Jun 182014
 

José López Portillo y Rojas (1850-1923) was born in Guadalajara. He graduated as a lawyer in Guadalajara in 1871, before spending three years traveling in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. On his return, he published his first book: Egypt and Palestine. Notes from a trip (1874).

portillo-y-rojas-jose-lopezHe began an illustrious political career as deputy for Jalisco to the national Congress from 1875-1877. Shortly after that first experience of national politics, he returned to Guadalajara and became a journalist, teacher of law, and member of that city’s literary circle.

The group included other young Jalisco writers such as Antonio Zaragoza and Manuel Álvarez del Castillo, one of whose sons, Jesús, would later start the El Informador newspaper in Guadalajara, which remains one of the city’s most important dailies.

In 1880, López Portillo y Rojas returned to Mexico City as a deputy. In 1882, he became a state senator. In 1886, he joined with Manuel Álvarez del Castillo and Ester Tapia de Castellanos to start a new publication in Guadalajara. La República Literaria, a magazine of science, art and literature quickly became nationally famous, but only lasted until 1890.

In 1891, López Portillo published the first transcription, albeit partial, of Father Antonio Tello’s invaluable 17th century account relating to Lake Chapala. In 1892, he published his only book of verse Transitory harmonies. By 1902, López Portillo was living in Mexico City and had joined the Partido Científico (Scientific Party). After the fall of Díaz, he held various federal government posts before becoming Governor of the State of Jalisco (1912-1914). For a brief period in 1914, he was appointed as Foreign Relations Secretary in the government of Victoriano Huerta, during the time when the U.S. invaded the port of Veracruz.

He left politics shortly afterwards and dedicated himself to teaching and writing. He left a vast body of work, ranging from travel accounts, poems, and literary criticism to historical and legal essays, short stories and novels. His best known collection of short stories is Stories, tales and short stories (1918). His best known novel, The parcel (1898), relates the fight between two hacienda owners for a worthless parcel of land.

At the time of his death in Mexico City on 22 of May, 1923, he was director of the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua (Mexican Academy of Language). One of López Portillo’s grandsons, José López Portillo y Pacheco (1920-2004), served as President of Mexico between 1976 and 1982. In Guadalajara, the Casa-Museo López Portillo, a museum and exhibition space honoring the family, can be visited at Calle Liceo #177.

A short story about Lake Chapala, entitled “José la garza morena” (“José the Great Blue Heron”) was published in Cosmos (a monthly magazine published in Mexico City) , in June 1912, pp. 401-405. It is a tale about someone finding a heron that has been shot and wounded, and trying in vain to cure it.

The story starts by remembering the times before Lake Chapala’s shores has been altered by civilization:

When I visited the lakeside hamlet of Chapala for the first time, now many years ago, I found everything in an almost primitive state, better than now from some points of view, but worse from others.

The author compares the Chapala of earlier times with the situation during the Porfiriato (when he was active in politics as a supporter of President Díaz):

Not a sign back then of the picturesque villas that today adorn and decorate these shores from the town to the Manglar, which is the house where Don Porfirio Díaz used to stay during the time, happy for him, of his all-embracing command; but everywhere was thick scrub, cheerful orchards with severe rocky places, which were in harmony with that rustic and unspoiled landscape.

The scene is set; the action begins with an evening trip in a rowboat on the lake. The beauty of the lake, as depicted by the author, creates an impression of decadence and morbidity, because there are no signs of life out on the water:

But that scene of glorification seemed dead and desolate, without any bird to make it cheerful; not a stork, nor a crane, nor a duck stained the burnished horizon with its graceful silhouette.

Further on, the author continues:

The lake appeared magnificent and solitary under that divine show, as if it were another asphalt lake, a new Dead Sea. But it was not always thus; and the recollections of better times engraved in my memory transformed this most unhappy spectacle, because before the rising tide of civilization invaded these places with platoons of armed hunters with shining rifles, flocks of ducks would rise suddenly into the air from the marshes as the boat approached.

The second part of the short story is about someone finding a heron that has been shot and wounded, and trying in vain to cure it.

Credit and reference:

My sincere thanks to Dr. Wolfgang Vogt of the University of Guadalajara for bringing this short story (and his analysis of it) to my attention. The extracts above are translations by Tony Burton.

Vogt, Wolfgang (1989) “El lago de Chapala en la literatura” in Estudios sociales: revista cuatrimestral del Instituto de Estudios Sociales. Universidad de Guadalajara: Year 2, Number 5: 1989, 37-47. Republished in 1994 as pp 163-176 of Vogt (1994) La cultura jalisciense desde la colonia hasta la Revolución (Guadalajara: H. Ayuntamiento).

Jun 082014
 

Ramón Martínez Ocaranza was born in Jiquilpan, Michoacán, 15 April, 1915, and died in Morelia 21 September 1982.

