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Mar 312014
 

This brief post in the latest in our on-going series about the artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico. Please use the “Category” system on the right hand side of all our pages, to find previous posts in this series.

Lysander Kemp (1920-1992) worked as a writer, professor, translator, and was head editor of the University of Texas Press from 1966 to 1975. During his tenure at UT Press, he collaborated with Octavio Paz (1914-1998), the Mexican poet and essayist, on numerous translations and oversaw the publication of two collections of Paz’s essays and criticism.

Kemp, who lived in Jocotepec for many years, was a noteworthy translator of several great Mexican writers and authors, including Octavio Paz (The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico) and Juan Rulfo.

Kemp’s published poems and short articles about the Lake Chapala area include:

  • 1957. The Penguins Gather. Saturday Review v 40 (May 11, 1957) p. 38. This short article, with photo, describes a dance-band in Jocotepec. Kemp was the first saxophone.
  • 1957. Perils of Paradise. Travel piece in House and Garden vol. 111 (April 1957) pp 172-4.
  • 1955, Gods: Jocotepec, Mexico [poem] The New Yorker. Vol 31 (Sept 10, 1955) p 114.

Kemp also translated, Juan the Chamula: An Ethnological Recreation of the Life of a Mexican Indian by Ricardo Pozas (University of California Press); Selected Poems of Ruben Dario (University of Texas Press); The Time of the Hero, by Llosa Mario Vargas (Farrar Straus & Giroux); Pedro Paramo: A Novel of Mexico, by Juan Rulfo. (Grove/Atlantic, 1959).

Mar 222014
 

For anyone who lives or travels in western Mexico, Tony Burton’s Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury is a “must have.” I own a well traveled copy of the third edition (2001) but I was delighted to see a fourth edition (2013) recently appear…in part because so many changes have taken place in the decade or so that has followed the third edition. For example, Guachimontones, the round pyramids west of Guadalajara, is described in far more detail than in the third addition.

There are lots of other changes as well. “A federal project to promote cultural tourism, called Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns), has brought much more publicity to no fewer than 15 towns featured in previous editions, including Tapalpa, Tequila, Mazamitla, San Sabastián del Oeste, Lagos de Moreno, Comala, Pátzcuaro, Santa Clara del Cobre and Angangueo.” In this past decade, the “quality of hotels has also improved, with the opening of excellent boutique hotels, some of them in quite unexpected places….”

New chapters have been added, new material has been added to existing chapters, maps and directions have been updated, new destinations, like Zacatecas, have been developed in detail.

Reading Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury, I felt that old desire rise up in me to be on the road, if only for a day or two. And so, even before writing this review, I called a young Mexican adventuress in Guadalajara. With the Kindle version of Western Mexico in hand we headed up a now modern highway to the charming old colonial town of Mazamitla, high in the mountains on the south side of Lake Chapala… and far more sophisticated than when I visited it twenty years ago. We even stayed in the inexpensive ($40US) boutique hotel Hostal Ciervo Rojo (a member of the Haciendas and Country Houses of Jalisco) recommended by Tony in his book.

A few days I went with a Chapala buddy on a day trip to Guachimontones, the round pyramids west of Guadalajara, passing trucks loaded with sugar cane, passing stands of a local potent drink called pajarete (a combination of milk, aguardiente, brown sugar, and sometimes chocolate) to arrive at what has become in a few short years, “one of the most astonishing archaeological sites anywhere n Mexico,” although only twenty years ago it was only “mounds of earth”. “The dramatic circular structures at Guachimontones, tiered in concentric terraces, are absolutely stunning….”

As Tony notes in his Introduction, this is “not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all the possible day trips and longer tours in the region…. Rather, it is a personal, idiosyncratic collection of my favorite places in Western Mexico….” The book is filled with whatever Tony finds fascinating… interesting and curious details of history and geography and geology and flora and fauna, and art and architecture and archaeology.

My kind of book!

