the screech of a hawk. It’s in every sound we make, and indeed, just like the earth itself, it’s in us even when we aren’t making any noise at all.

Om is that low level thrumming that underpins everything happening in this world, from the beat of your own heart to the roar of a jet engine.

If you’ve been to many yoga classes, you likely know that “om” is also a chant, a verbal totem. It is an anchor, a home base. It is a sound we can all make, from the moment we are born. From the universal om it builds into what will ultimately be our unique voice.

Just as one candle can light 1000 more without dulling its own flame, something magical happens when people add their unique voices to a chant of “om”. Everyone’s voice comes together as an auditory prism, with uniform yet singular facets, each as beautiful and rare as the last. It’s the most gorgeously-sung chorus you’ve ever heard, and it’s never the same twice.

Om is the silence after the chant too. The om after the om, if you will. On Sundays here in Vallarta, at the painfully early hour of 6 am, the church bells come a-calling, reminding you that you’re alive. And to get to church. Over the course of about thirty minutes there is a series of bell tolls, each with a different rhythm to them. Om is in every gong of every bell, and it carries the silence afterward too. Om is the void that’s left when the vibration stops.
Because om is the sound of all things. It is the true vibration and it never stops.

Om, Light and Dark – The Tile Park has two om pieces, a light and a dark one. Our oms have a certain electric quality to them. These oms illustrate vibration, bounce. They’re bright and they sparkle, even the dark one does. They are round and they are sharp too. They are happy little oms, a centerpiece of the park. They were among the first pieces to go up, because om is the original vibration. Just as the voices build in the room, the energy builds from what came before it. So the roots of the park are the most important things to us, the closest to our heart. The things that light the spark, the things that inspire.

Stop in and check them out! They’re near the west edge, by the amphitheater. Or if you happen to see Natasha out and about, just ask her to roll up her sleeve, it’s right there on her upper arm, close to her heart.


Functional Fun: Three-Day Mosaic Workshops Teach Skills & Inspire

Functional Fun: Three-Day Mosaic Workshops Teach Skills & Inspire

September is upon us, and that means the snowbirds will soon begin their annual winter migration. Work will be picking up again at the Tile Park, too. As summer’s humidity begins to loosen its grip, giving way to those warm and mild days we love so much, we’ll be back at it full force. This also means the 2019-2020 workshop season will be ramping up, so if you’ve been thinking you’d like to join one, reach out to us ASAP!

If you want some new things to do in Puerto Vallarta this winter, workshops at the Tile Park are an excellent option. They are three days long and take you through the entire mosaic process end to end. The first day is spent planning and plotting the design, and getting started on the tiling. Day two is all tiles, all the time: cutting, shaping, and sticking them, bringing your design to life right before your eyes. On day three, the grouting gets done, cementing all your hard work right into Vallarta’s history books. A great way to express your creativity, and learn a new skill too! Your backyard picnic table is no longer safe. Nothing in your home is, really.

Nat learned the art of mosaic from renowned outsider artist Isaiah Zagar and has spent the last several years refining her own technique and style as an artist. She loves to “talk shop” where all things art are concerned, not just mosaic. She never stops learning about other artists, new materials and methods, and the world around us too. So, workshops offer the unadvertised special of inspiration from Nat and your fellow workshop participants. You spend three days in this space with fellow creators, talking about art, making art, and you really do come away inspired.

It’s a great way to get involved in one of the most exciting public art projects in Mexico, and not just for all the good feels and camaraderie either. The park is now classified as federally protected land, meaning it can’t be demolished in favor of development.

So the work you do will remain forever! Been coming to Vallarta for 20 years? Fantastic… it’ll be there for every one of your next 20… and beyond. The project is nearing the halfway point, and the transformation is truly astounding. This is what it looks like half-done…the finished product is going to be out of this world! Check out some of our past workshops:

For the upcoming season, the workshops will be structured a little differently.
The schedule has yet to be finalized and posted online, but you can still reserve your spot! Just drop us a line to nail down some dates and secure your reservation.
The summer break is nice, but we’re looking forward to seeing your smiling face around the park again, too. If you’re a migratory bird, be sure to swing through once your voyage is complete! We have lots to show you.