He was a poet, essayist, social fighter and teacher, who used to joke that only a wall had stopped him from becoming President of Mexico–this was because Lázaro Cárdenas (President of Mexico 1934-1940) had been born in the house next door!

ocaranza-ramonMartínez christened his native city of Jiquilpan as the “city of jacarandas”, a name that is still widely used today on account of the city’s many blue-flowering jacaranda trees.

He published numerous volumes of poetry, including:

Al pan, pan y al vino, vino, 1943; Ávido Amor, 1944; Preludio de la muerte enemiga, 1946; Muros de soledad, first part 1952, second part 1992; De la vida encantada, 1952; Río de llanto, 1955; Alegoría de México, 1959; Otoño encarcelado, 1968; Elegía de los triángulos, 1974; Elegías en la Muerte de Pablo Neruda, 1977; Patología del Ser, 1981.  Works published after his death include the poetry volumes La Edad del tiempo, 1985; and Vocación de Job, 1992, which formed part of El libro de los días (1997).

He also wrote an autobiography, finally published twenty years after his death in 2002. He studied (and later taught) at Colegio de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (Morelia) and studied at UNAM. His poems contain many pre-Columbian element and he researched and wrote about Tarascan literature.

Sadly, a campaign in 2010-2011 to turn his former house (Río Mayo #367, colonia Ventura Puente, Morelia)  into a small museum and exhibition space has apparently failed, owing to lack of funds.

 Posted by at 6:56 am  Tagged with:
May 302014
 

Garland Franklin Clifton was an American author who lived in the Chapala area in the 1960s. He wrote “Wooden Leg John. Satire on Americans living in Mexico” (apparently privately printed in Washington D.C., 1971). While the book is not set at Lakeside, it seems highly probably that parts, or all all of it, were written while Clifton was living there.

“Wooden Leg John” is written as a series of 20 letters dated from Christmas Day 1967 to Christmas Day 1968 from Bullard A. Loney (Bull A. Loney) to his “Uncle Sam”. “The “Bull” has deserted his wife and is living it up in Mexico and on the U.S.-Mexico border. The book includes many verses and lyrics.

Back cover art of Garland Clifton's Wooden Leg John, a satire on Americans living in Mexico.

Back cover art of Garland Clifton’s “Wooden Leg John, a satire on Americans living in Mexico”.

Clifton also wrote “American meccas in Mexico: Guadalajara, Chapala-Ajijic, Manzanillo: a detailed discussion of these three vacation and retirement areas of Mexico” (published in Laredo, Texas, 27 pages, 1966).

Clifton was born 6 December 1922 in Yardelle, Arkansas, USA, and died 29 December 2013 in Gulfport, Mississippi, USA. In the preface to “Wooden Leg John”, Clifton describes himself as a “Scotch-Irish native-born Arkansas Mountaineer and the tenth of 14 children.” He joined the U.S. military in September 1940 and retired from military service in November 1960, having served overseas in New Guinea, the Phillipines, Germany, Japan and Korea, by which time he had risen to be a U.S. Air Force master sergeant.

Not long afterwards, he married a Mexican girl, María. The couple had four children, and lived for some time in Chapala, before moving, in 1967, to Douglas, Arizona. By 1971, he was living in Washington D.C. with wife Maria (then aged 26), Manuel (8), Laura (7), Carmen (5) and Armando (1).

Sources:

  • Dust jacket of “Wooden Leg John”
  • Garland Franklin Clifton“, by Ruby Woods-Robinson, M.S.L.S. (accessed 4 May 2014)
May 212014
 

Author, poet and diplomat José Rubén Romero (1890-1952) was born in Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán. Cotija de la Paz is about thirty kilometers from the village of La Palma on Lake Chapala’s south-eastern corner.

Romero’s father, an outspoken liberal, had been forced to leave the very conservative village of Cotija de la Paz, and the family home, and travel to Mexico City. Six months later, he sent for his wife and two children, Rubén (then aged seven) and his younger sister. Their journey, by horseback, steamer and train, is described in Romero’s Apuntes de un lugareño (trans: Notes of a Villager), published in 1932, by which time Romero was the Mexican Consul in Barcelona, Spain. He was later served as Mexican ambassador to Brazil (1937-1939) and Cuba (1939-1944).

romero-ruben-coverBesides his diplomatic career, Romero worked in a variety of fields, including journalism and as a university dean. He is best remembered, though, as a writer whose vivid depictions of the people and customs of his native state make him an outstanding exponent of the modern costumbrista novel. The costumbrista genre focuses on regional life, customs and manners.

