To get to Puerto Vallarta to catch our flight back to the States, we broke our journey into two days. We took the ETN bus to Guadalajara and spent another night at the Hotel Dali, then took our final bus ride to Puerto Vallarta, again staying at the quaint Hotel Bellmar. We like to stay on the top floor, which is a huge grunt with luggage, but the view is worth the climb. We stay in Viejo Vallarta Centro, so no beach views. Instead one looks out on the busy, colorful street life.
Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4:30, so that gave us time to make one last drawing before leaving Mexico. I took many photos of street life, charmed by the papeles banners, the shiny piñata-like sculpture banners, and other handicrafts Mexicans create to celebrate life. I captured Calle Iturbide, an appropriate ending to my Mexico sketch journal. (Iturbide was another revolutionary independence hero.) The view is looking toward the ocean. The street ends in a plaza on the beach where many artists display their work. I wanted the emphasis of this drawing to be on the banners, so I eliminated the ocean view. I chose to add paint only to the banners to further emphasize the celebratory theme of this ink drawing.
photo collage left to right/ top to bottom: Tlaquepaque street view with shiny miller piñatas, Puerto Vallarta papeles, Ajijíc papeles & street vendor, door knocker San Miguel de Allende, door knocker Pátzcuaro, veterinary clinic Ajijíc, antique bicicletas at the tire shop in San Miguel de Allende, street musicians Pátzcuaro, street view San Miguel Deb Allende.
El Acuducto, built in 1785 by Bishop Fray Antonio de San Miguel to bring water to Morelia consists of 253 arches and measures 1810 meters. Local stone was quarried from the village of Santa María. El Acuducto was built along the Calle Real, (“Royal Road”), now Madero Avenida.
There was an open air cafe at the foot of the arches. As I was drawing, a young couple came for coffee after the school day was finished. I couldn’t help but notice the girl tossed all her hair to one side, then in a dramatic gesture, reached for her novio’s arm. It goes to show that drama among teens occurs all over the world.
From Pázcuaro, we took an ETN first class bus to Morelia, capital city of Michoacán. We learned that the ETN fares were just a bit higher than Primo Plus, but were far more comfortable. There are only 36 seats on ETN, the air conditioners always work, (despite the gas crisis), and the bathrooms are pristine.
From my journal, “2/6/17 2:00PM MORELIA, capital city of Michoacán… Lined with well preserved 17th & 18th century Baroque and classical buildings, including MORELIA CATHEDRAL, presiding over the city’s main square, Plaza De Armas. Morelia was named after Mexico’s revolutionary hero, Morelo.”
This sketch was made from the Hotel Viray, overlooking the beautiful architecture that characterizes this city. Morelia is perhaps the most beautiful city in all of Mexico. Morelians are proud of their city; evidence of recently restored buildings and buildings under restoration are found throughout the city. Most of these historic buildings are open to visitors. Note the second beautiful cathedral just down the street from Morelia Cathedral. The building with the large overhanging entrance near the second cathedral is the theatre. Many Mexican cities boast lovely old theatres, as the performance arts have been well regarded in Mexico for centuries. I hope to return soon to Morelia and stay at the Hotel Viray.
Pátzcuaro is known for it red-banded buildings and red tile roofs. Coming back from Tzintzuntzán, the taxi driver took us along a route with steep streets that paralleled the House of Eleven Patios. Built into the hillside, this side of the city gives the best views of Pátzcuaro’s picturesque, unique character. We knew this would be our destination for sketching the following day.
To get there, walk southeast of the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga to an entrance with two high arches. The entrance is marked, “La Casa de los Once Patios.” Built around 1743 for the Convent of Santa Catarina, this is the only place regionally with Dominican influence. The Dominicans founded Santa Marta Hospital here.
The House of Eleven Patios features the highest quality craft artisans in the region. Many also work onsite. The range of local crafts is broad from musical instruments, textiles, copper, and ceramics. The shops rise eleven levels up the hillside. The alleyway continues to climb to the top of a steep slope, where Mexican families and tourists come to enjoy the vista and take photos. Both Kurt and I were inspired by the view and captured our impressions.
Tzintzuntzán: musical, magical name for the former Tarascan capital on the shores of Lake Pátzcuaro. Tzintzuntzán means “place of the hummingbirds.”
