Monthly Archives: February 2024

Textiles, Pottery, Paper, Masks and More on Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacan

In addition to the monarch butterflies, what draws us to Michoacan is its extraordinary artisan traditions. Rich in cultural diversity, the Purepecha villages cling to their language and pre-Hispanic customs.

Many of the craft and artisan wares were developed and promoted by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga who introduced traditional artisanry, many based on Spanish prototypes, to the villages surrounding the lake. He trained locals to become master craftsmen and is honored and revered throughout the region.

We may offer this tour in 2026. Please send an email to get on our interested list.

This year, on Wednesday February 7, our group of fourteen travelers went to Santa Clara del Cobre where masters create hammered and forged copper pots, pans, mirrors, jewelry, utensils, and more. The following day, on February 8, we visited award-winning mask carvers in Tucuaro, Nicolas Fabian Fermin, the grand master of Mexican pottery who lives in Santa Fe de Laguna, and the embroidery cooperative in Tzintzuntzan started by Teofila Servin Barriga.

This full-day around the lake would not be complete without at market stop, a visit to Luis Manuel Morales Gámez, master pottery, and a home-cooked lunch with Mama Rosario, the wife of Nicolas Fabian Fermin.

These little fish, below left, are called charoles. They come from the fresh waters near Tzintzuntzan and are a Patzcuaro specialty. Lower right, blue corn memelas cooking on the comal.

Let us know if you want to go in 2026. Send us an email.

Left, Mama Rosario’s kitchen filled with clay cooking pots, and center photo is Mama Rosario.

In Patzcuaro, Michoacan: Weaving and Guitar Making in Ahuiran and Paracho

Many of you have heard about the famous Ahuiran, Michoacan, feather weaver Cecelia Bautista Caballero, who died in 2022 at the age of 83. I wrote about her in 2019, the last time we visited the village before this year. Ahuiran is a small Purepecha village known for its hand-woven rebozos made on the back-strap loom. Cecelia brought back the pre-Hispanic tradition of weaving feathers into the cloth by tying each one individually into the warp threads. The tradition continues forward with her sister, Mama Albertine Bautista Caballero, and Albertine’s daughter Liliana Pascual Bautista.

We visited here on our last day exploring the villages beyond the town of Patzcuaro and the adjacent lake.

We may offer this trip again in 2026. Contact us to get on the interested list.

After Ahuiran, we continued on to the guitar making town of Paracho where master luthiers craft string instruments from rare woods that are in demand the world over. We visited Jose Alfredo Amezcua Gomez, selected because of his very fine workmanship. His guitars are in demand by musicians throughout the United States, Europe and South America.

Finally, our tour took us to nearby Aranza where backstrap loom weavers create very fine gauze rebozos and shawls known for their airiness and transparency. Here, we met with prize-winners Laura Equihua Ortega and Josefina Equihua, who weave in a style called tejido patakua.

Then, back to our base in Patzcuaro at Casa Encantada where owner Victoria Ryan and general manager Luis Murillo took very good care of us. The gardens are lush, the rooms elegantly furnished, the corridors filled with paintings and local art, and the breakfasts over-the-top delicious.

Why Visiting Monarch Butterflies is a Bucket List Experience

For two days, our group of fourteen travelers and three guides rode horses, hiked, climbed, and pushed ahead to see the Monarch butterflies in Michoacan and Estado de Mexico, Mexico. We reached over 11,000 feet in altitude to get to where the butterflies roost and overwinter in the central highlands here.

Our first day was spent at El Rosario, the largest of the two sites that we visited, and the most touristic of all the sanctuaries. It was a Mexican national holiday, a three-day weekend, and we encountered hundreds, if not thousands of visitors climbing to the top of the site. They came with entire families, babies to grandparents. They walked, hiked, had bamboo sticks to help them, backpacks filled with water and snacks, cameras in pockets and around necks.
note: Monarch butterfly populations down significantly this year. Climate change impacting their survival.

On our second day we went to Sierra Chincua, smaller than El Rosario. It is more off-the-beaten path and less populated by people, at least if you get there earlier in the morning as we did. We all recommend this site as being more accessible and equally as magnificent.

I asked our travelers to send me their impressions and experience in the butterfly sanctuaries, and what being there meant to them. Here is what they said …

Atop the mountain in light and shadow, flashes of gold and hanging clusters of stillness reveal to me the beauty, frailty, and endurance in the natural world and all mankind. -Flora Graham

Forest baths. Monarch biospheres exemplified that feeling. Observing local residents with their young children climbing the steep incline. I was impressed by it all. People and nature. – Pat Meheriuk

We may offer this trip in 2026. Please contact us if you are interested.

