Tag Archives: Michoacan

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.

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.

2024 Bucket List Tour: Monarch Butterflies + Michoacan Folk Art

Come with us to Mexico, February 1-11, 2024, 10-nights, 11-days

Back by popular demand! I never knew that visiting the Monarch butterflies in Mexico should have been on my bucket list until I got there. Tucked into the mountainous forests of Michoacan and Estado de Mexico is the terminus of the butterfly migration from North America where the noble Monarchs winter and reproduce. The experience is mystical, magical, life-affirming, and memorable. I’ve always felt that being here is one of those moments that inspire and validate our existence on the planet and gives us pause to appreciate the constant cycle of nature at its most magnificent.

We did not anticipate offering this tour again until 2025, but we were cajoled into organizing it sooner so you wouldn’t have to wait so long! Now, we have only a few spaces open!

But this is not all! After this first part of our tour, we travel to the magical craft and folk-art towns of Michoacan:  Patzcuaro and the indigenous Purepecha towns surrounding Lake Patzcuaro, plus Ahuiran, Santa Clara del Cobre, and Paracho. We meet with famous artisans and those off-the-beaten path whose work is recognized as Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art by Fundacion Banamex. We meet weavers, potters, embroiderers, mask-makers, coppersmiths. We explore in safety and security, led by a local guide whom we know very well. We NEVER take you into any locations that are dangerous or threatening.

This tour is limited to 14 travelers. We have five single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.

We start in Mexico City to learn about history of Mexico through a walking tour focusing on the Mexican Muralism Movement with an art historian. Our journey continues to Michoacán where we do the outdoor expedition to visit the sanctuary of the Monarch butterfly. We end this tour in Patzcuaro, a colonial city awarded with the recognition of Pueblo Magico. Here we spend some days to learn about the strategic location next to the lake and the different oficios (artisan wares) in some of the towns around the lake, such as, copper, wood, ceramics and textiles.

Thursday, February 1: Arrive in Mexico City. Gather for NO-HOST dinner. Meals included: none. Overnight in Mexico City.

Friday, February 2: Breakfast, welcome and orientation. Morning art history walking tour featuring the Mexican Muralism Movement – Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros. Welcome lunch at one of the best downtown restaurants. Afternoon discussion about Michoacan textiles with noted cultural anthropologist. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch. Overnight in Mexico City.

Saturday, February 3: After breakfast, depart to butterfly sanctuary with stop at Zirahuato archeological site. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch. Overnight in Zitacuaro.

Sunday, February 4: Visit El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch. Overnight in Zitacuaro.

Monday, February 5: Visit a second butterfly sanctuary. You may choose to ride a horse if you like. In the afternoon, we depart for Patzcuaro and check in to our cozy hotel. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch. Overnight in Patzcuaro.

Tuesday, February 6: After breakfast, we will participate in a hands-on cooking class. You will eat what you prepare for lunch. Afternoon Patzcuaro Walking Tour, visit galleries and museums. Meals included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight in Patzcuaro.

Wednesday, February 7: After breakfast, we travel to Santa Clara del Cobre where artisans make hand-hammered copper pieces. Then on to Cuanajo where we will meet a family of weavers who work on back strap loom the technique of warp faced weaving. Then we make a stop in Tupataro where we learn more about the history of the Patzcuaro and visit some of the most amazing frescos on the ceiling of this small, historical church. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch. Overnight Patzcuaro.

Thursday, February 8: This is a long day around Lake Patzcuaro to artisan villages. Our first stop is in Tucuaro we visit a master woodcarver who makes the carnival mask for the celebrations of Lent and Easter. In Santa Fe la Laguna, we will learn about the lake and its importance to the surrounding towns including Patzuaro.

Then we visit Tzintzuntzan, where we learn about the fine satin stitch embroidery made by a collective of women who specialize in embroidering the village traditions in scenes depicted on multi-colored fabric. Then we learn about the chuspata fiber used to weave utilitarian pieces such as rugs, mats and even living rooms! In town, we visit a family of potters that specializes in high temperature ceramic pieces. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch. Overnight in Patzcuaro.

Friday, February 9: Our first stop is in Ahuiran, here we meet a family of shawl weavers made with cotton and rayon threads that are woven on backstrap looms. These shawls have amazing, knotted fringes and the weavers use feathers woven into the cloth to decorate them. Next, we travel to Paracho where learn about the tradition of handmade guitars. This town inspired the guitar for Coco (Disney Pixar 2017 movie). Our last stop is in Aranza to visit with a family that we think may weave the finest clothes in Mexico. They work with one ply 100% cotton to make blouses and shawls with a special technique on a backstrap loom that we can only describe as being like lace. But the cloth is woven by hand picking and twisting the warp threads to create this effect. Meals included: Breakfast and lunch.

Saturday, February 10: Leisurely day on your own after breakfast to meander Patzcuaro streets, pack, do any last-minute shopping. We then meet for a Grand Finale Dinner to celebrate our time together and memories made.  Meals included: Breakfast and dinner. Overnight in Patzcuaro.

Sunday-February 11: Departure. We will assist in scheduling shared van transportation from Patzcuaro to Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City at your own expense. The hotel can also help you make taxi arrangements if you plan to go on to visit other Mexican towns.

Note: Schedule is preliminary and is subject to change throughout our tour, depending on artisan availability, etc.

What Is Included

  • 9 nights lodging at top-rated hotels
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 7 lunches
  • Grand Finale Gala Dinner
  • Museum and entry fees
  • Optional Cooking Class
  • Luxury van transportation
  • Complete guide and translation services

The tour does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation as specified in the itinerary. We reserve the right to substitute instructors and alter the program as needed.