The true essence of Mexico is best experienced through its traditions, the legacy of the Spaniards and indigenous people. Fairs, religious festivities, and other colorful ancestral celebrations are part and parcel of Mexican life, all of them vibrant with music, chants, food, and fun.

In the Riviera Nayarit, these events also help to promote tourism in coastal towns such as Bucerías and Sayulita, for example, where every year religious festivities attract thousands of visitors. Gastronomy and music are a fundamental part of the celebrations.

Consider the Riviera Nayarit for your next vacation! Here’s a list of the Fairs, Fiestas, and Traditions you cannot miss!

Bucerías’ Feast of Our Lady of Peace
The Bucerías Patron Saints Feast in honor of our Lady of Peace has traditionally been held between January 16 and 24 for the past 59 years. Besides being an essential part of local tradition, over the past few years, it has become a tourist attraction as well. Cultural, artistic, and athletic activities take place during the festivities, but there’s no doubt one of the most colorful is the fishermen’s seafaring pilgrimage. The fishermen deck their boats out with flowers, colorful ribbons, and religious motifs. The plaza is dotted with stands selling Mexican treats; there is folk dancing, fireworks, and lots of other activities that involve both locals and visitors.

San Blas Patron Saint Festivities
Every February 3 the people of San Blas celebrate the Patron Saint who protects hunters with a very colorful and unique party. The activities begin at dawn with a heartfelt rendition of “Las Mañanitas” and the traditional Midnight Mass. The celebration includes dances, processions on land and sea aboard gaily decorated boats, and the main pilgrimage lead by an image of the saint. The procession leaves the church to bless the ocean so the seamen can have a successful fishing season and prosperity comes to the port.

Bucerías Oyster Festival
Every April 28 Bucerías hosts one of its most symbolic events. The Oyster Festival celebrates local oyster divers with a party that emphasizes togetherness and brotherhood within the community. That day marks the end of the season for the El Punto oyster bank (separate from the general conclusion of the season on June 1). Other festival activities include crowning the festival queen, who represents the divers and is chosen by the festival attendees. Of note is the fact this event is unique in the region and is one of the many great attractions offered by the Riviera Nayarit.

The Battle of the Saints in Mexcaltitán
The Battle of the Saints is one of the most representative traditional ceremonies on Mexcaltitán island, located in the municipality of Santiago Ixcuintla. The festivities are in honor of San Pedro and San Pablo; the community prays to them for a good shrimp season. On June 29 a pilgrimage is made emulating the Mexicas or Aztecs, who are said to have left Aztlán to establish the great city of Tenochtitlán.

Jala and Xalisco Corn Festival
The communities of Jala and Xalisco—located a short distance from the coast of Nayarit—celebrate several events to commemorate their Corn Festival (Feria del Elote). This celebration takes place on August 13-15 and includes cultural activities and artistic presentations. In Jala, they also host horse races and a traditional contest for the biggest ear of corn in the world. Of note is the fact this particular celebration takes place during the patron saint festivities in honor of the Virgin of the Assumption.

Feast of St Francis
The Cultural Capital of the Riviera Nayarit celebrates its patron saint festivities in honor of St Francis of Assisi from September 26 – October 4. During those days the Plaza del Sol and the town itself are brimming with athletic, religious, artistic, and cultural activities. As tradition dictates, the Friendship Torch is raffled off, and the novena begins in honor of the Patron Saint.

Day of the Dead in Sayulita | Bucerías
According to legend, the souls of the departed return during the first days of November to visit their loved ones. The Magical Town of Sayulita prepares a welcome from October 31 – November 2 with the ¡Vivan los Muertos! (Long Live the Dead!) Festival with a program filled with music, flowers, processions, and delicious offerings, not to mention a colorful riot of altars for the dead. The festival has been held for the past nine years to help preserve Mexican tradition. It’s an experience much beloved by both locals and visitors from abroad.

