So most of you who are been in the Betina Roza Insiders know that I split my time between San Juan Island and Sayulita, Mexico. I feel in many ways, like my adult self grew up in Mexico, and I can hardly believe I've been living this migratory lifestyle for 25+ years! The colors, textures and artisans of Mexico have always inspired me and my jewelry designs. Over the years, I’ve traveled all over the country collecting beautiful handmade things, always halfway thinking that maybe one day I would have a store or something where I could share my love for textiles, baskets, pottery, beadwork and art. Someday I still might! But for now, by little summer booth at Roche Harbor is too small for all these goodies, so I’ve finally created a section of my website to showcase them.
After my first day of shopping in San Cristobal
Most recently I went on a buying trip with my friend, Tracey, who does have a shop in a town close to Sayulita, called Cosmic Milkshake (great name right! ). We went to the city of San Cristobal, known as the cultural center of Chiapas where most of the textiles you see in markets all over Mexico come from. We arrived in Tuxtla late at night, having missed our connection in Mexico City by literal seconds. When we stepped out of the airport and into the thick jungly air, I was hit with a wave of unexpected nostalgia. I hadn’t been to the Yucatan side of Mexico since I’d lived in Veracruz 20+ years ago, and I hadn’t set foot in Chiapas since I was a kid, traveling to the ruins of Palenque with my parents.
We hired a cab to take us the hour’s drive up into the mountains to San Cristobal.
His name was Ulises, he looked barely old enough to drive and spoke in a high pitch, squeaky adolescent voice in such rapid Spanish, that we barely understood a word.
The road was extremely windy, and jammed with giant trucks straddling the shoulder, leaving us just enough space to weave our way between them back and forth across the median. Totally nerve wracking at one am, in complete darkness and pouring rain. Ulises chatted away helpfully the entire trip, pointing out what we would be seeing if it were only light out. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what he was saying.
We arrived in one piece at the charming Hotel Sombra de Agua in the center
of the city around 2:30 am.
Courtyard at Sombra de Agua Hotel.
Only having 4 days to shop, we woke up early, and grabbed a cab to the town of Chamula about 30 minutes away. Chamula is the center of the indigenous Tzotzil population in the highlands of Chiapas, and it’s where they make all the wool that we were in search of. Within a block, we quickly found the ladies we were looking for. A mother and her two daughters run the store/workshop where they weave their locally raised sheep wool in the ancient traditional style. The younger girls sat on short stools hand sewing pompoms onto creamy white woolen pillow covers with astonishing speed.
Market alley in Chamula.
Pompom pillow covers handmade in Chamula.
Shop owner in Chamula showing us the raw wool.
Next stop, the talabateros (leatherworkers), where we shopped around several vendors, looking for one who was willing to do some custom work. Unlike the mass produced leather goods you find in many markets, here the bags, shoes, belts and wallets are all hand tooled and dyed right there in the shops.
Negotiating with the leather makers of Chamla.
Ordering custom bags from a local talabatero.
The next day, we took on the daunting task of the Tianguis Artesanal in Plaza Santo Domingo. This is a daily market that overruns the plaza surrounding the almost 500 year old Santo Domingo Church. The market is a labyrinth of mostly textiles, dotted with pottery, clothing, food, and the now ubiquitous pompoms.
We spent hours and hours here, plowing through stacks and stack of pillow covers, negotiating prices and making friends:)
Artisan Market Surrounding the Santo Domingo Church.
Every stall is jam packet with colorful textiles.
Beautiful local pottery- Love Bird matching planters.
At night in San Cristobal the central plaza surrounding the main Cathedral fills with vendors who lay their goods out on blankets each illuminated with portable lights. We perused this market every night to and from dinner.
Vendors setting up in the Central Plaza in front of the main Cathedral.
Night scene in the central plaza, with the vendors wears
illuminated by portable standing lights.
Print I purchased from a local artist selling his block prints on the street.
(It reads: "avanzo pero lento" - I move forward, but slowly)
Stretching out from the main Plaza in all directions are pedestrian streets filled with even more shops, and local artists selling their creations along the sidewalks.
There is literally no end to the beautiful things you can find in San Cristobal, and my feeling is that after four days, we barely scratched the surface. We did however, manage to fill four giant suitcases, plus two carry-on bags each!
Most importantly though, we made some wonderful contacts with the local makers and formed some connections in the hopes that I can continue to
share with you my love of all things Hecho en México
Me at my fave spot Sarajevo Cafe Jardin.
Check out the new selection of home goods and accessories I brought back from my trip! It's a small representation of all the things I have, but it's a start!