Parts One and Two cover destinations within three hours of Guadalajara or the north shore of Lake Chapala…day trips. Part One begins with a history of the region from ancient times to the present, and discusses in detail Mezcala Island—“Lake Chapala’s National Monument”—and the “The Riviera communities: Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec,” although the spas at San Juan Cosalá, like the luxurious Monte Coxala with its large-scale pre-Hispanic replicas, are also included along with interesting places to stay, like the Los Dos Bed & Breakfast in Jocotepec, which was the home and studio of internationally famous Austrian artist Georg Rauch. Although Rauch passed away a few years ago, his charming wife Phyllis continues to operate their bed and breakfast.

Part One also takes us to the south shore of Lake Chapala, to places like Jiquilpan, a nondescript town that gave birth to two important Mexican presidents—Anastacio Bustamante and Lázaro Cárdenas), and several distinguished artists, like José Clemente Orozco, “one of the famous “Big Three” of Mexican Muralism.” Rafael Méndez (whom I heard when I was a teen, back in Ohio), “arguably the world’s greatest ever trumpet virtuoso,” was also born in Jiquilpan.

In Part Two we go west of Guadalajara to Guachimontones—those round pyramids—and to old haciendas (with concise histories of each), and to Tala, the sugar town, and to the giant stone spheres near Alhualulco. We also learn about mines…silver, opals, obsidian, and of course we visit the ever popular town of Tequila.

Part Three takes us on longer trips, best for overnight stays, to picturesque mountains towns like Tapalpa, and through pine forests to Mazamitla, and to Colima, a provincial state capital with important archaeological sites. Near Colima is Volcá de Fuego, sometimes called Volcán Colima, “the most active volcano in Mexico, and indeed one of the most active in the world, having erupted at least 30 times since 1576.”

Parts Four to Nine cover longer trips, to places like León, the “Leather Capital of Mexico,” and to Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas, and Bolaños, where the “old mining town revives its fortunes.” In Part Six we head west to the coast, to San Blas and Guayabitos (a youthful beach town for “a modestly-priced family holiday”) and even to Puerto Vallarta, “the resort that keeps reinventing itself.” In Part Seven, Barra de Navidad and Melaque—places once popular with pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish–are jewels not to be missed, and discovered by tourists only a few decades ago. Part Eight finds us on the road to Tzintzuntzan and to Pátzcuaro, a region where the first Bishop of Michoacán, Don Vasco de Quiroga, “based his approach on the Utopian principles espoused by Thomas More. He established a series of communities in the vicinity of Lake Pátzcuaro, the heart of Tarascan country, where the people would receive training in arts and crafts alongside religious instruction.” He allocated “specific crafts to specific places,” and thus today, Paracho is famous for its guitars, Tzintzuntzan (named after the sound a hummingbird makes with its wings) is famous for its pottery, Santa Clara for copper, and so on.

The final section, Part Nine, is mostly about the beloved monarch butterflies of Michoacán. “Every winter, some one hundred million monarch butterflies fly into Mexico from the U.S. and Canada. On arrival they congregate in a dozen localities high in the temperate pine and fir forests of the state of Michoacán.” Tony discusses the various reserves where visitors can witness the amazing number of monarchs, but Tony also insists that you sample the delicious local blue-corn tortillas. He also takes you farther west to Tuxpan and the country where John Huston shot Treasure of the Sierra Madre, staring Humphrey Bogart. The first bend on the narrow road from Tuxpan to Jungapeo is the bend to have a name on the official topographic survey map: La Curva de la Gringa, a rather dangerous 110-degree bend.

Leaving The Gringa’s Curve behind, you come to the best place to overnight or vacation in this “scenically-stunning part of Mexico,” at the Agua Blanca Canyon Resort, “a charming, small spa-hotel with just 20 rooms, its pools and lawns overlooking the deeply carved valley of the River Tuxpan.”

As in the earlier editions, Tony concludes with a useful appendix that has a “Table of elevations and approximate driving times,” for example from Chapala to Barra de Navidad is four hours and thirty minutes, from Chapala to Mazamitla is one hour and forty-five minutes. He also advises you to take a look at “online forums, such as those on MexConnect.com, to ask for up-to-date information and advice from people who have recently made the same journey or visited the same places.”

If you live in western Mexico or are thinking about living here or visiting here, make this the first book you buy. It has always been a favorite of mine and this latest edition of Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury is the best ever!

This review first appeared on MexConnect.com.

Ready to buy a copy?

The 4th (2013) edition of “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” is now available at select bookstores, and at:

Want to learn more?

