Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Colorful Corn, Palm, and Wooden Crafts of the Tianguis in Chilapa, Mexico

In the last part of my recent trip through Mexico, we traveled the mountains of Guerrero, from south to north, visiting several towns that produced crafts that were very specific to each area.  Once on the road heading north, it became clear that we had left our coastal towns behind, and were about to experience a different landscape and a more indigenous population.  The animals I saw by the side of the road, or in the road, on the way up included turkeys, pigs, horses, burros and cows!
Our first destination was Chilapa, located about 70 miles north of Acapulco, with a population of 27,500.  We planned our arrival for a Saturday morning, so that we could attend their weekly Tianguis (open air market).  On the drive I noticed many cornfields in the valleys,
and later discovered at the Tianguis that the local mountain people use the husks to create beautiful colorful and creative dolls, such as these dancers, mariachis, and brides and grooms.
They also use the corn husks to create brightly colored flowers.
Palms are another natural material that the local people use in their work here, to create functional and colorful boxes and bags,
and to make palm jewelry as well.  I brought a variety of these palm earrings home with me.
 There were several vendors selling gorgeous native textiles.
These dresses were for sale by Nahua speaking women, in the style still worn daily by the women of the neighboring village of San Jeronimo.
And here the Virgen de Guadalupe showed up on a bag
Of course there were also many food items for sale, like this irresistible pan,
and these colorful beans,
 but the food items that especially caught my eye were the live ones!
Turkey, anyone?
This area is also known for brightly carved and painted wooden masks, and the jaguar seems to be particularly popular here.  They also come as a mini version in earrings!  I brought some of the mask earrings home with me as well.
Here are a variety of little warrior dolls, again with some featuring the jaguar.
All that shopping made us pretty hungry, and we were lucky to happen upon a delicious place called Rosita Comida.  Here's Rosita on the right, along with her "right hand gal" in the kitchen,
Eduardo was so happy to have Posole, his favorite.  That's Mezcal in the shot glass, by the way, which is great for keeping the stomach strong on these adventures!
With some daylight left to spare, we took a drive to the neighboring town of Zitlala, where we saw another open air market, featuring fruits, vegetables and flowers, but no crafts.  Noteworthy at this market were the fresh marigolds, which have been said to symbolize the sweet sorrows of love, and are used to honor the dead in Mexico.
They showed up again in the local church,
The church had some beautifully decorated crown moulding,
and I like the way the townspeople had stuck the candles to the floor.  This did, however, once again remind me of that golden rule that I have, namely  "always look down while walking in Mexico".
Here's one more church that we passed going back out of town, that I thought had an interesting mural on the exterior.
We headed back to Chilapa, where we spent the night at the Hotel Los Angeles.  The next morning I got a lesson in drinking from a coconut (the milk of the coconut also very good for the stomach when on these adventures).
Back on the road, our next destination would be world renowned artisan town of Olinala, about a three hour drive on winding mountain roads.  Along the way, I was excited to see a local woman in her native dress, walking along a stretch of road in the mountains.  I am always so happy to see indigenous people able to preserve their culture.
The drive to Olinala was quite challenging, but one of the most rewarding of our trip.  Stay tuned for that story!

xo Linda

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Fabulous Indigenous Baroque Churches of San Andres Cholula, Mexico

We've been back in Los Angeles for a few days now, but there are still some things I'd like to share about the trip to Mexico.  After we left Atlixco, I had the opportunity to visit two churches in Puebla that are true architectural gems.  They are both located in the municipality of San Andres Cholula, and provide beautiful examples of the Spanish - Indigenous history of the area.  The first is San Francisco Acatepec, built in the 17th century, which has a stunning baroque exterior covered in locally produced Talavera tile.
Here's a close-up of the magnificent, brightly colored tile work on the church, which is completely unique to Puebla.
Inside, the church is decorated with plasterwork figures and gilding reflecting the European influence of the time.
 I was totally enchanted by the carved figures.
Although most of the figures were traditional European in this church, I noticed this one section with tiny indigenous figures.
I was so riveted by the beauty of the carving inside that Eduardo had to practically drag me out!  Little did I know, there was an equally beautiful church that we would visit next, namely the Church of Santa Maria Tonantzintla, which was just a few miles away.

At Tonantzintla, we were greeted by a brightly colored archway.
Once we walked through the archway, we were treated to a charming exterior once again covered in Talavera tile,
and decorated with primitive figures.
But it was the interior that totally took my breath away.  It seemed that every surface was covered with tiny plasterwork figures.
While also built in the 17th Century, the unique thing about this particular church is that it is decorated in a style called "Indigenous Baroque", fusing European and native designs.  I have read that this church is unique in all of Mexico, and I know that so far I haven't visited any one like it. 
I hope to be able to visit both of these churches again, and spend more time studying the figures in each one.  They are both monuments of great historical and architectural value, and I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to see them.  Yet another example of the many treasures of Mexico.

xo Linda