This year, Bucerías will join in the festivities with a cultural and artistic program, though it’s well-known that the town already hosts a traditional exhibit of altars for the dead in the main square.

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sayulita
The Magical Town of Sayulita celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe from December 1 – 12. The festival and its demonstration of faith bring together families, businesses, and civil associations from around the community as well as neighboring towns and tourists. During the novena, the different neighborhoods host processions with floats in honor of the Virgin. The townspeople then accompany the floats through the main road to the sanctuary created in the Virgin’s honor at the town’s central plaza. The organizing committee also coordinates other cultural activities besides the pilgrimages, with the main festivities occurring on December 12.

Check out Kathleen Carrillo at Southside Shuffle!

Check out Kathleen Carrillo at Southside Shuffle!

This Friday, February 8, 6-10 check out the show in her gallery (Calle Constitucion 325) featuring seventeen of Kathleen Carrillo’s new works soon to be mounted at the Four Seasons Resort in Punta de Mita.

Her latest collection “Speakeasy/Cabaret” shares works about nightlife, Jazz, dancing and a bit of the dark side. These can be seen at her gallery in Puerto Vallarta.

Kathleen has just opened her second Gallery in Carlsbad, California, in North San Diego County.  She will be spending most of the summer months in this new gallery while continuing to be dedicated to her patrons in the winter months in the Puerto Vallarta gallery.

Watch her latest episode of Colour In Your Life, a PBS affiliated series about artist and their lives, which aired in Australia and Europe last week.  Find it on YouTube: Colour In Your Life, Kathleen Carrillo.

You can call Kathleen at the gallery 322 222 9879, or her US phone 858 261-8129.  Gallery located at Calle Constitucion 325 in Old Town!  See you there.

Painting Credit: “Mixed Signals At The Cabaret”

Puerto Vallarta adds five more sculptures to the landscape

Puerto Vallarta revealed five new sculptures that were installed in different parts of the city. The works of art derived from the International Forum of Sculptors Puerto Vallarta 2017, organized by the University Campus of the Coast (CUCosta) of the University of Guadalajara (UdeG).

In the presence of municipal and university authorities and sponsoring businessmen, the esplanade of the La Aurora colony was the first place where the sculpture “El cuento del pescador” was unveiled.

In addition to the acting mayor Rodolfo Domínguez Monrroy, executive coordinator of the forum, María Asunción Ramírez Barajas; the director of the Instituto Vallartense de Cultura (IVC), teacher Arturo Dávila López; the sponsor and general director of Corporativo Más Vacations, Vicente Aguilar Sosa; and the representative of the La Aurora colony, Juan Manuel Hernández Izquierdo all attended the ceremony.

“The purpose of this cultural event is to provide Puerto Vallarta with cultural works that enrich the heritage of the people of Vallarta,” said Rector of CUCosta, Dr. Marco Antonio Cortés Guardado. “Above all, to enrich the cultural heritage of the popular areas of the city. Bring culture, important works to the people of Vallarta who have fewer resources and who, therefore, have fewer opportunities to access the experience of living with sculptural works of large format on a daily basis.”

The president of Tafer Hotels & Resorts, Luis Fernando Gonzalez Corona, highlighted the role of UdeG in the promotion of art and culture while underlining the relevance of promoting greater artistic works in Puerto Vallarta with the collaboration of the municipal authority.

“I dare to invite the municipal government with Rodolfo at this time, with Arturo tomorrow and with those who come, to maintain an intensely dynamic, proliferation, greater artistic manifestations and especially sculptures, throughout the length and breadth of the Municipality of Puerto Vallarta “.

The Municipality of Puerto Vallarta, through the Directorate of Social Development and the IVC, together with neighborhood representatives, identified the neighborhoods with the greatest need for reconstruction of the social fabric. They also contributed to the placement of concrete bases, as well as the intervention and conditioning of the areas, prior to the installation of the sculptures donated by the University.

