April 5, 2010

Uruapan: Easter Week Tianguis Artesanal

Capital Mundial del Aguacate – that’s Uruapan, Avocado World Capital. Just 52 kilometers west and 500 meters lower than Patzcuaro, Uruapan is surrounded by rolling volcanic hills clothed with Hass avocado orchards. Our favorite, the Hass is perfect for two, at 5 pesos, about 40 cents in the Bodega/WalMart just up the street.
The Spanish arrived here in 1533, and gave the near-tropic town a Purépecha Indian name meaning 'Eternal Spring.' Uruapan is a mix of old low adobe and plaster buildings, and near the plaza a few unfortunately ugly early 60’s glass fronted taller structures. In spite of that, I’m quite fond of this small, somewhat tropical city of 240,000. Central Uruapan is totally walkable, from the tiny national park Barranca del Capatitzio, downhill to the strangely narrow plaza. It’s a comfortable mix of residences, a few galleries, neighborhood stores, and the shopping-oriented plaza.

But, to get to the point, Uruapan is not all about avocados! Centrally located in Michoacan state, the city promotes the tremendous variety of fine handcrafts produced in the region. We arrived early to see the parade that launched the 50th annual Tiungis de Artesanal/Artesan Market, a weeklong Easter event involving hundreds of Indigenous Michoacan craft artists. Shopping opportunities, educational programs and performances fill the week.

Leaving the quota/toll road, we promptly found ourselves lost...no surprise! Chuck boldly squeaked through crowded, narrow streets until we crossed a road on the map. Two turns and we parked. There we were,  right next to the parade route! Men and women in traditional garb were heading up the hill. Si, said the young traffic cop, the parade will begin ahora/right now. And before too long, it did.

First came the event organizers, in casual and traditional dress, row after row clattering down the street in a wild line dance, laughing and bursting with excitement!

Artisans followed, each town introducing themselves with a banner. Men, women and kids proudly carried backstrap or loom weavings, pottery, serapes, wood carvings, laquer products, metal work and more in their iconic village styles.

A surprise…the women carried small gifts in bags, to give to us spectators! Chuck was presented with miniature ceramics and a mysterious, nearly clear drink in a little cup! We downed it to no effect. I was given a tiny shoulder bag and a blue mini-apron - hey, I can use that! And, strangely, a small varnished plaque with a poem, "How Old are You?" It is very like something going around the Internet, so I'm trying not to take this personally!

 There was confetti and entertainment, there were dancers! 
These "hats" are baked circles of bread with flowers stuck into them!
There was a float of potters, and another with a flaming copper forge! 
 And plenty of security, too!
We followed the last marchers to the plaza.
The huge artisan market filled the square, a churchyard, and the cultural center courtyard. Wherever I see craft artists selling their wares, I hope and worry that these creative people will make a good return for their effort. The art was wonderful and plentiful, but the competition stiff! Many items and fabric designs were new to us. It was a treat to simply see the artisans who flooded the town in beautiful clothing, and to admire their huge talents.

The women on the left are plaiting palm leaf decorations for Palm Sunday. Above: Loom and backstrap weaving delights!
A food court featured Purépecha treats, including tortillas of blue masa/corn flour.
Before leaving, we walked a few blocks to Fábrica San Pedro, on the bank of Rio Capatitzio. This high quality craft center is located in a late 19th-century factory where marvelous woven goods are made by hand on 100-year old looms, and other artists are also represented. The program was founded in 1956 by an American couple seeking to enlarge the market for native arts. The beautifully arranged displays spotlighted work of incredible quality. Buyers pushed out loaded carts and carried huge bundles of goods, likely bound for stores in the U.S. and Canada.

This is the street where we parked our truck. A party is going on in the green house...we saw pastries delivered, and several well dressed guests arrive! Behind the faded wall may be a flowered courtyard surrounded by lovely rooms.

Driving out of town this woman with daughter and infant crossed the highway. She had been selling her wares, too…perhaps food she’d fixed at home.  In Mexico, so many people go to a great deal of effort to sell little bits of things, trying to make ends meet. I hope she had some success.


- Mexican Trailrunner said...

What a wonderful parade! I see gorgeous huipíls, looks like the shopping is as good as southern MX.
Can't wait to go, now.

Kathi said...

Your pix are great. I was taking my pix in the wrong direction.

Kathi said...

Your pix are fabulous. Thanks for posting.