Mexico 54, 2nd July 2004

I went round about 30 furniture makers or suppliers in Cuanajo. There were some superb pieces. This was my favourite but it's a blurry photograph, not enough light, I didn't support the camera for the long exposure.

The table top is hand carved in relief and shaped with holes cut through, it looked gorgeous in real life. A real fun piece. Price was 9,000 pesos ($800 or 450) for the set, table and chairs. I would love to own that! And at that price! Wow!

The following is a better photo and was a slightly better price, probably because I was talking to the man who actually made it and painted it. It's a fruit design, carved in relief. I looked out back and sure enough there were 4 or 5 young men working away, sanding and carving. He said he could make any designs so presumably could duplicate the parrot version. The same designs seem to be made all over the place, presumably it's the norm to take an idea from someone else, improve on it, and then have your design copied in turn. Or maybe they go out back periodically and have a punch up between themselves for copying! I don't know!

This table was quoted at 8,000 pesos, (400, $750), quality was the same in both cases, very high. Remember I ran a woodworking business for 30 years and am not quite a novice when it comes to judging quality in woodwork. Beautiful finish. He said would drop to 6,000 for a quantity of 10. He would probably bargain lower, that was his first offer. Maybe he would go to 4,000 pesos. But even 6,000 would mean delivered Europe for around 400. You buy at 400, sell on at 600, i.e. 50% mark up, shop retails at 1400, i.e. 100% markup plus sales tax. Would it sell in the UK for 1400? I think so. I was very nearly tempted! If I had still been in business I think I would have bought some to try.

In case anyone reading this really is tempted, his name is Pedro Judrez Garcia, he is to be found on the right hand side a kilometer or so before you reach the village proper, and his phone is 01 434 343 31 78.....................his address is just Cuanajo, Michoacan.

The parrot design was at Muebles Joana, just by the cross roads at the entry to the village, 01 434 343 30 69.

I moved back towards Patzcuaro, stopping to admire the view on the way.

Then later.

Note there are now real fields and stone walls. The fields are brown because there is corn growing and the fields have been well cultivated. The first photo was taken looking the same way but I was then the other side of those hills centre left.

I was now starting north around the lake. First stop was Ihuatzio, another ruin. That makes 46 ruins visited in total but they are all getting very recent. This one was 13th Century. This is the view from on top of one of the twin pyramids.

And these are the pyramids built on a platform.

I carried on north along a dirt road but with superb views over the lake and reached Tzintzuntzan (where do they get these names from?) where there is another ruin. I got there only 30 minutes before closing time so asked if it was OK to stop the night in the car park. Yes, no problem.

Here there are 5 pyramids on a huge long high platform. Must be 200 metres long. Each pyramid has a sort of circular pyramid attached to the front. Vary rare to find anything rounded - the corners of the platform are rounded too. It's presumed they had round temples on top of the round pyramid extensions.

This is the view from the platform. Beautiful, again.

I was going to continue on round the lake but started back towards Patzcuaro to get another view of the lake so continued on. After all I've already been round the lake, even if it was raining that day.

After stopping briefly in Patzcuaro I climbed up the Cerro del Estribo for a view over the town. At the end of the drive up there are 417 steps. (I didn't count them myself.......I forget where I am after counting about 20 steps, my attention wanders!)

But when you get there the view is pretty good.

That's provided you don't fall over the edge. See where this path goes off into space in the above picture? That's exactly what it does.

Around the other side of the hill there was another quarry, another path going into space, and another stupendous view.

I parked up in the same place I had been a couple of nights ago, near the painted table village, and then went towards Santa Clara. It was a touch misty in the early morning.

Santa Clara is famous for copper beating, there are maybe 60 different workshops around the town. I watched at the copper museum. I watched this man for nearly an hour, off and on. It's a slow process, copper beating. In that hour I could notice very little difference in the shape or size of the piece he was working on.

They start with a red hot solid block of copper.

Then up to four of them whack it in turn with sledgehammers. Not surprisingly that makes it flatter.

I've managed to hide one of the whackers. He is behind the man in the blue shirt. There were actually four of them. The man sitting down is turning the ingot round. It's quite clever the speed they go at, it's actually the first time I've seen four sledgehammers at work like this although I know it is a black art practiced in metalworking shops all over the world.

Lake Zirahuen I was told is smaller, cleaner, deeper, and prettier than the Patzcuaro lake. Yes it's nice that's for sure, but there's not so many places to admire it from. I found one spot where I ate my lunch. Which reminds me, they bake delicious bread all around this area.

Next stop was Tingambato where there is another ruin. A bit older than most around here, it dates from around 600 AD. The ceremonial centre remaining is quite small and there is a ball court, rare in western Mexico. It's a slightly different design to most. Just about all are in the shape of a capital letter H the main playing part being the horizontal bar. Here the 2 verticals are very much abbreviated, almost non existent. Anyway, here is the pyramid.

I've parked in the ruins car park for the night.

Best regards

David Barker

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