Local representatives of the La Aurora, Infonavit CTM, and Los Sauces housing units welcomed the works built in stainless steel by sculptors of recognized prestige and international quality. The other two donated sculptures were installed in the Linear Park on the banks of the Pitillal River, and on the road to Las Palmas, at the junction with the avenue of entrance to CUCosta, respectively.

Welcome Home: Style Guide for Creating a Coastal Home

Welcome Home: Style Guide for Creating a Coastal Home

Two décor styles are popular with Americans and Canadians who have a new home in Mexico.  Since most of their properties tend to be near the ocean, it will come as no surprise that one of them is coastal style.

Coastal decor is best described as a fun and relaxing style that stirs memories of summer vacations of lore.  This is one of the fastest growing and most popular décor styles, whether you live on the ocean or just want to evoke the feel of the seaside.  Natural light and fabrics, as well as ocean blue and sun-drenched white color tones, constitute the core elements of this style.  From there, the category splits depending on which coast you prefer to take your inspiration:  tropical, cottage, Mediterranean, or American.

Tropical is reminiscent of the Pacific.  Also referred to as Island style, think dark greens, floral colors, and natural weaves.  Teak is also a go-to material to create this vibe.  I love this style for homes that are situated in jungle settings.  What an excellent way to extend the outside indoors.

Cottage is arguably the most relaxed of the subsets of coastal décor style.  Most furniture pieces in this style coordinate but are not matched.  An eclectic approach with a common color palette is the way to tie everything together while maintaining the ultimate relaxed feel.  Wood furniture made from reclaimed materials and vintage pieces that catch your interest is the best way to create this look.

The Mediterranean style brings to mind the bright, terra cotta colors, lots of carving detail, heavy black iron and dark woods.  This is a perfect option to decorate a home in Mexico since it evokes the old world feel of the shores of Spain.

The American style of coastal décor takes a nautical slant with reflective surfaces, navy blues, and rope.  Relaxed upholstery often with white or off-white slipcovers are a fixture of this coastal style.  Shiplap, chevron patterns, and decorative lanterns round out the little touches that complete the style.

If Coastal décor is the style that appeals, there are some beautiful interior paint colors available in Mexico.  The Coastal Cool color card is one of my favorites.  It gives me many options to work with depending on whether my client prefers bolder or softer colored walls.               

Although white shutters and horizontal blinds are common, billowing white cotton or linen drapes really make the room look relaxed.      

For upholstered goods, stay clear of dark colors.  Instead, go light and airy with a white or cream fabric cover.  With the new performance fabrics available, there is no reason to be concerned about owning a light color sofa, sectional or sofa bed.  Heavily coated, yet incredibly soft, even red wine left overnight will easily roll off in the morning.  Down feather filling or thick foam, with a frame that has curved arms will create this style.

Choose headboards, tables, chairs and rugs constructed from natural weaves, distressed wood and wrought iron metal to complete the look.            

‘Qulture’ Artists’ Co-Op & Jazz Bistro to Open in August

‘Qulture’ Artists’ Co-Op & Jazz Bistro to Open in August

July 10, 2018
Architectural rendering of the new interior of ‘Qulture,’ a unique venue that will blend art, music and food in one beautiful setting, that is scheduled to open next month in the heart of Old Town Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico – We are excited to announce the upcoming opening of Qulture in Puerto Vallarta. This unique venue will blend art, music and food in one beautiful setting in the heart of Old Town.


• Qulture is located at Venustiano Carranza 466, Emiliano Zapata, PV 48380

• It features 19 local artists in individual studio/galleries, with art ranging from paintings, mixed-media, sculpture, ceramics, leather and jewelry. These studios are completely leased with a waiting list.

