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A Purchasing Fiesta

A Purchasing Fiesta Mexico Style

Why Mexico for my next buying trip? The fresh seafood tacos, chorizo, mole sauce, Corona, tequila, stringy cow cheese, margaritas, guacamoles, hot peppers; I am sure I forgot something. Of course! Amazing handicrafts for our boutiques and interior shops we have on Tortola.    

It has been a few years since I managed to fit Mexico into my buying trips. This trip was spawned from a call from Necker Island’s new manager, Lisa, who asked if we had hammocks in stock, which we didn’t. It was the only excuse I needed to go to Mexico and stock up. Next, it was quick call to Magdalana, a Mexican friend in Grenada who also has shops and buys out of Mexico, and I was out the door. The Mexico native proved to be a great haggler, saving us a bundle on prices. My French-infused Spanish wouldn’t get me too far.


We flew into Mexico City at dusk and it looked like any major city as you come into land, but it is the general lack of colour on unfinished breeze block buildings in the new suburbs of Mexico City. We had planned to stay with Magdalana’s sister in Toulcan, the new town that was developing outside Mexico City for people trying to escape the hustle and bustle of Mexico city. We were made welcome with large glasses of tequila and fresh tacos. The next day, we were on the road to base ourselves at Taxco for a few days.
Taxco is a small village west of Mexico City in the heart of Mexico’s silver production. Saturday is the silver market day, and it’s pretty amazing how the whole village comes alive with artisans showing their silver on any possible flat surface they could find and also steep slopes as they bricked up the legs of trestle tables to try and get a horizontal surface. We spent the full day buying silver from small artisans and vendors with amazing new designs. It feels great to buy from the original artists of these new designs. It felt like I went back hundreds of years, when the buying out of markets had not changed; no receipt books, fancy websites—just raw trade. I felt I could have swapped a few chickens or a pig if I had them in my pack.
Three days after buying silver, I was completely silvered out. We were ready to head north to Jalisco County, where many villages produce different items from furniture, glass, pottery and wrought iron.
We stayed in Tlaquepaque, a beautiful old town full of Ornate mansions in the town centre, which used to serve as a weekend homes for the elite of Guadalajara. Today, they have all been turned into high-end restaurants and boutiques showing wares from the surrounding areas. This is a great place to start looking at what crafts are available and new designs from the local artisans.
The next day we left the elegance of Tlaquepaque for the hustle and bustle of Tonala, the main artisan village where all dusty workshops are spread along the roadsides into the old town square. Tonala is famous for its recycled glass. Unfortunately, this has been slowly changed over to the aluminum cans that you see now scattered all over the Mexican roadsides. A quick visit to my glass supplier and they again have loads of new designs of glasses, jugs bowls and heart decorations showing the new colour combinations and patterns they have been working on.
The terracotta pottery from Mexico is world famous and comes from the Tonala area, and, like any handicraft Mecca, they have adapted their skills to supply styles and in fashions for the Western markets. I found a few amazing new suppliers, whose antique finishes on the pots are so good they look like original antiques.
When I visit my old terracotta pot supplier, the pots are stacked to the ceiling awaiting my requested finish. One little earthquake shimmer and it feels like the whole lot could come tumbling down, I keep checking my exit route is clear as I am shown around the new designs on offer.
Mexicans have a national holiday to celebrate on November first: The Day of the Dead is a weeklong holiday when the souls of the dead return to be with their family for one night. The celebration is not sad and dreary. Mexicans poke fun at the celebration and use it in their art, literature and music. That’s one reason why toys and candies made in the shape of skulls and skeletons are so common in this season. I see so many woodcarvings of masks; silver jewelry made in the shape of skulls and is fun to see how the Mexicans have a different outlook for death.


Like all my buying trips I am packing on the last night and trying to contact suppliers for the updated invoices and chasing down suppliers who I have not managed to meet up with or find their factories. Most of the orders are in, and I need to work on the new orders and designs by e-mail over the following few weeks to make sure the container is jammed packed to make it cost effective.
As the plane takes off from Guadalajara, I’m exhausted from two weeks of solid shopping. I’m excited on my new finds and designs from the trip and can’t wait to see them unpacked and on show in the Arawak interior shop and Arawak surf boutiques, and eventually in Caribbean homes.

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