Monday, January 27, 2014

Melaque


After being up in the highlands since the holidays we decided we would spend some time on the coast. The nearest beach town from Jocotepec with RV parks is Melaque. The town has two parts, San Patricio Melaque (after St. Patrick as once many Irish settled here and St. Patricks day is still a big celebration) and Obregon, but it all runs together as one town commonly referred to as Melaque. This stretch of coast is referred to as Costalegre, the happy or bright coast.

Melaque is 200 miles from Jocotepec. Its about 35 miles north of the busy port city of Manzanillo and 140 miles south of Puerta Vallarta.


We are staying at Villa Xochipilli, which is a bed and breakfast that also has 4 RV spots. We entered through the double door gate to the left of the Jeep in the picture at the top of the page. We're the only RV at the moment so have the place to ourselves. It's about a 4 block walk to the beach from here. We are completely fenced and gated so Tilly can roam as she chooses - but she says it is too hot to stay out very long.


The B&B side of the villa has beautiful grounds and a nice pool.


We're located on a lagoon that has a walkway right outside of our back door. Nice place for a walk but we have to beware of the crocodiles in the lagoon. Tilly is in front of a sign that warns us of the crocodillos and shows one of them with a dog in its mouth. You can see how afraid Tilly is by the way her ears are laid back.



I'm sure she doesn't know the difference but it kind of creeps me out and I can't stop looking around for them while we're walking. It would probably be pretty rare to see one but you never know.

We've been to Melaque and the neighboring town of Barra de Navidad once before. I wrote about the number of coconut and banana trees in a previous blog and am still amazed by how many there are. Miles and miles of coconut palms with banana trees planted in between them. No wasted space.


There are also ladrillo refactarios (what we call brick factories) in this area as there are in many areas of Mexico. The bricks are shaped by hand from clay, then stacked in a very specific way with firewood stuck in among the bricks to be fired. The entire stack is then sealed with mud on the outside to turn the whole thing into a large kiln.  The fuel for the fire in this area is coconut husks of course. We have been told that the most highly paid worker in a ladrillo refactario is the one who knows how to stack the bricks and monitor the temperature of the fire. This is one place we saw nearby where you can see the bricks being formed on the left, and being fired on the right.


Near the ladrillo were huge piles of coconut husks which we assume were used for fuel.


There was an Art Walk in the town of La Manzanilla (not to be confused with Manzanillo), on the beach about 10 miles north of us. We checked it out, had lunch, and walked around town a bit. I was particularly impressed with the gazebo in their jardin. The roof was a giant shell (man-made), shells lined the overhang and there were ocean related statues on the posts. Very nice.


We'll do a bit more exploring before we head back to highlands.

Jocotepec Patronales



This is the second time we've been able to enjoy the Fiesta Patronales in Jocotepec. The Patronales is a two week celebration dedicated to the first patron saint of Jocotepec, Nuestro Senor del Monte, or Lord of the Mountain. There's a desfiles (parade) or peregrinaci√≥n (pilgrimage) every day or night complete with marching bands, floats, dancers and fireworks. The streets are blocked off so that vendors can set up their numerous stands selling a variety of goods and food. We attended one of the parades at night but my pictures didn't turn out. However, we were in town as they were getting ready for the parade and I got some photos of the kids getting ready.


They carried these huge headdresses that must have weighed more than they did. It looked like they were balanced on their shoulders and they held onto ropes attached somehow to the headdress. Their robes looked like they were made from some type of metal. Very elaborate and I have no idea how they managed to march without dropping everything, but they did.

Each parade is sponsored by a different group or groups. One day it may be all the mechanics, another day all the grocers, and so on. The length and elaborateness of the parade depends on the wealth of the group. The parade on the last day is sponsored by people from Jocotepec who have moved to the United States. Since it's assumed that they have the most money it's expected that their parade will be the most elaborate.