The Galería will open mid-August and will feature works from the resident artists as well as guest artists. Additionally, The Coleccióngift shop will feature jewelry, custom greeting cards, small prints & ceramics and Qulture souvenirs.• Bar Q, an amazing bar-in-the-round will open in late August, mid-September in the courtyard of Qulture. Open for happy hour and evening to start, it will feature art-inspired drink creations and local favorites at reasonable prices, entertainment and a dedicated dog & cigarette friendly area.

Bistro Q, the restaurant, will open late October and coincide with the grand opening of Qulture. It will be open for lunch and dinner with Saturday & Sunday jazz brunches. An ever-changing menu will feature small plates, tapas and miniature decadent desserts to compliment a light and lively lifestyle. Take-out specialty party trays will also be available.


Qulture is committed to being a good neighbor in our community and will participate in various activities to further a better life for many here. These include:

• Q Mentors – Our artists will donate their time to various art workshops at Qulture for children, particularly those from abused families and from the poorest of our colonias.

• The grand opening of Qulture will benefit a charity to be announced soon.

• Qulture will spearhead the continuing fund-raising efforts to support the coaching staff of Jim Lee’s “Kick Start” soccer program for the Volcanes Kids Project.

The Qulture website and Facebook page are pending further development. For more information, send an email to jim(at)

Puerto Vallarta Garden Club gives Plaza de Armas a new look

Puerto Vallarta Garden Club gives Plaza de Armas a new look

April 5, 2018

Plaza de Armas in downtown Puerto Vallarta took on a new face, thanks to the image renewal work carried out by the municipal government of Puerto Vallarta and local Garden Club, on the occasion of the Centennial Anniversary of the city.

The work was completed before the start of Semana Santa, and you can already see the improvement with the placement of ornamental plants and other suitable species for this space. Beyond the plants, the benches and kiosk were rehabilitated to give greater prominence to this space.

In a recent town hall session, the plenary session approved an initiative for this civil association, which has contributed to the beautification of other areas of the city, to donate the remodeling materials, gardening (ornamental plants and earth) and workers, as well as as consultant through landscape specialist André Lategan, vice president of the organization, at no cost to the municipality.

In as much the City council will contribute employees of the department of Parks and Gardens, and thanks to Vallarta Garden Club, a plaque will be placed in the Plaza de Armas.

The contribution of this civil organization can be seen for some years in spaces in the Romantic Zone, downtown, Rio Cuale, Mexico Avenue, among others, “for the joy of living in Puerto Vallarta,” as expressed by its members.

Puerto Vallarta Artist Wins International Recognition.

Puerto Vallarta Artist Wins International Recognition

June 1, 2017

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Local artist Francisco Javier Calvillo Valdez recently received international recognition by winning second place in the 1er Concurso Internacional de Escultura Monumental de Paja y Maíz (1st International Competition of Monumental Sculpture of Straw and Maize) held in Colima, Mexico.

The sculptor, who astonishes with his creations in sand on the Malecón, participated in the contest, which had artists from Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Finland, South Korea, Czech Republic, Russia and Ukraine making monumental sculptures from straw and corn, during the 2nd International Colima Volcano Festival.

Mexico was represented by sculptors Carlos Ramírez Pereyra, originally from Colima, and Francisco Javier Calvillo Valdez, a resident in Puerto Vallarta.

First place went to the representative of Canada for the sculpture “La Lechuza Blanca,” second place was won by Mexico with “El Dios del Maíz,” and third place was awarded to Finland’s “Maize Vipers.”

It should be noted that all of the special mentions – the Artists, Audience and Children’s Favorites, as well as the International Audience (via social networks) Awards – were won by Mexicans.

Francisco Javier Calvillo Valdez, a plastic artist from Zapopan, Jalisco, graduated from the University of Guadalajara with a Visual Arts degree. Within his artistic career, he has participated in numerous individual and collective exhibitions in diverse galleries, cultural centers, academic institutions and interventions of public spaces; in addition to his participation in forums, exchanges, contests and cultural festivals in various states of the republic and abroad.

In 2008, Francisco Javier joined the world of ephemeral art with the elaboration of sand sculptures. Since then, he has worked independently to exhibit his works on the Malecón in downtown Puerto Vallarta, using his artistic discipline as a means of promoting the destination through sand sculptures.

