by Mildred Boyd

     Tlaquepaque had a tradition of fine craftsmanship long before the Spanish came. The original name was Tlacopan, a heavy-duty Nahuatl word meaning “Men who make clay utensils with their hands,” derived from Tlalic-pac, “Over clay hills.” After its conquest by Nuño de Guzmán in 1530 it was known as San Pedro Tlaquepaque and reached official Villa status in 1843. In the 1700s many of the wealthy from nearby Guadalajara built summer homes here to escape the hustle-bustle of the big city. Permanent boundaries were established in 1892 to limit encroachment of that city so that, although Tlaquepaque is now merely an enclave of the sprawling megalopolis, it has retained its own unique character.

     The area would be well worth a visit just for its lovely plaza, 18th century architecture and fine restaurants but Tlaquepaque is not just another colonial village. It has become a shoppers paradise; a veritable Arabian nights bazaar of the exotic, the beautiful and the just plain funky treasures for which Mexican artisans are justly famous. If you cannot find what you seek here, it either hasn’t been invented yet or you probably didn’t need it anyway.
     The entire city center is one vast shopping mall. The main street is a broad avenue closed to all but foot traffic and lined with trees and benches and imposing colonial mansions which now house elegant shops. Here you will find furniture, from rustic chairs to elaborately carved cabinets; clothing, from embroidered peasant blouses to the latest Paris creations; ceramics, from crude pots to fine dinnerware and a bewildering variety of items in leather, wood, paper, glass, metal, clay, and stone, not to mention such unlikely materials as straw and corn husks. A charming bauble will cost only a few pesos while an original sculpture or painting by a noted artist can run to thousands of dollars.
     While much of the work on display has been imported from all over Mexico—silver jewelry from Taxco, hand loomed rugs from Oaxaca, copper ware from Santa Clara del Cobre, lacquer ware from Uruapan and textiles and pottery from almost everywhere—local artisans, and their name is legion, produce an astonishing array of goods in small workshops behind their salesrooms or hidden in back alleys. Men women and children weave, embroider, sculpt, carve and paint an endless variety of decorative items, from tiny costumed dolls to enormous statues.
     In keeping with the tradition of “making clay utensils by hand”, there are a number of potteries. Most are cottage industries, small family operations with few, if any, employees and limited production. A few, like Ken Edwards and EI Palomar, have gained international reputations and export their fine, hand crafted earthenware world-wide.
     Sometimes the public is invited into these inner sanctums to watch the small miracle of common clay, beach sand or old rags being transformed into items of use and beauty.      One can watch as the skilled potter turns an amorphous grey lump into a handsome bowl or see a glowing blob of molten glass turn into a graceful vase or pulped paper taking shape as a life-sized, and incredibly life-like, parrot.
     Weary shoppers can find refuge and sustenance and listen to strolling mariachis in numerous fine restaurants. Unique among them is El Restaurante Sin Nombre (No Name Restaurant) which lacks, not only a name, but a menu. Your waiter will lovingly recite the day’s specials and then serenade you as you dine while peacocks and other birds of exotic plumage stroll among the tables.
     Tourists beware! With such enticements, it is virtually impossible to leave Tlaquepaque with a full purse and empty hands!

 Tlaquepaque Map

1.- Acasa
2.- Antigua de Mexico
3.- Art StudioTerracota
4.- Arte Indio
5.- Bazar Barrera
6.- Casa Campos
7.- Casa Fuerte
8.- Ceguatla
9.- Chinchorro
10.- El Meson del Abuelo
11.- El Patio
12.- JJ Marquin
13.- La Tiendita
14.- Leo e Hijos
15.- Mariposa
16.- Mis 8 Reales
17.- Plateria y Joyeria Azteca
18.- Preciado Galerias
19.- Quinta Don Jose
20.- Sergio Bustamante