Trip Report: Mexico

In Adventure, Alaska Travelgram by scott

Trip report: Just coming back from Mexico after an 18-day adventure. Alaska Airlines flight 257 from Manzanillo to LAX was 30 minutes late, but the pilot made up 15 minutes en route.

The customs/immigration process at LAX is a little convoluted. However, the lines moved quickly, even though foreign nationals have to deal with fingerprints, photographs, etc. After clearing customs, travelers drop their bags to be loaded onto connecting flights–but they still must go through additional TSA screening before boarding those flights. This is nonsense, IMHO. But that’s LAX. In spite of the extra security-related steps, we were able to board our connecting flight to Seattle without incident.

Every time I go to Mexico, I love it. In fact, I love the land more deeply after each journey. During this trip, we started at our family’s favorite tropical getaway: Vida del Mar in Manzanillo. This is an enclave of Alaska ex-pats–and it’s a great place to lay in a solid suntan. Pool. Beach. Great food. Great people. Here’s a shot:

We rented a car and headed upcountry to Patzcuaro, in Michoacan. This is a major trip–about 320 miles each way. And it was quite a surprise. 

First, our route was somewhat circuitous. We had to go up to Guadalajara, then over to Morelia and back to Patzcuaro. That’s because we were told to stay on the toll roads. These roads are expensive–but worth it.

Our digs  in Patzcuaro, at Casa Werma, were incredible. Hostesses Eva and Christine preside over a five-acre walled garden with two houses on the property. There is a small casita that is perfect for two people. We opted for the larger casa, which boasts three bedrooms and at least three fireplaces. It’s a delightful oasis in the middle of town.

Patzcuaro and its surrounding villages are quite a testimony to the influence of the Spaniards–as they set up shop in the 1500s. Their influence remains today, not just in the pervasive Catholic faith of the people, either. The first Archbishop of Patzcuaro, Vasco Quiroga, set up a system for the indigenous Purepecha indians which remains today: each village concentrates on a specific task or craft. Tuscuaro, for example, makes masks. See below:

In Santa Clara del Capro, all the copper is crafted. In one shop, we saw an entire dining room made of copper:

Tzintsanshin is known for the dried reeds of Lake Patzcuaro woven into baskets and other handiworks. And in Santa Fe de la Laguna, they concentrate on pottery (lead-free):

Also in Santa Fe de la Laguna, we visited one artist who was throwing some clay, making a traditional candelabra–as her family has done for many generations:

For our family, the trip to Patzcuaro was a wonderful immersion into the Mexican way of life. Most people spoke only Spanish–and as “Yankees” we definitely were in the minority. We began to identify with our exchange student, Sulis, from Indonesia, who accompanied us. In fact, she studied Spanish diligently and acted as our interpreter from time to time. 

Coming home from a trip always is bittersweet. As we were packing up, Christy looked at me and asked: “Well, did we have a good time?” 

It’s funny. Of course we did. But it was so much more. We struck out to see new territory. We went on an adventure as a family. There were some awkward moments. Some disappointments. But it’s so much fun to meet new people and see new things–it’s worth it.

We met many other artists in villages that surround Lake Patzcuaro. We hired a guide recommended by Eva and Christina. Her name is Marcia and she’s an art historian. She took us to the home studios of many artists–and we learned quite a bit about the how and why of the folk art they produce. 

We look forward to returning to Mexico soon!

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