The Maker’s Hand
Mexico has many faces, the most recognizable ones being the coastal profiles on the Pacific and the Caribbean. These are beautiful coastlines with pristine sand, some lovely houses and resorts and, at least on the east coast, gorgeous water. But the face I love, the one I believe YOU will love, is that of the Colonial heartland. This is where a different heart beats – a place that has seen the rise and fall of empires, that has endured, and continues to endure, hardship beyond imagining, a part of the country that offers riches for the eye both architecturally and artistically. This is where I will take you.
Day 1: Arrival in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is picture postcard perfect, a stunning colonial town that has been settled over the years by a growing American community of garden, architecture and art lovers. There are many beautiful hotels here but we have chosen the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende.
Day 2: The Artist Route
Along with your guide, you will meander through this charming town, looking through high gates into meticulous leafy gardens, venturing in to artisan shops and ateliers, stopping at the Institute of Culture to see students working on their art pieces. We have many contacts who will open their houses to show you interiors and gardens that have been celebrated in books and magazines, as well as friends who have collections of folk art produced by the grand masters celebrated in one of my favorite book, “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art”. These visits will be planned well in advance after you and I have had a chance to discuss what most interests you.
Day 3: Vines of Mexico
Mexico has not been known for its vineyards but, in Queretaro, about one hour from San Miguel, you will visit a local vineyard, Bodegas de Cote. The vineyard, owned by two brothers, was built on ecological and sustainable design principles and contains 24 varieties of grape planted over 40 acres, a terrain you can explore by foot or on bicycle. Visit the winemaking facilities and access the underground cellar for a closer look at how the terroir gives each wine such a special taste.
Day 4: Gorky Gonzalez, Guanajuato
Drive to Guanajuato, a vibrant city that pays huge tribute to the art heritage of this part of Mexico. Of particular interest today is the workshop of Gorky Gonzalez, a master of majolica ceramics. You will also have the chance to unleash your retail therapy demon as GG has made the shopping and shipping of his ceramics both easy and safe.
Continue on to an interesting vantage point from where you can get a perspective on this impossibly planned city. You will descend to the city center via cable car to enjoy a full-day visit of this historical city. Guanajuato does not have a main square like the other Colonial cities, but, instead, an intricate series of cobbled-stone streets and narrow alleys, vibrantly filled with churches, Spanish Colonial buildings and an amazing tapestry of color. Your guide will lead you to the historic points of note and hidden treasures. See the Juarez Theater, built during the opulent era of Porfirio Diaz in 1903, and Alhondiga de Granaditas, site of the first rebel victory in the War of Independence. Stroll along Callejon del Beso, which translates to ‘the alley of the kiss,’ as its balconies are so close to each other they nearly ‘kiss.’ Explore the Jardín de la Unión, a botanical garden that serves as the city’s main meeting place. Visit Diego Rivera’s birthplace which has been restored and converted into a museum, displaying some of the early works of this revolutionary painter.
Lunch will be at Chef Bricio Domingez’s “Jardin de los Milagros” where the bucolic setting is only outdone by the culinary masterpieces coming out of the kitchen. Bricio has been recognized worldwide for his unique molecular fusion of traditional and modern Mexican cuisine.
Overnight at Villa Maria Cristina.
Day 5: Patzcuaro, the Heart of the Heart
En route to the divine town of Patzcuaro, famous for its Day of the Dead celebrations, stop in Morelia, another historic city with elegant Spanish Colonial
architecture. Visit the pink stone Morelia Cathedral that dominates the main plaza (Zocalo) and that took more than a century to build. Look inside to see its large organ and noted sculpture of the crucifixion. See the Palacio Clavijero, which has gone from being the Jesuit school of St. Francis Xavier to being a prison and then to housing local government offices. Later this afternoon, continue on to Patzcuaro for an evening at leisure at your traditional and beautiful Casa de la Real Aduana Hotel.
Day 6: Private Workshop Day
Your guide will meet you at the hotel early to start your day exploring the workshops of many of Michoacán’s artisans. You will see the highly skilled craftsmen and women at work in five different pueblos that produce a variety of handicrafts.
First you will explore the magic town of Pátzcuaro by meeting the local women noted for their skilled needlework making shawls, blouses and skirts that are intricately embroidered in a variety of bright colors. The artisans will demonstrate the skill involved in hand sewing their creations. You will then be driven to the town of Capula where you will visit a ceramic workshop. Famous for their production of skeleton ‘Catrina’ figures as well as pots and plates, the ceramics found here are intricately designed and painted by hand. Next you will visit Ihuatzio, known for its woven products. You will head to the workshop of local artisans who produce everything from woven baskets to woven animal figures and even furniture. You will then journey on to Tocuaro to visit the artisans who make wooden masks that form an important part of local ritual and celebration. Here you will learn about the different stages of the process, the carving and the painting, that turn pieces of wood into intricate pieces of art.
Lastly, journey to Santa Clara del Cobre to visit the copper craftsmen. Like many of Michoacan’s towns, Santa Clara is devoted to this particular craft, but even with so many artisan workshops, there are still the masters who we will seek out.
Day 7: Janitzio Island/ TzinTzunTzan/ Quiroga & Santa Fe Village with Clay Workshop.
Begin your day with a visit to Janitzio, a picturesque island that is the site of a 125-foot high monument memorializing general Don Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. It is the indigenous community that inhabits Janitzio that is of particular interest; it has conserved, in great part, the authenticity of its costumes for festivals such as the vigil of the Night of the Dead on November 2nd, a ceremony in which the fishermen come out to the island with their candlelit boats.
Continue towards Tzintzuntzan archaeological site, the historic capital of at least one of the Purepecha kingdoms whose magnificent Yacatas have been recovered despite the widespread destruction of the Spanish conquest. Tzintzuntzan means “The Place Where the Hummingbirds Are” and it was the administrative, cultural and religious center of a far larger and older empire then the Aztecs ever held. You will continue on to Quiroga where you may like to do some artisanal shopping before heading toward the next town, Santa Fe de la Laguna. In this charming town, famous for its clay, you will visit the workshop of local artisans to observe their work in progress and enjoy a personal encounter with the local indigenous community.
Before heading back to Patzcuaro, lunch with an indigenous family who will prepare a delicious meal of regional cuisine, and learn more about their culture. Back in Patzcuaro, you may enjoy your last evening at leisure in the zocalo or at any one of the many good restaurants in town.
Day 8: Departure from Mexico City