Nov 022013
 

Sombrero Books is delighted to announce that Tony Burton’s Lake Chapala Through The Ages, an anthology of travellers’ tales has been chosen as one of the 15 best books about Mexican history. The list - Recommended Mexico reading: 15 of the best – was compiled by Ellaine Halleck for the Guadalajara Reporter newspaper. The newspaper’s website offers a free 24-hour registration, giving you plenty of time to read the full article.

lake chapala thru the ages-front-cover-376x600Lake Chapala Through The Ages is summarized as covering “the Lake Chapala area from the arrival of conquistadors in the early 1500s to the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910″, “based on letters and articles from past centuries”. It reveals that “Lake Chapala has not always been the magnet for expatriates that it is today.”

Buy your copy of Lake Chapala Through The Ages today, in plenty of time for the holiday season!

- Link to review by James Tipton (MexConnect)

- Link to review by Thomas Hally (El Ojo del Lago)

Chapter titles of “Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales“:

WMATT-CONTENTS

Nov 012013
 

Give a book!. The Kindle editions of

are only a click away. The recipient will have the book within minutes!!

For Kobo enthusiasts,

Regular softcover versions of both books are available via amazon.com and amazon.ca

 

 Posted by at 9:33 am
Dec 182012
 

Sombrero Book is pleased to announce that the 4th (2013) edition of “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” is now available (Kindle  and Kobo editions).

In “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury”, author Tony Burton reveals the magic of Western Mexico. Relaxed and intimate, this easy-to-read yet authoritative account features 37 original drawings by Canadian artist Mark Eager and 10 maps. Enjoy the author’s unique insights into local history, ecology and traditions.

Now in its fourth edition, the book remains a favorite among knowledgeable travelers visiting this region of Mexico. This new edition is one-third larger and includes dozens of new places worth exploring. It incorporates several new chapters, including four (in part five) devoted to the region around Zacatecas. Every chapter has new material. Maps have been redrawn and travel directions updated.

A mixture of interests is represented. Included are historical sights such as Zacatecas, Lagos de Moreno and San Blas; artistic colonies like Ajijic; and lakeside communities, including Chapala and Pátzcuaro. Alongside them are ecological wonders, such as Manantlán and the monarch butterflies; old mining towns like Angangueo and Bolaños; coastal resorts such as Barra de Navidad and Puerto Vallarta; Indian villages like Angahuan, and a host of others.

Many of these smaller places in Western Mexico offer a glimpse of the Mexico behind the mask; they are places where Mexico has retained her ancient culture and her ancient traditions.

All the destinations in parts one and two are within day-trip range (maximum three hours driving time) from Guadalajara (Mexico’s second city) or nearby Lake Chapala, a popular retirement center for Americans and Canadians. In part three, all the locations described are worth at least an overnight stay, though Tapalpa, Mazamitla and Tamazula are still within three hours driving time of Guadalajara-Chapala. Parts four to nine describe longer, three or four day trips, which are all well worth the investment of extra time.

No fewer than 17 of the towns featured in the book have received the federal designation of “Pueblo Mágico” (Magic Town), in recognition of their cultural, historical or ecological significance, and facilities for visitors. There are now many excellent boutique hotels, some of them in quite unexpected places, making it far easier to explore the less traveled areas of Western Mexico.

Whether your interests lie in art, architecture and archaeology; fiestas and folklore; unusual sights and natural wonders, or in Indian villages and indigenous handicrafts, this book will help you discover for yourself Western Mexico’s many hidden treasures.

Author: Tony Burton has specialized in exploring and writing about Mexico for more than thirty years. He is the author of “Lake Chapala through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales” (2008) and co-author of “Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico” (2010), and a three-time winner of ARETUR’s annual international travel-writing competition for articles about Mexico.

For other formats besides Kindle and Kobo, please use the “contact us” form and we will do our best to meet your particular needs.

Sep 142012
 

Several of our books, as well as our Lake Chapala Map Set, can now be purchased via amazon.ca [they have always been available via the US site amazon.com]
We don’t make as much from each book as if you bought it direct, but, hey, on the other hand you have the chance of discounts and free shipping on most items!

