Give the Colors and Flavors of Mexico – Shop Local

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Shop Local

By Susan Klindienst Fogel

Why did you come to Mexico? There could be a hundred answers to that question. For most expats, a big reason is to live a more relaxed life among friendly, gracious people. And to explore, enjoy, and share a different culture.

Christmas here is simpler, if you want to make it so. Yes, the traffic is building. Stores are crowded. The kids are wound up. Entertaining is reaching a fever pitch. The department stores are stuffed to the gills with stuff. Stuff that came from China. Even the tablet, the Xbox, and the new TV were made in China.

Remember that different way of life we just talked about?

The Baja Citizen highlighted a few local businesses to help you make better and more interesting choices for your gift giving. We are highlighting some shops that have crafts, and books, and fabric most of which is made in Mexico. What better way to celebrate your new life, than to support the businesses of your neighbors?

My mother taught me this saying: “A gift of the hand is a gift of the heart.” Many of the shops we are highlighting have beautiful handmade items from all over Mexico.

LaBella_90x62mm-01Eleven years ago, La Bella Recuerdos de Mexico got its start. A family of artesans, Patricio and his parents sell beautiful items made here in Baja Sur and the mainland. You can find him at the organic market on Madero on Tuesdays and Saturdays, at Mi Cantina in El Centenario on Sundays. His family also has shops in Todos Santos. Taste his chocolate tequila supplied by a distillery in Jalisco, the tequila is then infused with flavors by a company in Cabo San Lucas. Patricio’s parents make the colorful blankets he sells. The stems of the Murano glass martini glasses are made from Corona bottles. There is talavera from Tlaxcala, blown glass from Cabo San Lucas, handmade toys, cigars. His prices are good, and he is also always willing to help you find that special something.

It is so easy to buy things online or in Liverpool or Walmart. But wouldn’t it be nicer to know who made the basket or bowl or rebozo that you are buying? And to also know how it was made? And that you are contributing to the local economy. And in some cases, keeping the artesanal movement alive?

Plenty of beautiful, handmade crafts at Casa ParraCasa Parra, a gallery of wonderful handmade items, from the simplest embroidered napkins, and useful and pretty mesh pitcher and drink “veils” embroidered with local flowers to the exquisite hand-beaded and Ouichal (weechal) sculptures. Owner Claudia came here from Mexico City to be a marine biologist, but opened her shop six years ago. She wanted to share all the beautiful artesanal items from all over Mexico. Her goal now is to purchase local crafts and offer them in the front part of her multi-roomed gallery. “The old ways are disappearing. The artesan families are struggling to maintain their craft,” she tells me.

“Look at this knife, from Las Animas, the blade is from a spring of a car, but beautifully embossed and sharp. The handle is bone, and the sheath is hand-tooled leather.” Claudia will not accept short cuts. The handle must be bone, not plastic. She travels over dirt roads for hours to small towns and ranchos to buy handmade baskets, and other crafts. “I am trying to preserve the old ways.” She says that in 15 years, the cowboy life will be lost.

Whether you are retiling a bath or kitchen or buying some colorful tiles to give as a gift to be used as coasters, Quinta Lupita has everything from individual tiles, to hand-painted sinks. Instead of a set of mugs, how about a ceramic plaque that says, “Bienvendio” Or “Mi Casa Es Tu Casa” that your loved one can hang on their gate? The beautiful Talavera tile and planters, small and large, are all handmade and come from various artisans on the mainland. There are plenty of items lining the shelves and special orders are welcome. The shop is small, but so colorful and filled with small gift items, like soap dishes, little pitchers, and switch plate covers. Be careful! Once you are inside, the colors and designs may entice you into re-doing your countertops or floors!

Did you know that the mark of good quality pottery is how light it is? It’s true! No heavy, clunky stuff at Ibarra’s Pottery. If you have never visited Ibarra’s Pottery, then you are in for a treat. Their pottery is manufactured right here. It has been in continuous operation since 1959. And you are welcome to watch as the pottery is made. It is all lead free and food safe.

They have some very distinctive designs that are recognizable once you have seen them. Whether it is bowls, jugs, mugs, or a complete set of dishes, Ibarra’s has it or can make it. You can consult with them on custom colors and designs and have a truly special and personal gift for yourself or others. There are plenty of items in this inviting shop that can be tucked into a Christmas stocking. Treat yourself. Give a piece or two as gifts.

Allende Books on Independencia in La PazBooks have soul. Books are good friends. Books are wonderful gifts. Allende Books is your English language bookstore. Owner Kat Bennet, a former computer programmer, said that books are her first love. And that love shows in her charming bookstore. Whether it is a coffee table book of photographs of La Paz or any number of guide books, you will find it here. Allende Books carries field, recreation, and travel guides; fiction and non-fiction books; cookbooks and maps. Everything one expects from a bookstore in one small, convenient space. Books are easy to pack. You do not have to worry about size or color! And if you have some young ones, she has Little Red Riding Hood and Where the Wild Things Are in Spanish.

Allende books has a nice selection of Mexican handicrafts from local and national artists: one of my favorites is a papier mache whale shark. Oaxacan tin and black pottery, Tarahumara pine baskets, hand-painted bookmarks, and hand-crafted earrings. Take a walk around our historic downtown, stop in, and find that perfect, different and interesting gift.

Do you sew or have a friend that sews? Telas Bonanza de Luxe has a wonderful collection of bridal and special occasion fabrics in all the colors of the rainbow. This is a privately owned, family-run store, not a chain. Store manager, Estefania Valdez Sanchez says that for over 20 years, their customer’s needs have been their priority. Estefania speaks excellent English and is ready to help you with your fabric choices. They have expanded their special occasion fabrics, including silk. They also have a good selection of linen and knits. Brides receive special help and service. But I have always felt as if Bonanza has been my second home. They are willing to look for the kinds of fabrics that I need.

Located at 1240 Madero is the Café and Doce Cuarenta. Here is a delightful shop featuring off beat and creative gifts that feature La Paz and Baja as their theme. If you need a hostess gift or are short on time for holiday baking, delight your hosts or guests with wonderful homemade carrot bread with a wonderful icing, or cookies, brownies and entire apple pies.

Back to gift items. Your favorite cook will love the cookbook, Not Food For Old Men. Beautifully bound, and full of gorgeous photographs of our special peninsula, the recipes are described as a culinary adventure. And just arrived today is Baja California Sur 101, a perfect book for the armchair explorer that will be dazzled by the beautiful photography, It is a must have for hikers and adventurers.

Some things that are designed and made here:

Pillows made from feed sacks that say in Spanish on one side and English on the other: “Cuddle up in this cushion in case you miss La Paz too much.”

Mugs and t-shirts, coasters and glasses. Not ordinary at all. Most items are decorated with the 1240 signature Day of the Dead Calavera (skull). Distinctive and thoughtful in design these are inexpensive gifts that will please those that receive them.

Do you have a coffee snob or two on your gift list? Worry no more. Doce Cuarenta has an array of French press and other kinds of coffee makers. And various mugs that say “Mi dia solo comienza despues de un café. “ (My day starts after a coffee).


Taking the time to visit one of these shops gives you the opportunity to meet new people. To learn their story. Let them tell you about the makers. And you may just make a new friend.

Felices Fiestas!

You can read more of Susan’s La Paz slice of life musings on her blog:


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