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 hasnt
been invented yet or you probably didnt 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 Mexicosilver 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 everywherelocal
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
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 days 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