Romero’s lasting legacy of fine works includes Desbandada (1936), El pueblo inocente (1934), Mi caballo, mi perro y mi rifle (1936), Viaje a Mazatlán (1946) and Rosenda (1946). But by far his best known book is the picaresque tale of a lovable rascal: La vida inútil de Pito Pérez (The Futile Life of Pito Pérez), first published in 1938. A best-seller in innumerable editions, this book was turned into a movie starring Ignacio López Tarso in the early 1970s. One of Mexico’s best-loved writers ever, Romero died on July 4, 1952, in Mexico City.

In his autobiographical novel Apuntes de un lugareño Romero describes Lake Chapala on two occasions. The first time he encounters the lake is in about 1897, on his way to Mexico City with his mother and sister at the age of seven. It includes Romero’s impressions of the steamer trip from La Palma to Ocotlán, a regular route at the time. Romero’s second encounter with Lake Chapala comes later, when he was living in Sahuayo between about 1907 and 1910.

Translations of Romero’s works in English include:

Notes of a Villager: A Mexican Poet’s Youth and Revolution (Kaneohe, Hawaii: Plover Press, 1988) is a fine translation by John Mitchell and Ruth Mitchell de Aguilar of Apuntes de un lugareño.

The Futile Life of Pito Perez (Prentice-Hall, 1966), translation by William O. Cord.

A Translation of Jose Ruben Romero’s Mi Caballo, Mi Perro, Y Mi Rifle with a Study of His Life, Style and Works, by Carl Edgar Niles (University of Tennessee, 1947)

May 162014
 

The earliest known reference to Lake Chapala in a poem must surely be that made by Bernardo de Balbuena (1562-1627) in El Bernardo, written between 1592 and 1602, published in Madrid in 1624. The poem took a decade to write because of its extraordinary length—some 40,000 octavo reales (Royal eighths) in size!

Bernardo de BalbuenaBalbuena was born in Valdepeñas, Spain, in 1562. In 1584, at age 22, he crossed the Atlantic to join his father, who owned properties in New Spain. This was only 63 years after the conquest, but already various cities had been founded and were beginning to prosper.

Balbuena was already a prizewinning poet by the time he was named Chaplain of the Audiencia of Guadalajara in 1592. He later lived for several years in the small isolated village of San Pedro Lagunillas near Compostela, close to Tepic. In 1593, he wrote Grandeza mexicana, a poem which appeared in book form in 1604, and was dedicated to Doña Isabel de Tobar y Guzmán, with whom he was in love.

Balbuena returned to Spain in 1606 and was never to set foot again in New Spain, despite having fallen in love with the country and having become a “Mexican” poet. In 1608, he published Siglo de Oro en las selvas de Erífile, a pastoral novel. In 1626, he became Bishop of Puerto Rico, dying there the following year.

In El Bernardo, the author begins by describing France and Spain. By Book XIII, he is describing Asia. Then (Book XV), he overflies Europe. The descriptions of imagined aerial trips are supposedly the best passages of the entire work, with the highlight being Book XVIII which sees the magician Malgesí flying over America, from Patagonia in the south to the northern edge of New Spain.

Numerous places are mentioned, including the Andes, Brazil and Chiapas, as well as Zacatecas, Guadalajara and the erupting volcano of Jala, before Chapala gets its moment of fame:

Come, between the fresh Pánuco and Gualulco
to Tlaxcala, and the Mexican kingdom,
to Michoacán, Colima and Acapulco
the town closest to the southern sea,
the villages of Quiseo and Tlajomulco,
and in their environs and flower-filled plain
the abundant lagoon of Chapala,
which equals the Ocean in depth and breadth.

Spanish-Mexican philosopher Ramón Xirau describes Balbuena as a “splendid poet who should be remembered and, above all, re-read.” However, reading (or re-reading) 40,000 octavo reales might well be more than most people have time for!

[Extract from "Lake Chapala—as large as an ocean?", chapter 7 of Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers' tales]

 Posted by at 8:07 am  Tagged with:
May 122014
 

These extracts come from Dale Hoyt Palfrey’s review of the latest (4th) edition of “Western Mexico, a Traveler’s Treasury” for The Guadalajara Reporter, 18 April 2014.

9780973519150-Cover-thumbnail“Whether you’re an intrepid on-the-road adventurer or a relaxed armchair traveler, Tony Burton’s “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” is an ideal companion… One factor that lends special appeal to this singular travel book is Burton’s departure from the stock formula found in conventional guides. He adheres to a more organic approach, drawing on personal experience and meticulous research to divulge the virtues and peculiarities of every destination.”

“Another major strength is the author’s attention to historical details that enrich the individual profile of each place. In some cases he scratched up intriguing facts by chatting with the local people, in others he tapped on tireless study of a vast array of previously published works. The bibliography lists writings going back as far as 1899, as well as “Lake Chapala through the Ages,” Burton’s own compilation of excerpts from works by other travel writers covering the era of 1530-1910.”

