Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Month in Mexico - Art in Ajijic

Mexico is a smorgasbord of craft delights, and each area has its specialty. Oaxaca is famous for its black pottery, formed from clay found in only two places in the world;  alebrijes, whimsically carved and painted figures; and its rugs, dyed from insect or vegetable material, and hand-loomed and woven by the Zapotec indigenous people. Patzcuaro is known for its embroidery and furniture, while nearby towns specialize in items crafted from straw.   In Leon, leather good stores line the streets while an hour's drive away, in San Miguel de Allende, the specialty is tin-work. Delores Hidalgo and Puebla's claim to fame is Talavera pottery.  

Here in Ajijic, we are fortunate enough to have crafts from most of Mexico.  The stores lining calle Colon offer art from far-flung areas of the country while there are two places specializing in just one art form.

The rug sellers from Oaxaca set up shop on the carretera, the main street running the length of the town.  Incredibly beautiful and intricate wool rugs, with patterns that have been used for centuries by these descendants of the Mayans, sway gently in the breeze. The prices are one-third to one-fourth the prices found in the Southwest United States.

The Huichol, an indigenous people descended from the Aztecs and numbering only about 18,000, struggle to maintain their individuality despite the encroachment of civilization.  To augment their farming income so they can remain independent, they have established a few shops in Mexico and one of them is across from La Nueva Posada Restaurant and B&B. 

The Huichol, whose rituals are based on the visionary state they achieve by using peyote, believe they establish a mystical union with the gods. Their visions and symbiotic union with nature is communicated in their art.  And, because their culture has no written language, their art depicts the Huichol's rituals, belief systems, and history.

These gentle people string tiny beads on needles and then press the beads into a pine resin and beeswax base.  The amount of time required to painstakingly place these beads in intricate patterns to fashion deer, goats, coyotes, and jaguars boggles the mind; and it's even more astonishing to realize these treasures are available for 200-500 pesos a piece. 

David and I feel lucky to be able to drive a few miles and see art from all over Mexico.  And the reasonable prices we pay for these treasures makes us even more grateful to be spending this month in Mexico.


  1. You certainly are on target with tour observations. From Chapala to Ajijic to Jojotepec and on to Mazamitla, crafts are to be found in abundance!