Outside the biblioteca in Pátzcuaro, we boarded the colectivo to Tzintzuntzán, which takes passengers to villages around the Lake. We were able to use our broken Spanish to visit with a mother and her charming daughter along the way, who gave us the lowdown on the archeological ruins.
Before the Spanish conquest, the village of Tzintzuntzán was the capital city of Tarasca, on the shores of Lake Pátzcuaro, with a population of 30,000. Tarasca was strong, able to repell repeated Aztec attacks. In 1520, the Tarascans could not fend off the Spanish. Today Tzintzuntzán is a sleepy village that boasts an important archeological site. Called Taríaran, “House of the Wind,” it is located above the town on a large platform excavated into the side of the hill, overlooking the lake. The ceremonial center contains a large plaza, several buildings which housed priests and nobility, and five yácatas. These semi-circular pyramids were wooden temples where important rites were performed. As I sketched, I noticed architectural slits in the stonework, much like at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, which make the whole site function as a large stone astronomical calendar.
In my sketch, I included a bit of the village landscape, the lake, and the volcano, all important elements in the history of Taríaran.
“Dia de Marcado Viernes; 2:00 2/3/2017 Patzcuaro, Michoacán”
In the Plaza Gertrudis Boca Negra, just a few doors from our hotel, every day is Market Day. On the day of this drawing, it was the official Market Day. Capturing all the activity: color, sounds, smells, hustle & bustle……was a challenge. It was particularly so because the people were very friendly and curious. Usually people left us alone as we drew, but here the people liked to look over our shoulders and ask us about our drawings. Having so much attention, in addition to expressing the mood/atmosphere of the square was a bit daunting. When I could finally immerse myself into the scene and my drawing, I was able to record my experience.
From Ajijíc, we traveled with friends to the state of Michoacán. Our first stop was to El Rosario Sanctuario de las Mariposas Monarca. The experience of seeing thousands of Monarch butterflies was magical- un milagro! (My beloved horse was born in Florida in a field of Monarch butterflies; hence he was named Monarch. To watch a small clip of the Monarchs at Rosario, visit my Instagram account- see link to the right.)
After visiting the Monarchs, our next destination was Pátzcuaro, the picturesque city of red tiled roofs and blocks of red-banded adobe buildings. Pàtzcuaro was founded in the 1320s as the capital seat of the Tarascan state, which included Michoacán, Jalisco, and Guanajuato, rivaling the Aztecs in power and influence. Even today, native peoples retain their colorful dress, food, and traditions.
The center of social life in Ajijíc is the Plaza. Along one side is the Cultural Center; along another side is the old stone church, Capilla Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The church was started in 1550 and dedicated in 1600. Its unique masonry features small stones outlining the larger building rock. Just down the street is the larger San Andrés church.
This painting was inspired by our winter trip to Mexico and my travel sketch journal. Notice the strong connection between the mother and daughter. Even with her back turned from the viewer, you can feel the strong attraction the daughter feels for her mother after a day at school. It appears that this reunion occurs at this alcove daily.
Our next stop was Ajijíc on the shores of Lake Chapalla, back in the state of Jalisco. The easiest way to get to Ajijíc from San Miguel de Allende is to board a first class bus to Guadalajara. At the bus station, engage a taxi to Ajijic. Sometimes it is best to agree on the fare before you enter the taxi. Some drivers are very honest and friendly, while others are tempted to take advantage of Gringos. Our driver was quite friendly, and like many of our taxi trips, we had the opportunity to practice our conversational Spanish with our driver. Most drivers know a bit of English, and it is fairly easy to communicate with our “un poco de español.”
Ajijíc lies at an altitude of 5,000 feet along a tropical latitude that moderates the climate year-round to an average temperature of 72 °F. With the perfect climate, colorful quaint streets, and a strong dollar, Ajijíc is a popular haven for retirees, particularly from North America. If you are looking for an authentic immersion experience into Mexico, this is not a destination for you. Many Americans live here year round, and that influence has changed Ajijíc from a sleepy Mexican village to a tourist-catering destination.
My first sketchbook entry for Ajijíc was another “window” view from our bungalow. Enrique, our landlord, is an artist with carpentry skills. He is creating a lush tropical sanctuary in his backyard, complete with four bungalows. He has many contacts throughout Mexico, where he acquires antique furniture in a state of disrepair and building refuse, which he repurposes into charming features, niches, and furniture for his bungalows and courtyard garden.
The perfect cup of coffee, Lake Chapalla, & closeup of the vet clinic sign