Gary’s Birthday 7 – 1/2015

September 13, 2015

It’s been a long 70th birthday celebration, but I hope you have enjoyed the mini tour of some of our favorite places in Mexico. There was one more area we had to visit on our way home, so bear with us.

Gary BD Blog 7 003Our first stop was Pátzcuaro in the State of Michoacán on the lake of the same name. The town was founded sometime in the 1320s and has retained its colonial and indigenous character since then. It has been named both a “Pueblo Mágico” (Magic Town), and one of the 100 Historic World Treasure Cities by United Nations. The Pátzcuaro region is well known as a site for the Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s also famous for the Tarascan Indians or Purépecha (as they call themselves) who still use a butterfly-net to fish, at least for the tourist cameras.

Gary BD Blog 7 021Pátzcuaro has many memories for me. It was in the summer of 1975 that my then girlfriend Joy Gerlach, (who dreamed up The Turtle Expedition, Unltd. with me), and I decided to rent a small house and spend a few months off the road on our way to South America. It was there that I wrote the first Turtle Expedition article for Off-Road Magazine, CHOOSING AND PREPARING THE ULTIMATE MACHINE, our 1967 Land Rover aka The Turtle I. The lead photo was published in January’s Off-Road Magazine in 1976. The arched walls of the Templo Sagrario in Pátzcuaro made a perfect backdrop. The Editor wrote back asking, “When’s the next story coming? In the years to come, Monika and I spent several months exploring the area and visiting the surrounding Tarascan villages.

Gary BD Blog 7 017Being a Historic World Treasure City, little has changed since my first visit. The open market and food stands are still amazing and it’s not unusual to see men on horseback or with burros carrying a load of firewood.

Pátzcuaro is a center for handcrafts and art. Just off the big plaza, Once Patios, (Eleven Patios), has displays and workshops of some of the artists. The beautiful hand woven fabrics that are seen throughout Michoacán and Jalisco are made here. We have used them for years at home and in our trucks. A visit to the factory was enlightening. Some of the old machines belong in a museum. The owner lamented that because of the bad press Mexico has received, the number of tourists has declined drastically and he has had to lay off many craftsmen who have no skill other than the one they have been plying for their whole lives.

Gary BD Blog 7 053A short drive into the nearby hills brought us to the town of Santa Clara del Cobre where coppersmiths hammer out masterpieces from blocks of copper with amazing skill. We visited our old “Green Grocer” friend Rigo Cruz (from back home) and his family there, and knowing we were coming, Lorena prepared a huge pot of fresh tamales. What a treat!

Another nearby town we had to stop by was Tzintzuntzan, the pre-Hispanic capital of the Tarascans. The name Tzintzuntzan comes from the Purépecha language, meaning “place of the hummingbirds. Designated a Magic Town in 2012, it has two sixteenth century churches, and an amazing grove of 500-year-old olive trees in front of the Franciscan convent. The craft market specializes in straw goods and ornaments, elaborately carved wooden beams, and examples of the many different local pottery styles.

Time to go home, but you can easily see why it took Monika and me over nine years to finally escape the friendly country of Mexico and make it to South America, and even today, the country south of the border still tugs at our heart strings.

Stay tuned for our return to the long road of the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey. I’ll explain more in the next blog.

27 Responses to “Gary’s Birthday 7 – 1/2015”

  1. It’s been a long birthday celebration, but I hope you have enjoyed the mini tour of some of our favorite places…

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