Cost • $3,795 double room with private bath (sleeps 2) • $4,595 single room with private bath (sleeps 1)

[  ] Yes, I want to take the optional cooking class at $165 per person additional

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before October 1, 2023. The third 50% payment of the balance is due on or before December 1, 2023. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 1, 2023, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 1, 2023, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable reservation deposit. After that, there are no refunds.

If we cancel for whatever reason, we will offer a 100% refund of all amounts received to date, less the non-refundable deposit.

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received 45 days before the program start or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

NOTE: All travelers must provide proof of vaccination for COVID-19 to travel with us. You must also wear CDC-approved face masks, use hand-sanitizer, and maintain all public health precautions.

How to Register:  First, complete the Registration Form and send it to us. We will then send you an invoice to make your reservation deposit.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: The butterfly sanctuary is at 10,000 feet altitude. To get there, one must ascend a steep pathway or ride a horse to the destination. Generally, the altitude is 5,000 to 7,000 feet in the various locations we will visit. Streets and sidewalks in colonial towns are cobblestones, and narrow. We will do a lot of walking. We will walk a lot — up to 10,000 steps per day at a moderate pace. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear sturdy shoes.

NOTE: If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the program for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages, and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. We include plenty of free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Mexico Folk Art Whimsies Sale

I might be able to get these to you by Christmas if you order by tomorrow—though no guarantees! Depending on the USPS. This a mix of pottery, alebrijes, exvotos, holiday attire, and more — most never before offered.

How to Buy: Send an email to norma.schafer@icloud.comand tell me the item(s) you want to purchase by number, your email, your mailing address, your phone number, and which payment method you prefer: 1) Zelle bank transfer with no service fee; 2) Venmo or 3) PayPal each with a 3% service fee. I will send you a request for funds and then add on a mailing fee depending on the size box needed. Happy to combine shipping if you buy more than one piece. These are one-of-a-kind. Note: Thank you for understanding that all sales are final. Please measure carefully.

#1. Hand-painted pottery candlesticks from Amantenango, Chiapas. Quack Quack, add elegant whimsy to your holiday table setting. (Candles and drip protectors not included.) 9″ high x 7″ long. $185.

#2. Carved wood and painted alebrije from San Martin Tilcajete: Pregnant donkey piano player! 10″ high x 3-1/2″ wide. Signed Miguel Diaz. $125.

#3. Huichol string art wall-hanging. 6″ square. $60.

SOLD. #4. Howling Dog alebrije. Carved and painted copal wood from Candido Perez, San Martin Tilcajete. 12″ high x 12″ long to tip of tail. Tail has been repaired, but not noticeable. $72.

#5. Casildo Rodriguez is grateful he escaped his fate in Oaxaca by making an offering of this retablo or ex-voto. His donkey turned into a monster! Hand-painted ex-voto on metal, reproduction, by contemporary Mexico City artist Rafael Rodriguez. 12″ wide x 9-1/2″ high. $125.

#6. Frida Kahlo Catrina hand-painted pottery sculpture. Perfect for next Day of the Dead or whenever! 8-1/2″ high x 3″ wide at the base. $85.

SOLD. #7. Tzintzuntzan, Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, intricate embroidery shirt telling the story of daily life of farmers and fishermen around the lake. By famed textile artisan Teofila Servin Barriga. Measures 22″ wide x 26″ long. Sleeves are 24-1/2″ long from the shoulder seam. Price reduced from $275 to $185.

#8. Hand-painted enamel gourd from Oaxaca, perfect for holiday serving — fruit, bread, chocolate, candy, crackers — you name it. Add pizzaz to your table! $56

#9. Embroidered in Zinacantan, Chiapas, a bodice filled with flowers. Tuck it in to a skirt, jeans, slacks for bling dressing this season. 23″ wide x 29″ long. $65.

#10. Hand-woven palm basket from Oaxaca’s Mixtec region. So many possible uses: hold towel, bath tissue, winter scarves, hats and gloves, magazines, laundry, etc. 14″ high x 12″ wide. $62.

#11. Rare Vintage Ex-voto from the 1930’s. Hand-painted on tin. A true folk art find that I’m willing to part with from my collection. 11″ wide x 6-1/2″ high. $295.

SOLD. #12. Hand-carved and painted mask from Tocuaro, Michoacan. The best of Mexico’s mask-makers live here! Signed Felipe Horta. Masks were used in pre-Hispanic times for religious ceremonies and the traditions continue today. Measures 12″ high x 12″ wide. $145.

#13. Rare Vintage Ex-voto from Cholula, Puebla, “Thanksgiving” or Accion de Gracias. Circa 1930’s. 11″ wide x 8″ high. $295.

A word about Ex-Votos: Mexico’s ex-votos (also called retablos) are naive folk art that tell a story of thanksgiving and prayers for being saved from near-death or disaster. Usually the person who escaped tragedy would hire a local primitive artist to pain a tin square depicting the scene. The message of thanks may have included many misspellings, as the painters were not educated. They often include depictions of the saint to whom they are giving thanks. Original ex-votos were taken to a nearby shrine where the person, with hammer and nail, would affix the small painting to a tree, post, or altar. Hence, vintage ex-votos usually have a crude hole in the top center of the plaque.

#14. Francisca Blouse, Purple Haze. 100% cotton and made by hand in Aguacatenango, Chiapas, by our friend Francisca. The bodice is covered in intricate French knots. All by hand–no machine work here! Size Large. Measures 17″ wide from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, and 28″ long. Sleeves are 3/4 length. $125.