Each day begins with fireworks that start around 5:30. The tower in the picture above is called a castillo, or castle.  It's loaded up with fireworks and they're all set off pretty much at the same time. There were guys climbing all over it attaching the fireworks when we walked by. It's a dangerous display and it's hard to believe there aren't more injuries since there doesn't seem to be any regulation. Fun to watch, but only from a distance. Each parade is also preceded by fireworks. There's a guy at the head of the parade who carries skyrockets in his hand and sets them off to announce the parade is coming. Pretty crazy.


One of the parades we really enjoyed was a Cabalgata (cavalcade). It began with a parade of hundreds of horses through town to the old bull ring where there was a Charro (competition/demonstration). There were some beautiful horses and their riders enjoyed showing off their skills by having their horses dance.


They guy on the right in this picture couldn't seem to get off his cell phone.


Many of the riders were drinking beer or tequila out of cups. There was even a pick-up truck at the end of the parade with girls mixing drinks for the riders. The guy in the middle of the three men in the back of the picture below didn't bother with any of that - he just drank straight from the bottle and passed it on to his amigos.


We enjoyed the parades and our time wandering around town looking at all the vendors. This young lady was so adorable I just had to get her picture, with her mom's permission of course.


In spite of the fireworks waking us up so early every morning we were happy we went back for the Patronales Fiesta. I'm sure it won't be our last.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day Trips from Roca Azul

We took a couple of day trips from Roca Azul that we hadn't done before and we thought they were well worth sharing. We have included maps, pictures and details for any who might be interested in doing the same. We continue to love visiting artisans in their shops, watching the creative process, and marveling at their skills and crafts.

THE LAKE CAJITITLAN LOOP DAY TRIP



An interesting and fun day trip from Roca Azul circles around Lago Cajititlan (Lake Cah hee TEET lahn) with visits to hand made Molcajetes and a renowned potter. Above is a map showing the route.
Number [2] is  - Juan Perez Molcajetes across the street from GPS  20.41045 -103.36416 .       Number [3] is Martin Ibarra Pottery near GPS  20.40385 -103.31428 across from the church cemetery.


Our first stop was to see Juan Perez  so that Ken and Kris could custom order a molcajete that they will pick up in a few weeks. Molcajetes are among the world's oldest cooking tools and date back several thousand years. When used to grind spices or mix salsas and guacamole they are referred to as the Mexican mortar and pestle. They can also be used as a cooking tool. They can be heated to a high temperature over an open fire or hot coals. The food is often served in the molcajete where it will retain the heat. Kris and Ken ordered a molcajete with a flat bottom so that they can place it directly on the grill and then pick it up by the decorative head, which won't get hot.

Juan Perez is using hand tools to sculpt this molcajete.


Many types of molcajetes can be found but those made from a single block are volcanic basalt are the only true molcajetes. Juan Perez told of his grandfather going up into the nearby mountains with his burro to bring back the proper rock. He sculpted many other things from the stone, including chairs and sinks which can be seen in the picture below.

Our friend Madeline is shown with her new dove and a proud Juan Perez.


Another of Juan Perez's works of art.



More information about molcajetes can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molcajete. There are other shops in the area we went to, but we think Juan Perez may be the only artisan using strictly hand tools. If he's not in his shop one of his neighbors will find him. More information about Juan Perez can be found at
http://www.informador.com.mx/jalisco/2010/189578/6/los-molcajetes-de-san-lucas-mejoran-su-perfil-con-una-marca.htm

Our next stop on the loop was in San Juan Evangelista at the shop of Martin Ibarra Morales, a well known and renowned potter. Who knew there were so many beautiful works of art behind such an unimposing doorway.


His shop is located in San Juan Evangelista, across from a the church. Contact information - near GPS  20.40385 -103.31428 across from the church cemetery. Studio Sixto Ibarra, Arte en Barro Brunico Juarez #119,  San Juan Evangelista, Jalisco. Phone 01 333 753 0017, cell 331 118 7577, email ibarra087@gmail.com or mibarramorales@facebook.com

Martin showed us around and demonstrated how he works with the clay, paints it and fires it. As he was talking to us he made a whistle in the form of a bird.


Martin has some really unusual pieces and a unique painting technique. After painting the clay it is rubbed with special instruments made of hard metal, such as one fashioned from a valve stem from a car engine, to bring out the color and metallic sheen.

