Paracho, the large town that is known for one thing really – the making of stringed instruments, especially guitar and violin, is some distance from Patzcauro, and not easily accessed by bus. Fortunately our AirB&B host, Don Hector Angel, Casita Adobe, had an excuse to make the journey and kindly took us along. Even better was that his reason was to purchase some special hard wood from his amigo Jesus Herrera Furte, a master guitar and violin maker. The result was that we got to spend time with the owner of a small ‘taller’ with him having no expectation of us actually buying. In my case yet another guitar – yes friends tell me that you can never have too many – but you can if you cannot actually play them. Besides I have one with some form of space age plastic back and sides so I always feel like a tratior in the prescence of real wood based luthiers.
Don Jesus works in a very small shop, complete with front display area, in which no real effort is made to display in any slick manner.
Although I know a little of the theory of guitar making [I once made my own based no a cigar box after all], I could see little of the heating and bending equipment, which lead me to wonder if there is either some sub trades, or perhaps to avoid the risk of fire this work is done at his house. Anyway Jesus is the maker of serious instuments, with lord only knows what sort of price tags – the two that Hector played were indeed beautiful to listen to.
You cannot walk down this street without being accosted, eyes drawn or otherwise assulted by stringed instruments.
I did ask Jesus about the impact of the enormous volumes of Chinese CNC manufactured product flooding world markets. His view was that at present they were killing the factories in Paracho, but so far there was no noticable impact on his business …. well that is a view point … from the sand perhaps, especially if the Chinese can access quality tops and sides. Clearly one or more in every batch could have a cracker tone despite the fewer artist hours in the work. But granted they would never be hand made.
After guitar law talk and promises to send him some BC wood, which he uses, we went to lunch in the food market. A lunch Janis will never forget. I was talked into selecting the sheep’s head from the pile of well roasted mutton in front of us.
A pile of tacos were produced and we set to … well sort of. The skull was rendered asunder and I managed to slip a whole half to Hector, in the hope that Janis and I could sort of manage some of the other. We did our best, Janis thinking perhaps of her favourite halibut cheeks got off to a good start but we petered out after brains and tongue..
There is still a very noticable proud indigenous feeling in Paracho as indeed the banner photo above implies. This is especially evident in the number of women still wearing colourful ‘traditional dress’. While Mexico is a mestizo country, there are divides of colour and class and race within the population that I cannot begin to understand. In this mountainous area in the centre of the country there are hundreds of thousands of people that clearly self idenitfy and live as indigenous. And dress to show it. Of course the far north and the south are all heavily indigenous regions, so perhaps what we really mean when we say that Mexico is a mestizo country is that the major cities are. Comment??
Would Don Vasco be surprised to see 450 years later how long lasting his development efforts have been, or would he be saddened at the extent to which the indigenous peoples were still outside the main stream of Mexican society?
NOTE: my holiday snaps will expand a few times with mouse clicks