A not-so-much about Zihua trip report.

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Escrito por frostbite desde (222-35-178-69.gci.net) el día jueves, 31 de mayo, 2007 a las 03:01:40 horas :

As a potter - a hobby gone out of control - I was intrigued when I came across the website of Traditions Mexico, a company which guides cultural tours in various parts of Mexico. Among other things, they offered a tour of indigenous potteries in the State of Michoacan. I signed up and convinced 2 other potters from Anchorage to do likewise. Not wanting to pass up an excuse to spend some time in Zihua, we flew down a week early to hang out at Casa Amarilla - in order to get acclimated to the heat, or so I told my wife.

Day 1. Having been advised that it would be better to leave the car in Patzcuaro rather than in Morelia, where the tour started, I'd made arrangements to park it in the courtyard of one of the hotels there. We left Zihua around 9:00 am, got to Patz about 3 1/2 hours later without incident and took a cab from there to our hotel in Morelia(200 pesos). Lodgings were provided at hotel Valladolid, right on the main plaza. A nice place, but the rooms with a window overlooking the plaza are a bit noisy, so a room without a view would be a better choice if you like to sleep. After checking in, we wandered down to the Jardin De Las Rosas, just a couple of blocks away, to sip sangria and watch the world go by. That evening at 6:00 was a get acquainted meeting. Sitting around in a circle - not unlike an AA meeting, I imagined; "Hi I'm Joe, I'm a clay-aholic". A pretty diverse group, as it turned out: 3 Alaskans, 2 Australians, 2 Oregonians, 2 North Carolinians and a New Yorker. 3 participants were non-potters. The group was led by a woman from Northern California who spends the winters in Jalisco and a man from the Patzcuaro area with a degree in anthropology, who was extremely knowledgeable and was a pleasure to be around. Following the meeting we trooped off to the restaurant "Tico" for dinner, after which we sat around in front of the hotel watching a fireworks display near the cathedral. Shortly thereafter 8 students from the local university showed up, clad in period costumes of the 16th century and gave an impromptu concert, playing a variety of string instruments. A wonderful start to a most enjoyable trip.

Day 2. Packed our bags, went for breakfast at Sanborn's, checked out of the hotel, loaded our bags onto the van and headed for the Purepecha village of Huancito. Here they burnish their pots with "antsh*t" to give them their distinctive appearance. How this substance is harvested was not explained. A tasty lunch was served at the potter's house by the women of the extended family. From there we drove to Tangancicuaro, taking rooms at Casa Del Lago, a pleasant hotel adjoining Lago De Camecuaro, a spring fed lake and national park. We arrived on a holiday and the park was packed with hordes of people. I walked back in early in the morning a couple of days later and was blown away by the beauty: crystal clear water, huge cypress trees growing in and around the lake and the only living things I saw during an hour of walking around were the resident ducks and geese.

Day 3. Off to Cocucho, where they make huge urns which are decorated while still hot with some kind of corn soup, which gives them their distictive look. From there we drove to Ocumicho, where the local artists create "psychedelic" sculptures from clay which are then painted. These were very reminiscent of the "alebrijes" made in the Oaxaca area. We spent some time in the studio of Zenaida Rafaela, who does great work. I couldn't resist buying a couple of her pieces. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 4. Got up looking for coffee, only to learn that 1/2 of the group had come down with Salmonella poisoning. We were never able to find out the exact cause, since we all ate pretty much the same thing. One of the participants got it worse than the rest. She passed out in the bathroom, waking up on the floor in a pool of blood. Ambulance rides to and from the hospital, x-rays, stitches and medication came to US$130.00! The doc made a housecall a day later to check on the patients and refused payment. Pretty amazing! The survivors traveled to San Jose De Gracia and Patamban where we saw more great pottery and were fed a lunch of local goodies.

Day 5. We pack, load up and head for Patzcuaro. Since some in the group are still pretty green around the gills, we go directly, rather than making the originally scheduled stops along the way. We'll miss the village where they make items from the reeds that grow along the shore of Lake Patzcuaro, as well as a tequila and mescal distillery. We move into our lovely hotel a couple of blocks up from the main plaza and those of us who are not still sick, pile back into the van and head off to Tocuaro, to visit with some of the local mask makers.

Day 6. The van gets a rest today and the driver takes the bus home to Morelia in order to participate in the bull fights. We walk into town and visit the library, arts museum, the mercado, do some shopping and visit "Barro sin Plomo", an NGO which is trying to wean the area potters from using lead in their glazes - not an easy task. They do this with education and helping with the marketing of their products. A very worthy cause and I buy a lovely dish from them.

Day 7. Bummer! The day I was most looking forward to, as the schedule called for a trip to Capula and a visit to artists making Katrinas, lovely skeletons dressed in Victorian finery, I finally came down with something. I spent the day at the hotel within easy commuting distance to the bathroom.

Day 8. I'm almost back to normal and we head to Tzintzuntzan, visiting the ruins at Las Yacatas, the craftsmarket and the church with its ancient olive trees in front, in the shade of which we enjoy a picnic lunch. From there we drive to Santa Fe Lagunas, to the workshop of Nicolas Fabian Fermin, who has totally given up on lead glazing (unlike everyone else in the village) and is now working with burnished slips and etched designs on his pots. Our driver is not his usual lively self, as he's nursing a couple of cracked ribs suffered in the bull ring. That evening the decision is made to eat at Cha Cha Cha in Patz. I'm hesitant in view of Stew's bad experience there, but the food and service were both excellent.

Day 9. We return to Morelia today. We tour the museum and La Casa De Las Artesanias, where I puchased a 3' tall gourd made of clay for the house in Zihua. I wanted to get a larger one, but it was so heavy that I wasn't sure how to haul it up the 40 steps to the spot I wanted to put it at the head of the stairs.

Day 10. The tour is over. We 3 Alaskans catch a ride back to Patz with Miguel Angel, our guide, to pick up our vehicle.

Sidebar: The door to a friend's house in Zihua is on an alley where people were dumping trash. A neighbor erected a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe next to her place across the way and the trash dumping stopped. I figured that if it worked in their alley, it might also work in the empty lot next door to Casa Amarilla, where we have a similar problem. So, before leaving Patz for our trip back to Zihua, we drove over to Tzintzuntzan, where I purchased a very attractive Virgin carved from pink sandstone by one of the local artisans. Permission has been obtained from the owner of the lot, and now I'm waiting for a price quote for a base on which to place her.
The trip back to Zihua was uneventful, but the drive through Tierra Calient in mid-afternoon was, as advertised, muy caliente! After a few more days of resting up from the tour, we headed back up North to spend the summer planning our return to Zihua and beyond.

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