He has some of the most beautiful virgin statues I've seen anywhere. One example..


Many of his works are modeled after artifacts. There were a variety of them on a nearby table. I couldn't resist buying the exquisite virgin, La Virgine del Los Lagos, Jalisco - the virgin of the lakes in Jalisco.


I can't do justice to Martin's history and talent in such a short space. It's a fascinating story and well worth the time to read at   http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/636-martin-ibarra-morales-renowned-ceramicist-and-master-of-detail 

SAN CRISTOBAL ZAPOTITLAN

Another day trip took us about 6.5  miles from Roca Azul. to the town of San Cristobal Zapotitlan which has a women's cooperative that sells items made from corn husks and baskets woven from reeds that are brought in from Patzcuaro. Thirty artists, all from San Cristobal have been selling at this cooperative for 13 years.
The cooperativa is called  Taller De Artesanias De Palma y Hojas De Maiz. It's located COLON #15 and the phone number is 387 763 2167. Directions - There is a small green sign on the highway for San Cristobal Zapotitlan. Take that road toward the lake. It's paved, follow it about a mile until you reach the big soccer field on the right. Turn left at the next street - Porfirio Diaz - then turn right on Colon, the second street.



I particularly love the corn husk dolls - these dresses are dyed corn husks.




I also purchased some of the colorful flowers made from corn husks - also dyed and shaped.


All fun stuff and certainly not expensive. There were also a variety of baskets and other items made from reeds.


More information about the women's cooperativa can be found at the following links which are excerpts from blogs about the area. This is how we found out about the cooperativa and how to get there.




Saturday, January 11, 2014

Holidays at the Hacienda


Once again we spent the holiday season at Hacienda Contreras in Valle de Juarez. A few changes this year since Sal and Barb sold the park, but they were on hand this year to manage it for the new owner. It was a great group of fellow campers to spend the holidays with. I took the picture above on one of our excursions into town. The gentleman in the middle of the picture has an outstanding poinsettia in his front yard and was very proud to show it to us and join in our picture. In typical friendly fashion, he also invited us into his home.

Brian and I went to see a dentist in Valle de Juarez who was recommended by friends at the park. Not only were we pleased with her work but the prices were pretty unbelievable. Brian's porcelain crown came out to roughly $105, my root canal on an infected tooth that took over 4 hours total work came out to roughly $96, and our cleanings were about $16 each. Can't beat that and meticulous care as well.

Christmas Eve brought an opportunity to head for one of our favorite restaurants called Portal de Angel in Valle de Juarez. We think they make the best enchiladas suiza we've ever had, and most of the group agreed.


Unfortunately Christmas Eve also brought us lots and lots of rain which continued for a good week or so. Everyone pretty well hunkered down, getting together for Happy Hour or more food. Lots of restaurant pictures were taken.
One night we went over to Troje, a restaurant in the nearby town of Mazamitla, to celebrate a few birthdays. We were treated to some wonderful mariachi music while we dined.


The sun finally did make a reappearance to brighten everyone's moods. The gorgeous sunrises and sunset we usually see at HC came back as well.



Sal and Barb have a lovely home in town with fabulous views. They were gracious enough to invite us all over for a visit.



After 3 weeks at HC we headed back to Roca Azul on Lake Chapala. We're parked near Kris and Ken, pictured below at (what else) a restaurant, this time in Jocotepec, the nearest town. Ken treated us to some blues music when we were here a few weeks ago and we're hoping for an encore.



Also, one of the many reasons we came back to Roca is the Lord of the Mountain Fiesta held in Jocotepec this time of year. It's a Patronales Festival that lasts two weeks and honors the first patron of Jocotepec, the Lord of the Mountain. There are daily masses, dances, parades, and fireworks. More on that later.

This map shows the route from Roca Azul near Jocotepec to Hacienda Contreras near Valle de Juarez. It's about 50 miles and has an elevation change of about 1400 feet going up from the lake at 5,000 feet to Valle de Juarez at 6,400 feet.


The following map has a pushpin that shows where we are in relation to the United States and Mexico.