Thursday, June 11, 2009

Queretaro: Part 4 - Folk art of Tequisquiapan

Colorful pottery masks in one of Tequisquiapan's folk art shops. Carole and I wanted to sample some of the small towns arrayed around the City of Queretaro like planets around a sun. We had not even heard of Tequisquipan until Shelley, our Home B&B host, offered to show us around. Shelley was an excellent guide, and knew all the little out-of-the-way attractions in each location that really make a visit worthwhile. Tequisquiapan is about an hour's drive east of Queretaro.

The center of the nation. Tequisquiapan enjoys the distinction of being located in the exact geographical center of Mexico. The monument above marks the spot. According the plaque adjacent to the monument, the town was founded in 1551, but the Spanish originally called it Santa Maria de la Asuncion y de las Aguas Calientes, referring both to its patron saint and to the local hot springs. The town was given its Nahautl name Tequisquiapan in 1656 for reasons that are still not clear to me. Usually, under the Spanish, the naming process worked the other way. In 1916-17, the new constitution resulting from the Revolution was being drafted in Queretaro. General Carranza the head of the Constitutionalist army, used to take breaks from the work to visit Tequisquiapan and enjoy the hot springs.

Coffee that will snap your eyes open. Shelley and Carole both bought bags of cafe from this vendor, who drove his product over from Veracruz State on the Gulf Coast. We get vendors like this in Ajijic too, and it amazes me that they make the long drive over for what must be a fairly modest profit. Shelley worked out an arrangement for him to make a stop at her B&B whenever he is in town. She is a strong believer in small businesses like his.

A broad plaza surrounded by portales. Although the paint looked a little weathered, the overall appearance of Tequisquiapan's plaza and mercado areas was very prosperous.

Shopping families stroll by under the shade of the portales. The mother in the foreground seems focused on her next shopping stop, but her small son has already focused on his main interest.
Carved wooden door was an attention-grabber. Since Queretaro State and Michoacan State to the south both have heavily wooded mountains, wood carving is a specialty of local crafts people. The symbolism of the sun and moon appears in many different art forms around Mexico.

A smile for a stranger. I was trying to discreetly photograph this family so that I could catch them in relaxed candid poses. The abuela (grandmother) spotted me immediately. Rather than being irritated with my effrontery, she rewarded me with a beautiful smile. Basketry is obviously the family craft, and theirs looked very well made.

Painted pottery is another local speciality. Shelley told us that the designs on the cups are typical of the immediate area.

A mobile fruit store. This fruit vendor doesn't wait for customers to come to him. He loads up his wheelbarrow and parks it on a likely street corner and soon has customers digging in their purses and pockets. Given the narrow streets, I expected angry remonstrances from motorists trying to get by, but no one objected and everyone was pretty laid-back about the whole thing. This is a major difference in my experience of living in the US and Mexico. In the US, nasty looks, honking, and maybe even road rage violence might have resulted.

Local weavers also display their wares. Woven products such as this are often made on old wooden looms, held together by twine. Sometimes they are made on hand looms, where the weaver sits on the ground with one end of the loom tied to a tree.

More fine baskets hang from the rafters of crafts stalls. I liked the way the light streamed through, making the baskets seem to glow warmly.

A marimba player sets up under the plaza portales to entertain the shoppers. Street musicians are everywhere in Mexico. This fellow was handling four marimba "drum sticks", two in each hand. Usually there will be an assistant in the area with a cup for donations. In this case, the donations go in the metal can on the left end of the instrument. I usually donate to the musicians I encounter, even if I don't have time to listen much. They work very hard and their music provides a wonderful "sound track" to life in Mexico.

Lizards, snakes, and frogs decorate pottery in this stall. Whimsical humor is a constant refrain in Mexican art. So is a close affinity with nature.

A typical day at the plaza. The activities you can see above are typical of what you will see in Tequisquiapan or any other town plaza. A shoeshine man works his trade while an Indian sells baskets, diners enjoy an outdoor lunch, and loungers take advantage of the pillars lining the plaza. Everyone is sociable and enjoying the day.

More fine basketry. The delicate colors and fine weaving of these baskets caught my eye. Since I saw more basketry than other kinds of crafts, I believe that it is one of the prime crafts of the area.

Colorful minerals remind that Queretaro is mining country. Above you can see various crystals, including some thunder eggs, as well as fools gold and other minerals. Opals are heavily mined in the area and crafts people make fine jewelry from them.

This completes Part 4 of my Queretaro series. Next, I will show the old town of Bernal, with its amazing rock monolith, and delightful narrow winding streets and sidewalk restaurants. Bernal is one of Mexico's designated Pueblos Magicos (magic towns), and I'm sure you'll enjoy the visit as we did.

Hasta luego! Jim

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