Happy shopping!           Sombrero Books

Links to our amazon.ca products:

Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico

Western Mexico, a Traveller’s Treasury

Lake Chapala Through the Ages, an anthology of travellers’ tales

Lake Chapala Map Set

and

El Occidente de México, un tesoro para el viajero [translation of Western Mexico, a Traveller's Treasury]. Buy both versions, English and Spanish, for an inexpensive way to build your Spanish vocabulary and increase your fluency!

 Posted by at 6:15 pm
Apr 222012
 

Rose Georgina Kingsley (1845-1925) was the oldest child of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, the celebrated English clergyman and novelist, who contributed the prologue to her book South by west or winter in the Rocky Mountains and spring in Mexico.

Rose Kingsley had crossed the Atlantic to Colorado Springs in November 1871 to join her brother, Maurice, who was assistant treasurer of the company developing Colorado Springs. Even by 1872, there were less than 800 residents, so both Kingsleys were pioneer settlers.

The founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer, a railway entrepreneur, also owned a newspaper Out West which published several columns and sketches by Rose Kingsley. The Denver and Rio Grande train had been operating for only a week when Rose Kingsley boarded it en route to Colorado Springs. She quickly felt at home and rapidly made friends in the ever-changing community that she grew to love. She taught in the local school, begun by Palmer’s wife, Queen, for a short while, but did not enjoy the experience. Little did she realize at that time that she would, in 1884, and with the help of Dr. Joseph Wood, later Headmaster of Harrow, found The Kingsley School, in Leamington Spa, England. Rose

Kingsley went on to write many more books, including A History of French Art, 1100-1899 (1899) and Roses and Rose Growing (1908).

When General Palmer decided in 1872 to examine possible routes for a railway linking Texas to Manzanillo, Rose Kingsley was invited to join his wife Queen and General William Rosencrans on the trip. The group landed in Manzanillo and then headed inland to Colima, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Mexico City.

In chapter XVII of South by west or winter in the Rocky Mountains and spring in Mexico, Kingsley describes the route from Guadalajara past the northern shore of Lake Chapala on the way to Mexico City. Following a common convention of the time, she uses only initials to identify important people; several of the individuals referred to have been identified by historians. For instance, “Mrs. P.” is Mrs Queen Palmer, and Mr. C. is Mr. Duncan Cameron. Kingsley’s account of this route serves as an introduction to set the scene for so many other travelers, who would follow this exact same route from Guadalajara to Chapala in years to come. It is 1872…

“April 13.— Guadalajara to Ocotlan. At 6.15 A.M. we left hospitable Guadalajara, carrying away none but the pleasantest reminiscences of our stay of six days.

Pablo, a pleasant young fellow, who had been our cochero in Guadalajara, came with us as mozo, and was in a state of supreme delight at being armed with a Henry rifle and revolver. Mr. M. also came with us as far as La Barca.

The usual route from Guadalajara to the capital is by La Venta, Lagos, Leon, and Guanaguato; but for two reasons we chose the more southern route, past Lake Chapala and up the Rio Lerma. First, because the engineer’s party from the north (of whom we had heard nothing as yet, which made us very anxious) must pass along that route, and so be able to give a report on it. Secondly, because we were told the Chapala route was shorter and better, if there can be anything “better” in one Mexican road than another. Certainly, after the first few miles it was bad enough—rough and stony, and in the softer places there were clouds of dust.

At San Pedro [Tlaquepaque] we stopped and got three men as escort, and at 9.30 came to San Antonio, a hacienda where we changed mules, and had breakfast in a hut by the roadside. The women in the hut, which was only made of sticks and thatch, gave us eggs, frijoles, tortillas, and carne seca, in chilli colorado sauce, which for hotness almost beat the mole de guajalote at Atenquique. But besides these native viands we got capital chocolate, made from some cakes we had brought with us. So, on the whole, we fared well.

At 12.15 we came to the summit of a small pass (4850 feet), and there before us lay a splendid valley, rich with golden wheat-fields, with a fine river flowing through it on our left to the north-west; and we knew we had struck the great central valley of Mexico, commonly known as the Valley of the Lerma.

