Mark and Miguel, our Ocean Camp guides, must have known that after a day and a half of walking up and down the hilly streets of San Miguel de Allende, we would all need a little rest. They planned a field trip to nearby and flat Dolores Hidalgo.
Our first stop was a Talavera Pottery Factory. I was familiar with this type of pottery, as there are speciality stores in San Carlos that sell it. There are talavera sinks, tiles, planters, bowls, plates, serving dishes, relish trays, platters… the list does go on and on. I wanted to believe that everything truly is handpainted, but there is just so much. I could not imagine how many artists it would take to create the inventory for our little shop, never mind the shops all over Mexico, and what is sold internationally.
Technically, only ceramic pottery coming from Puebla can be called “talavera”. The name has to do specifically with the clay used. Padre Don Miguel Hidalgo introduced the art and its techniques to the indigenous people living in this part of Guanajuato, as a means of supporting themselves and their families. Going on three centuries now, those techniques have changed very little. Nearly 50% of the population of Dolores Hidalgo earns a living making, selling, or delivering the ceramic pottery.
It was absolutely fascinating to walk through the factory. And, yes, every single item is
painted by hand. We were able to watch several artists as they worked, and it was an incredible treat. Well, for us. Many actually blushed as we oohed and aahed and shook our heads in disbelief and wonder.
I will give Mark and Miguel credit here. They did their best to try and move the group directly to the van following our tour. But someone spotted a store on the factory grounds, and, well, one thing led to another. Fortunately, Steve had seen a piece of pottery in the factory that really interested him. He was game to check the store for availability and price. Men and shopping. He was done in five minutes and ready to get back on the road for our tour of the historic town center.
Okay, truthfully, I was the one ready to see the historic town center. I was going to be able to stand exactly where Padre Don Miguel Hidalgo stood when he rang the church bells and called the citizens to arms in his famous “Grito de Dolores”, setting in motion the Mexican War of Independence. (I still get goosebumps thinking about this.) Steve was just basically done shopping. And I must admit, after making four laps around the store, I was ready to be done too.
Plus, as the less serious shoppers on the trip, we had already “loaned” space in our suitcases to some of those who were running out, definitely limiting ourselves to something smaller than a garden table, bar stool, or planter. As it turns out, however, there was so much shopping happening, arrangements had to be made for shipping! Unfortunately, an hour and a half later Steve was pretty much over talavera, and decided he was more than happy with the plastic stool he uses as a patio sidetable. He did score a business card though.