Visiting Tonala Mexico's Artist Capital.
Moving On 1
Spending another Winter in wonderful Mexico
Follow along with our adventures in Jennie the RV and Willie the Jeep
Things we've done and places we've been on this trip - Mexico 2009
Today we got an early start to go to Tonalá and to walk around and look at all the handicrafts that are sold there. On the way we had a couple of interesting experiences. First I managed to get us lost. Missed a couple of turns and ended up thoroughly turned around. Then the most interesting of the two things. To set the scene - the traffic and smog and motor exhaust on the road was terrible and we were talking about how to figure out where we were going so we put our windows up. They are usually down as the weather is so nice.
As The Driver finally figured out where we should go a motorcycle cop pulled up behind us and hit his siren - BLEEP! “Was that for us?”
We turned at the next Retorno to get headed in the right direction and the cop followed right behind us. BLEEP! BLEEP! and his lights came on. Oh, oh! He got in front of the lane of traffic to our right and motioned us to pull over. Neither of us could figure out what we had done. Surely weren’t speeding as we were trying to figure out where to go. Maybe a light had burned out or something? Blinker on and pulled over as soon as there was a safe place to do it. Put the window down and waited. Hands visible.
The policeman walked up to the window and asked to see Bill’s license. Bill already had it out of his wallet and held it up for the man to see. “Give me the license.” He spoke excellent English. Bill said, “No.” and held the license closer to the man. “Give it to me.” And “No.” continued for a few more times. Then the policeman said if Bill didn’t give him the license he would call a tow truck and have “This vehicle” towed away. OH BOY!! We still didn’t know what we’d done to be pulled over so Bill asked.
The police man asked to see the papers for the car. We dug them out and gave them to him. Registration and temporary import permit.
He asked, “Where do you live?”
“In Las Vegas, NV.”
“No, where do you live here in Guadalajara?”
“We are staying in a motorhome park on Mateos.”
“You don’t live here?”
“No, we live in Nevada.”
Well your tinted windows are illegal here in Mexico. (remember I said we had the windows up.)
“But they are legal in Nevada.”
“You’re not in Nevada - this is Mexico.”
“No one ever told us they were not legal in Mexico. I can’t take the tint off just to visit Mexico.”
Policeman thought a while and agreed - that would not be practical.
”Well they are illegal here in Mexico. So when you drive here you must keep your front windows rolled down. (I immediately put mine down and he kind of laughed.)
From then on all was fine. No problem over the license refusal and no ticket.
I must stress that at NO TIME was a bribe even hinted about - and I got the impression if we had offered him one we would then have been in trouble.
He was very professional and courteous. In fact he and Bill had a friendly talk about all the changes for the better that have been happening in Mexico the last few years and he gave us directions to get to where we were headed. Adding, “Keep your window down.”
He got back on his motorcycle, pulled up next to us and said, “I like the sign in your back window - to roll you over.” He gave a half wave and pulled back out into traffic.
Maybe he just liked the jeep and wanted to speak English for a while.
We kept the windows down the rest of the time we were driving around.
With our windows rolled down and the policeman’s good directions we made it to Tonalá . It is called "The Mexican Capital of Artists." Words cannot describe the place. Years ago it was a tiny village that held a handicraft/farmers market one day a week. We visited it then taking a long taxi ride from Guadalajara. Well now you never leave the city to get there and the market is seven days a week. Everywhere you turn there is a stall or store selling something. You can get everything from the tackiest piece of painted plaster junk to exquisite paintings and furniture there. We walked miles - back and forth on the main street and up and down the side streets. Unbelievable how much stuff was for sale. The sidewalks were packed, mostly with Mexican nationals. The whole time we were there I only heard one group of English speaking customers.
Where to begin…..
One thing we did was get lots of ideas for stuff we can make. I especially like the balls covered with pieces of glass like mosaic. Also some covered with tiny shells and some covered with seeds and beans. Cheap and fun to do I think. Also some other things covered with the seeds - like the mushrooms in the picture.
Most of the stores were pretty narrow but deep - maybe 15 feet wide. But stuff full of stuff. One place we went into turned out to be a home. Grandma was sitting there playing with the baby and the wife invited us to walk clear to the back of the place to watch her husband work with clay - patting it with his hands then molding it around a form - to make clay glasses. We asked if we could take a picture and she said "yes." He looked up and said "NO!" So we just watched for a while.
Lots of interesting pictures - the frames in some had lights in them to highlight the paintings. Others had the canvas stretched on curved wood - it gave the paintings another dimension and look.
Lots of furniture from very modern looking (ugly) chairs to carved and painted wood pieces. And of course the brightly painted ceramic toilets and sinks.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves Tonalá - some pictures of the stuff for sale Click Here
Also we stumbled on to a couple of interesting “factories.” The first one was a glass works. It was all open to watch. Several men work there and it was a sight to see. They were pulling rods out of the ovens and walking around with the red hot balls of molten glass on the ends of the rods. Then swinging the rods around to get the glass to shape into a tear drop. How they kept from running into each other and or burning each other is a wonder. Took some pictures and a short video of it.
For Videos from Tonalá Click Here
Then we came across an area where they were making the plaster vases we saw for sale all over. There was a big “pit” area with terraced “shelves” all around it. In the pit the vases were being made. On the terraced areas they were drying and being painted. Had no idea they could be made so quickly. First the plaster was mixed then poured into plastic molds with rubber liners. The molds were in two pieces strapped together. The plaster poured in through a hole in the bottom. Then the men would pick up and rotate the molds for a short time, then add more plaster and repeat the rotating. They did this several times. I guess depending on how thick the vase had to be. Then they would release the straps, take off the plastic mold pieces, remove the rubber lining and there would be the vase. It was then cleaned off by hand and set out to dry. Later they would be painted. Very quick and very efficient