Lago Patzcauro lake side villages – stone, wood, pottery and grass

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Don Vasco’s efforts were not confined to copper and guitars, but encouraged stone and wood carving, pottery production and the use of the lake shore reeds for a wide variety of household and artistic objects. These arts and crafts are still practiced today.

Our first visit was to Erongaricuaro, mostle to see a garden associated with a semanery beside the church and a Andre Breton [1896-1966] designed wrought iron cross. Breton apparently lived in the village for a time in the 1950’s and was visited there by Frida and Diego. There is still a good local story about his time here, which goes like this:Andre goes to a local carpenter with a design of a table, but drawn in full perspective view, the always literal Mexican carpenter, wishing to satisfy the client … well you can get the rest.

With the garden inaccessible the village turned out to be a little dull, although a brunch in a great interior patio garden was a highlight.

The cross contains a variety of christian symbols and is unsual although not especially high.

Our next visit was to Tzintzuntzan on the southern side of the lake, about 15km from Patzcauro. It had been the Tarascan capital and was Vasco’s first base. The village has two beautiful cemeteries, still decked in now faded Dia de los Muertos finery, a Tarascan ruin, and a huge weekend craft market. So we visited on a Sunday.

The evening before we had seen several tour buses parked in Patzcauro and lines at a hotel checkin desk, so we suspected that weekend tourism from surrounding cites was important for these villages. In Tzintzuntzan I asked several other market wanderers where they were from, and indeed Moralia, Guadalajara, Toluca and Aguacaliente were all mentioned. Buses were plentiful and seemed to be returning loaded with loot.

And the loot? That was the big dissappointment. We saw later on the street items that were drying and clearly in process of manufacture, but the majority of the items, particularly some of the wood and nearly all of the pottery appeared to be mass produced, possibily some distance away and all of cheap and often tasteless quality – eg quite large glazed pots for 30 and 35 pesos [$2=28 pesos]. Clearly the majority of the pottery and wooden item vendors were no more than merchants with no skin in the actual production game.

Some sad looking reindeer and ..

Two very different lives

We were however especially struck with some of the work of Paula Juan Flores, who clearly has great basketry skills – including a range of items over light iron frames – but is also able to make small toy objects, frogs that hop when pressed and a fine range of Christmas tree type ornaments, figures, a range of birds, skeltons and so on.

Paula claimed to do all of the work herself and we had no reason to doubt it. Janis commented that some of the larger laundry hamper type baskets [which do nest]might be a welcome addition to the Gertrude St Pot Luck Ceramics store line of inventory??

Don Hector, our always informative host, had a sad artisania story from a few years ago … a group of craftspeople, producing quality and elaborate designs on silver jewellery were surprised when the buyer, some NGO associated with government artisianal retail, wieghed the silver and started from there, taking no account of the beauty of the designs.

We did not see much of the stone carving up close as it was being sold on the roadside out of town, but judging by the well petina’d colour of some large pieces, inventory did not seem to be fast moving.

Maybe these old boys had the right idea – solve the worlds problems with a Sunday morning gossip each week.

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