This valley is one of the richest portions of the Republic. Its length, between Guadalajara and Queretaro, is about 230 miles, and its greatest width (between Leon and the mountains of Michoacán), 60 miles. About one-tenth of the available land in it is under cultivation. Wheat, maize, and beans grow freely without irrigation, yielding good crops year after year without the slightest pains being taken to improve the soil. With irrigation and better farming two crops might be obtained; and when a market for the produce, and easy means of transportation are supplied, this tract will become one of the most important wheat-growing districts of the world. The amount of wheat which could be raised in this valley alone has been variously estimated from 500,000 to 1,000,000 tons yearly, equal to or surpassing the whole yearly yield of California.”

This is an extract from chapter 30 of “Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales”, available as either as a regular  printed book or a Kindle e-book.

Apr 192012
 

By popular demand, the much-lauded “Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales” has now been released as a Kindle e-book (available via amazon.com).

The following description applies to both the print version and the e-book version:

Lake Chapala Through the AgesLake Chapala is no longer a paradise without a past

Join award-winning author Tony Burton as he explores the fascinating history of the Lake Chapala region’s formative years from the arrival of conquistadors in the early 1500s to the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

Insightful and entertaining commentary enhances this unique collection of extracts from more than fifty original sources.

Poets, friars, travellers, exiles and scientists overcome bandits and natural disasters to offer captivating tales of courage, greed, delight, unexpected triumphs and much, much more.

xiv+215 pages, with map, more than twenty original illustrations, glossary, bibliographic references and index.

Illustrated by Rosemary Chan. Published by Sombrero Books, 2008.

“Ambitious and encyclopaedic; well organized and engagingly presented” – Richard Perry, Author and Publisher, colonial-mexico

“A must-read, full of little-known facts; a brilliant anthology that reveals Lake Chapala in a whole new light.” – David McLaughlin, Publisher, MexConnect

Chapter titles of “Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales“:

WMATT-CONTENTS

Mar 222012
 

Hersch, Lee F. (1896-1953) was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a painter in realist and abstract styles. He died in Madrid, Spain in 1953.

Lee Hersch studied painting with Henry Keller, Kenyon Cox and Douglas Volk at the Cleveland School of Art and the National Academy of Design. His subject matter was varied. In 1918, in Taos, New Mexico, he painted scenes with Indians of the Taos Pueblo. In the 1930s, he was living in California, painting landscapes. Later, while in New York, he executed abstract oil paintings.

Relatively little is known about the life of Lee F. Hersch, but his works include a “super modernist impressionist painting” of Mexico’s Lake Chapala, described by the Bruce Palmer Galleries as having “great color and energy, and is in fine condition”. The work is titled “Lake Chapala”, it is 23.5″ x 28.5″ in size and is oil on canvas. It is landscape, thought to have been painted circa 1930.

He held many exhibitions between 1927 and 1947, including PAHA, AIC and P&S Los Angeles. At this point in his career Hersch was selling at the famed Montross Gallery in New York, and traveling in Europe, the American West and Mexico.

Lived/Active: Taos, California, new York. Known for: landscape, Indian life, abstraction.

Bio credit: Bruce Palmer Galleries.

Mar 222012
 

Raw Rysiek (formerly known as Rick, then Richard) Ledwon lived in Jocotepec for short periods several times from the early 1980s on.

Ledwon studied Fine Arts at University of Alberta, but apparently became disillusioned by professors who told him he’d never make it in his chosen field. He traveled to Europe. On his return to Canada, he enrolled in Grant MacEwan Art College (Edmonton, Alberta, but see line below about Fredericton) to study graphic arts, but abandoned his studies in his final year.

He then worked for Air Canada (Latin America and Caribbean) and as a freelance graphic artist. He visited Jocotepec to meet John Frost (on the recommendation of a mutual friend), and then worked with both John Frost, and also with Georg Rauch, another Jocotepec-based artist, for almost two years. During this time, he developed silk screen and other techniques. After returning to Canada, he worked as a picture framer at an art gallery, but returned to Jocotepec, where he did silkscreens and paintings, primarily of flowers and architecture.

Source for biography: Anon. 1987. Portrait of the Artist, in El Ojo del Lago, January 1987, vol III, No 4.

Associations: Ledwon is associated with Tony Burton, John Frost, Joan Frost, Georg Rauch, Phyllis Rauch.

- page incomplete; please revisit later.