April 21, 2010

Patzcuaro: We Need to Visit Paracho

A scene on the road to Paracho, a town between Patzcuaro and Uruapan. 

Paracho is a quiet town full of craftsmen, and many are known worldwide. It’s a town dedicated to creating music, although on an ordinary visit you may not HEAR any music … until you ask!

I needed to visit Paracho. Why? Because my mandolin was broken! Yes, Paracho is a town where dozens, or perhaps hundreds of skilled “constructors” make stringed instruments of all kinds - especially guitars. They call it the Guitar Capital of the World.

Notice something unusual about all these shops?
The artists are all members of a single family with long instrument-building traditions!
The Loncheria is where we ate during our last visit.
The man working at his small bench is R. Amezcua, a member of this talented family.   

Last year, we went to Paracho looking for someone to repair an instrument with a crack below the sound hole (my mandolin #1). We stopped at a shop where several gorgeous mandolins were hanging in the window. That is how we met Jose Luis Diaz Reyes, Constuctor de Guitarras Clasico, Estudio y Flamenco. He’s about two blocks north of the church on Avenida 20 de Noviembre #361. Dedicated, gracious and quietly humorous, he solved my problem!

This year, we had a different problem with my mandolin #2. The neck was separating from the body and needed gluing. Some readers will recognize this as a dry weather problem. I must pay more attention to humidifying the instruments! Jose welcomed us back, and we left the mandolin with him. When we returned along with friends Teri and Tuck, Jose took us into his tiny workshop, located under the stairs leading to the building’s second floor.  I tried the mandolin. It was terrific!  
We all got acquainted around Jose’s workbench. It’s made by hand as are many of his tools. Tuck and Chuck are both experienced in building many things – homes, boats, furniture, crafts. There was much talk about wood.

Jose has been building instruments for 57 years, and has no plans to stop.  He has trouble getting tools, however. We agreed that next time we came we would bring along a new Stanley 110 plane. It was totally OK with him if that might take a year or two.   


Paracho is fun for everyone, whether musician or not! Even if you do not play an instrument, you will be welcomed into a workshop/showroom to chat with a man who is making one. Many renowned musicians, like Carlos Santana and John Williams, own instruments made in Paracho. This man, Jesus Fuerte, made a guitar for Santana! He’s just sold two guitars to Barry & Susan, who are taking them back to Canada as gifts … or maybe Barry will learn to play! A beautiful instrument can be extremely affordable, even when ordered to specifications. Be sure to try them out - a Mexican-style instrument may have a wider neck than you’d expect! And bring your own strings. Mexican strings are, well, not so hot.

In addition to the makers’ workshop/sales rooms, other shops sell instruments, instrument cases, instruction books and crafts - wooden boxes, earrings, bowls, t-shirts, baskets, lacquer work, toys and more. Nearly everyone seems to play the guitar, and will demonstrate how great they sound. Senor Limon will play the miniatures he makes and displays in his shop/museum, Guitarras Limon.
It seems that in Paracho, the Indigenous women’s clothing is particularly lacey and beautiful – especially on the young women, who all seem dressed in their best and newly married! Wednesday is Paracho’s market day, but there are always women selling flowers and embroidered goods on the plaza.
How many of these young people are already building guitars?
It would be fun to visit Paracho in mid-August, when they hold an annual  big bash music festival.


Anonymous said...

How wonderfully interesting! Love the pictures! Need to get my guitar out and start working on calluses! Donna

C and G Taylor said...

Thanks, Donna - It actually was quite inspiring!!

Felipe said...

When my wife and I got married in 2002, she had been taking guitar lessons for quite a spell, a couple of years in Mexico City. Her guitar was pathetic. She paid 200 pesos for it. So we headed to Paracho and bought a really nice one.

She took lessons for another year or more, but the truth is she has no musical talent. She´s a dancing fool, excellent, but the guitar? No way.

But it´s a beautiful guitar, and it sits in the living room in its case. We take it out on occasion and admire it.

C and G Taylor said...

Hi, Felipe...My husband has a beautiful banjo that we admire, also! It's an antiqu, he did rebuild it. But play? Not yet!