I came to Michoacan to see the butterflies and witness a natural phenomenon. I’d seen photos, listened to Sara Dykman talk about her 10,000 mile bike ride following the Monarchs from New York to Mexico and back, seen the National Geographic article, fed them countless milkweed meals, and watched them emerge from their chrysallis. I don’t know what I expected, but I know it never entered my mind that it would make me cry. -Joyce Howell

Things call to us instinctually, and sometimes, when we are listening, we hear the call. The trip to see the Monarch butterflies in Mexico called to me in such a way. It beckoned. Could I go? How could I go? I must go. And, in the early days of February 2024, I found myself trekking, a pilgrimage, to see the miracle of the migrating Monarchs — first in the Rosario Sanctuary, and the next day in the Sierra Chincua. Both treks were different but equally deeply meaningful. In the El Rosario Sanctuary, the reverence of hundreds of people, panting, sweating, to become suddenly quiet, in awe, at the pinnacle, was a connection that bound us deeply and instinctually. In Sierra Chincua, more space and fewer people allowed for a deep connection: to the sun, the wind, the dust, the Oyamel Firs. The Monarchs, their mysteries, their beauty, connects us all, globally and as inter-species, and is the thread that weaves us together in the world. It is magic. It is everything. – Kerry Drake

I was drawn to this particular trip because of the opportunity to visit the winter resting place for the Monarchs. What I experienced was so much more than I ever dreamed … a beautiful forest with birds, wildflowers, streams, and flocks of families and people who will be touched forever by this experience. As I hiked higher and the Monarchs became more numerous, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The natural phenomenon of what it took for these creatures to arrive in the majestic place was striking, as well as imaging each Monarch as a spirit of those who have passed before. Having lost my father this past year, it gave me a chance to reconnect with his spirit. Muchas gracias. – Karen Hembree

For me, the solitary time walking the path, both up the mountain and downhill again, was the heart of the butterfly experience. See the very first Monarch was its own miracle, the answer to a quest. To see millions was spectacular, impossible to capture in a photo. The silent reverence of the crowd of witnesses was beautiful. It feels like a favor I have done for myself, a treasure I can tuck into my memory and a reverie to revisit. -Liz Knisely

Going to the Butterfly Sanctuary felt like a spiritual pilgrimage. To get to the butterfly clusters was no easy task, but it was well worth it. In a way, having a not so easy journey to see the butterflies elevated the experience. It was a hike up 10,000 feet in a beautiful, forest, mountain trail with fellow butterfly seekers. Along the way, the altitude and climb would cause me to stop several times to catch my breath. But when I did, I could take in the beauty that surrounded me. The trails themselves, although difficult were covered in an array of flowers and plants. And fellow hikers, were all very kind and courteous to each other, even if you were struggling. That only was a beautiful experience. As we got closer to the sanctuary, there were occasional butterflies that increased the excitement that was ahead. In a way, it felt like some butterflies were saying “keep going, you got this!”. When I reached the top, the meadow of butterflies felt like I went to a temple. Everyone was quiet and taking in the magic of where we were and the butterflies flying everywhere. Then as I continued to the final cluster, I felt like my breath was taken away. My eyes watered, my heart felt it could have burst with the overwhelming feeling of how amazing this life is. I never would have dreamt that I would have ever gone to the butterfly sanctuary to witness the miracle of the monarch butterfly migration. I was flooded with gratitude and love. As Estella said, they believe that the butterflies are ancestors. It felt like our ancestors were glad we made the journey and blessed us with their presence. This was a once in a lifetime experience. – Lava Khonsuwon

After the hike, we gathered at the local comedors, the small kitchens operated by locals from Angangueo and El Rosario. This is how families make an income during the butterfly season — by cooking lunch in humble puestos and running horses.

Our favorite comedor is operated by Doña Lupita at Sierra Chincua. The two-year olds hover around their mothers while the mothers cook. We had the best blackberry atole, chile relleno, and enchiladas!

Migrating butterflies need milkweed to lay eggs and sustain the succeeding generations. An educational program for school children led by Susan Meyers, links Canada, the USA and Mexico. All three countries experience Monarch butterfly migration and the education program creates greater understanding for preservation.

Cooking Class in Pátzcuaro with Chef Diego Carabez Andrade

Eight of us signed up for this class during our Michoacán Butterflies and Folk Art Tour. We are here now. Enjoy the photos.

We are considering offering this tour in 2026. Please contact us to get on the interested list.

The menu includes tacos de charoles (the little fish from Lake Patzcuaro), guacamole, ceviche, grilled kampachi, pineapple salsa, trout carpaccio, cooked roots of the choyote, grilled zucchini, passion fruit water with orange juice and a bit of sugar.

First Mexico City on Our Way to the Monarch Butterflies

We spent our first full day in Mexico City with an art history immersion, exploring the murals of the three greats of Mexican Muralism — José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

First, we meandered through the Abelardo Rodriguez Market to find the murals painted by Rivera’s acolytes, including the Greenwood sisters and Pablo O’Higgins.

We may offer this trip in 2026. Contact us to let us know if you are interested.

Then, we got to Palacio Bellas Artes where the second floor is filled with larger-than-life paintings telling the story of post-revolutionary Mexico, including Rivera’s famous Man Controller of the Universe that he recreated to replace the mural that Rockefeller destroyed in New York City, and Siqueiros’ Torment of Cuauhtemoc.

We strolled through the Alameda Park to the Diego Rivera Museum to see the mural saved from the 1985 earthquake titled Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Park.

After lunch at Azul Histórico in the Downtown complex at Isabel La Católica #30, we went upstairs to meet with Sagrario at Remigio’s. We know him from Oaxaca as the finest curator of indigenous textiles in Mexico.

Our Oaxaca Cultural Navigator partner Eric Chavez Santiago, an expert in Mexican textiles, explained the fibers and iconography of the special pieces that Sagrario selected to show us.

Today, we are in Ziticuaro and tomorrow we make our way to Angangueo to the monarch butterfly reserve. It’s warming up, so we are hoping it will be a spectacular sighting.

Get on the list to know more about Mexican Muralism and the work of Frida Kahlo. Send an email to tell us you want to be notified when we publish Looking for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City, Winter 2025.