Because we are traveling with our elderly mothers, we have ruled out small-boat rides, eco-tourism, and any vigorous cruise excursions. And, in any case, we are more interested in seeing old towns than anything else. We plan relaxed days in our four Mexican ports of call.
The first of these is Huatulco, in the Mexican province of Oaxaca. Huatulco is being newly developed for tourism. When I learned this during my pre-cruise research, I wasn’t much interested in this port of call, envisioning a modern town of mid- to high-rise buildings and little character. About a mile or so away from the port, however, there is an older town, La Crucecita, where an historical church dominates a traditional plaza and market area. We plan to visit this old town and then, if nothing else appeals, just head back to the ship. But we find we like both the old town and the new port area very much.
The ceiling and wall paintings inside the church at La Crucecita are beautiful.
The shops around the main square are engaging.
And the new port area of Santa Cruz is surprisingly appealing. The buildings around the port area are in fact new, but the development is low-rise, traditional in character, and completely charming.
Later, we take a break at a beach-side restaurant where Dan and I enjoy the best margarita ever, and where we admire the traditional (but not at all “touristy”) woven tablecloths. My mother buys an embroidered dress from a street vendor. To me it seemed “touristy” in the pile of such dresses, but when Mom puts it on, it’s stunning.
Later we all go our separate ways: Mom back to the ship, Dan walking along the beach, and I seeking out a handicraft boutique for which I’ve been given a brochure. The handicraft boutique is a pleasant two-block walk along the marina and back from the port area in a boldly painted yellow building (circled in red in the picture below).
Here I find a weavers’ shop. One man at the front is working an old wooden loom. Another welcomes me inside. I’ve been on this cruise long enough to be leary of welcoming shopkeepers, but this young man is not at all pushy. If anything, perhaps he’s a bit shy. So I go inside.
And behold! Tablecloths just like the ones we admired at the restaurant. Without hesitation and with only a little bargaining, I buy one of these in a size that will fit my dining room table fully extended. And behold, too! The rugs in this shop are beautiful. This is not the ubiquitous merchandise in the tourist shops down by the port; this is something so traditional and tribal it could be almost be a distant form of Persian rug-weaving.
When I admire the rugs, the young man takes out a book about Zapotec weaving (you can read a little about it on this Web site), and he tells me a little about himself. He is a Zapotec from a village some seven hours away. He lives with relatives in Huatulco most of the time and gets back home only two or three days a month. He misses his village, but his wife and little daughter are here with him, and the work is important, as he is one of only a few people in his village who can speak some English. Besides, he tells me, he likes learning about things that they don’t have in his village, like electricity and taxes. In his village, the people have been weaving for two thousand years. Children start learning the craft at age 7 or 8. When the shop is not busy, he also weaves. I very much want to return to Oaxaca some day and see much more of it.
The shopkeeper’s name is Gregorio Ruiz. Here he is with his family.
If you get there, say hello for me.