“Above all, the British-born geographer is a bold adventurer who delights in departing from the main travel routes to explore back roads and discover unexpected corners that other travelers and writers often see as nothing more than dots on the map. He has a knack for digging up the idiosyncrasies of each destination he visits, be it local legends and folklore, off-beat museums, geological characteristics, mining deposits of minerals, stones and precious metals, or an outstanding restaurant, inn or spa worthy of mention.”

“First published in 1993, the revised and expanded fourth edition of “Western Mexico”… opens with what qualifies as the most comprehensive guide to the Lake Chapala region available in English. “The next segment explores the agricultural valley and the Sierra highlands stretching west from Guadalajara. Part three covers Tapalpa, Mazamitla and other high altitude spots, plus the city of Colima. From there the text follows a route northeast of Guadalajara into the region of Los Altos and beyond Jalisco’s borders to León, Guanajuato and Aguascalientes, continuing into Zacatecas and the far-flung northern “hand” of Jalisco.”

“Material in parts six and seven spans the Pacific coast from San Blas, Nayarit to Cuyutlán, Colima. The final chapters thoroughly survey the state of Michoacán.”

“The development of Puerto Vallarta and the birth of the Paricutín volcano stand out among the book’s fascinating historical accounts. Expositions on Jalisco’s Manantlán Biosphere Reserve and the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries of Michoacán are obligatory reading to grasp the value of Mexico’s extraordinary natural treasures.”

“Burton’s clear writing style and bonus sidebar boxes added to each chapter make for easy, breezy reading. A series of area maps drawn by the author and Mark Eager’s attractive pen and ink illustrations of different locales complement the text. The cover art work is a reproduction of a watercolor scene of Ajijic by the late Georg Rauch.”

Both paperback and Kindle editions of “Western Mexico: A Traveler’s Treasury” may be purchased from amazon.com. Ajijic outlets that keep the printed book in stock are Diane Pearl Colecciones, Opus Boutique and La Nueva Posada. Guadalajara residents may place orders through Sandi Bookstore.

[This review, by Dale Hoyt Palfrey, first appeared in The Guadalajara Reporter, 18 April 2014]

May 052014
 

Verna Aardema (1911-2000) was an American author of dozens of children’s books.

She has no known connection to Lake Chapala beyond the fact that one of her books, The Riddle of the Drum: A Tale from Tizapán, Mexico (New York: Four Winds, 1979), is presumably connected either with Tizapán [el Alto] on the southern shore of the lake, or with Villa Corona [formerly called Tizapán el Bajo] just west of the lake.

aardema-coverThe story, illustrated by Tony Chen, is a translation and retelling of “El Aro de Hinojo y el Cuero de Piojo”, from Tales from Jalisco, Mexico, by Howard True Wheeler, American Folk-Lore Soc. 35, 1943. The Riddle of the Drum: A Tale from Tizapán, Mexico can be viewed online via the website OpenLibrary.org: The Riddle of the Drum: A Tale from Tizapán, Mexico (free registration required).

The king of Tizapán has a beautiful daughter Princess Fruela. He asks a wizard to make her a special drum. The only man that will be allowed to marry his daughter must first guess what kind of black leather the drum head is made from. Prince Tuzán rises to the challenge, but knows he will forfeit his life if he fails. En route to victory, he gathers around him several unusual characters, all of whom contribute to his success.

Verna Aardema (full name Verna Norberg Aardema Vugteveen) was born in New Era, Michigan on 6 June 1911. Even as a child, she wanted to be a writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Journalism in 1934, before working as an elementary school teacher (1934-1973), later combined with being a local newspaper correspondent for the Muskegon Chronicle (1951-1972).

Aardema’s first set of children’s stories Tales from the Story Hat was published in 1960. She started writing for children mainly because her daughter wouldn’t eat until she’d heard one of her mother’s stories. In most stories, the setting was somewhere that Aardema had been recently reading about, such as Africa and Mexico.

Her children’s books, based almost always on adaptations of traditional folklore tales, won numerous awards. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (1975) received the Caldecott Medal and the Brooklyn Art Books for Children Award. Who’s in Rabbit’s House? (1977) was the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. The author herself received the Children’s Reading Round Table Award in 1981.

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?

Jan 072014
 

Tapalpa (Editorial Agata/Fotoglobo, 2001)

tapalpa-foto-globoShort articles on the locations set the scene for dozens of vintage sepia photographs of this historic village which has become a prime tourist destination (and is one of the “Magic Towns”) in Jalisco, Mexico. The book includes photos of Tapalpa, La Constancia, las Piedrotas, Los Frailes, Ferrería de Tula, Ojo Zarco, Arroyos, Buenavista, El Tacamo and Cascada el Saltito and Cascada de las Palomas.

Softcover, 64 pages. Dimensions (in inches): 10.6 x 7.8 x 0.2; ISBN: 970-657-102-7 Price: US $15.00  (plus shipping, contact us for details)

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