He frequently collaborates with the city in coordination with the municipal government or the Tourism Trust for various events and makes sculptures to welcome special groups of visitors to our city.

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Trust congratulates Francisco Javier Calvillo Valdez, who has great acceptance as a sand sculptor in the artistic, social and business community. Throughout his artistic career, he has developed sand sculptures for social, cultural and artistic events, for hotel and high-end residential projects and events, and for national and international companies, thereby gaining international exposure not only for his works of art but also for Puerto Vallarta.

Press release translated and edited by Lorena Sonrisas for

Exploring Crafts Towns Around Lake Patzcuaro.

Exploring Crafts Towns Around Lake Patzcuaro


Most of us who get hooked on Mexican handcrafts and folk art begin with the typical tourist markets selling trinkets to tourists, with the colors and novel forms as the attraction. As we learn more, we become more interested in the processes, culture and people behind the items that we admire.

Tours specifically to bring people into contact with artisans and the places they live are a growing but still niche business.  So many of these towns are still neglected, in part because of tourist’s fears and in part because artisans do not know how to market themselves to a global audience. But the extra effort is worth it. Buying in the small crafts towns is that it is much more likely to buy locally-made items and even buying directly from the artisans themselves.

Michoacán is one of three major producers of Mexican handcrafts, but knowledge of this lags behind the reputations of Oaxaca and Chiapas. One reason for this is that it has no major resorts. Its major tourist attraction is Patzcuaro, along the lake with the same name. Most of its tourism is national, with the exception of the Day of the Dead, when it is insanely crowded with people coming to see the marvelous traditions relating to this holiday.

Although the rest of Michoacán has a number of notable crafts towns, the highest concentration of these are around this small lake. The reason is historical. In the early colonial period, authorities sent a man by the name of Vasco de Quiroga to Michoacán to bring order to the chaos created by the first conquistadores. Atrocities by Nuño de Guzman and others forced native populations to flee. Working from Patzcuaro, Quiroga not only put an end to slaughter, he also laid the groundwork for the establishment of trades to entice the native population to return. Different towns specializing in different trades, such as the working of various textiles, metals, wood, etc. carry on much of this old system.

The cultural and economic heart of the lake region is the small city of Patzcuaro, on the south shore. However, the city’s economy is based on tourism, not handcrafts. It does serve has the main outlet for much of the handcraft production of the area, with many shops and street vendors making merchandise easily accessible to the casual visitor. The quality and authenticity of this merchandise varies quite a bit and a little knowledge goes a long way in a country that truly believes in “buyer beware.”

One exception in the sea of resellers is the workshop and store of Mario Gaspar, located in the first portal of the Casa de las Once Patios. Gaspar specializes in the making wood items and gourds covered in a lacquer technique that dates back to the pre Hispanic period. Lacquering is a very labor-intensive process, as is the application of extremely fine gold leaf that can be found on most pieces. Unlike the vast majority of shops, Gaspar has informative signs (in Spanish) among his wares and visitors are encouraged to see the family at work in the back and talk to them about what they are doing. Gaspar has won numerous awards over the decades, and says he is the only person doing the work in Patzcuaro. That does not mean his is the only outlet, but you will be buying what you pay good money for.

Various towns work with wood, including Cuanajo, Erongaricuaro, Quiroga and Pichataro, but Cuanajo is the best-known and most-accessible for tourists, with the others having little or absolutely no indications for visitors that any handcraft activity goes on here. Cuanajo is best known for furniture in which flowers, plants, some animals and even people are carved relief-style and painted in bright colors. This furniture is easily found in Patzcuaro and is prominent in handcraft fairs such as the Tianguis and Competition held in conjunction with the Day of the Dead festival. But despite the numerous shops/workshops in Cuanajo lining the only road entering the town, few sell this iconic furniture.

Today, most of the furniture made and sold here is a generic rustic or even modern design, a change that came about a decade ago or less. The reason for this is that most who come to Cuanajo are locals, whose taste in furniture has changed. Most of the carpenters can still make the “old” furniture but the few who do regularly, do so for foreign customers.

Wood masks are the specialty of the small town of Tocuaro, located a short distance west of Patzcuaro. It has about fifteen blocks tops, with about five or six families dedicated to this craft and some other woodwork. The best-known name here is that of the Horta family. Wood masks are a necessity for several traditional dances, but they were not always made here. Juan Horta learned the craft in Pichataro and Quiroga and brought it back to his hometown, established a workshop on Morelos Street. The workshop still bears his name, today run by his sons. It, and the nearby workshop of Felipe Horta, are open to passing visitors. Just ring the bell.

More in line with expectations is Santa Clara del Cobre, just southeast of Patzcuaro and away from the lake proper. This town specializes in the making of copper, with many of the town’s residents dedicated to it. Individual workshops may or may not advertise their presence to visitors, but the town has a small but decent copper museum, various stores on the main plaza and the main parish church is very tastefully decorated with elements made from this metal.

Ihuatzio is on the eastern shore and best known for the working of reeds and rushes gathered from the lakeshore. Traditional items include baskets of varying sizes and shapes as well as sombreros. It is also home to the Tzumindi workshop, which specializes in the making of surprisingly heavy and sturdy furniture covered in the twisted dried leaves of bullrushes. The sturdiness comes from the frame, which is soldered metal over which the rushes are woven. The town center does not have shops, but there are a few on the main road that lead to the town from the highway that connects Patzcuaro to Quiroga.

The next major crafts town is Tzintzuntzan. The main tourist attraction here is the local archeological site, with its unusual round pyramid/platforms. The added traffic supports a number of shops in town focusing on (mostly) locally-produced pottery and various decorative items made from straw. It is home to the Morales family. Angelica Morales is noted low fire pottery with unique line designs. These were initially developed by her father, but she has since perfected them. Her brother Luis Manuel has gone in a different direction, introducing the production of high-fire wares with modern designs based on traditional and pre Hispanic motifs. The best-known family working with straw is that of Faustino Guzman, which can make very large and very elaborate scenes with this very simple material.

North of Tzintzuntzan is Quiroga, which does have shops and stalls selling handcrafts, but the goods here are of dubious quality and origin. It is a small, crowded city, not conducive to wandering tourists. On the north shore is the very, very small community of Santa Fe de la Laguna. The area facing the highway is filled with shops selling mostly pottery to passing traffic, but there is nothing here that cannot be found anywhere else. What is worth a stop in the area is around the town plaza. Most women here still wear traditional dress (all or in part) and there are several interesting shops selling blouses, skirts and aprons, some of which are heavily embroidered and/or covered in sequins. Also recommended are the local breads that are sold on the square.

The little towns around the lake are worth the visit, even if they do not have the tourist amenities that Patzcuaro has. They are real towns with real people living real lives, and pleasant surprises wait in store. In Ihuatzio, my husband and I were invited off the street to partake in atole being served in honor of the local image of the Virgin Mary and I had the best tortilla I have ever had… hand pressed and cooked over a comal on a wood fire, of course.

Artisans are heavily dependent on tourism to survive. A common refrain we heard is how sales are down because of the drop in visitors to the region. Unfortunately, Michoacán has a reputation for being dangerous as it is the home of one of Mexico’s drug cartels, La Familia Michoacana. This keeps many tourists away, both Mexican and foreign. I strongly believe that any danger they may pose is way overblown. The reality is that it is the people who live in Michoacán who have far more to risk from organized crime than any tourist there visiting for a few days. I should also note that the dangerous areas are near drug trafficking routes, which are in the mountains/coast significantly west of the Patzcuaro area. It is perfectly safe to rent a car and go exploring around this beautiful countryside…. the biggest “danger” we encounter here is stray cattle crossing the road.


All photos by Alejandro Linares Garcia unless otherwise noted