The following morning we struck out east to Dolores Hidalgo. A simple town of no aesthetic appeal, sitting out on the barren plain, this village is best known for its craft tradition in Talavera tile, or hand-made painted tiles. We park the car and head down the side streets to the many small workshops; each individual shop known for its own pattern and unique glaze. The men stamp the tiles out of wet clay and the women sit painting geometric and floral patterns by hand in pinks, greens, and blues. Kilns work by night to fire the finished tiles, their imperfections treasured for their uniqueness in color and texture.
We then seek out the warehouses of reclaimed architectural materials from buildings now gone; carved beams, doors and headers, rustic shutters and grilles sandblasted and bleached by time. When we ask how they achieve the beautiful darken stained patina on finished doors and beams we are lead to the backyard where we find young men slathering the wood with well-used motor oil.
After loading up with samples and pictures, we then head to our final destination with anticipation, San Miguel de Allende, a town long favored by wintering Texans. Nestled between a lake and an extinct volcano, the town speaks the language of Latin charm; the pink, vermillion and ochre tones glow in the afternoon light. Bougainvillea adorns the colored walls, and carved ficus and palm trees are punctuated by Colonial Spanish domes, and most glorious- the gothic spire of the cathedral, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel.
We check into our hotel- quite luxurious compared to our past few evenings. The open air loggias and gardens with guest sipping cocktails and smoking cigars takes us back in time; I could see a young Goodhue here spinning a tale of his travels for a charmed señorita. It is a world to be explored with fountained courtyards and stairs leading to hidden roof terraces over-looking the town square.
We are invited for a cocktail by a friend of Don’s, a local architect, and are excited to meet her. Along a cobbled street of brightly colored walls we are invited into a timeless paradise.
Her own casa, an example of her work restoring 18th century courtyard houses; houses of interiors of warmth and charm with spectacular courtyards overflowing with bougainvillea, geraniums, ferns and palms, interjected with the occasional modern addition of a swimming pool or dining terrace.
I was left not only satiated by our journey South, but inspired. It was still some time before I had a hand at designing my own hacienda in South Texas. A somewhat less tropical affair, it was a hunting ranch in the rugged outlands of what was once known as ‘Dead Horse Desert’, but I was inspired nonetheless, and had finally found the opportunity to incorporate the unique hand-craft of our southern neighbor; hand-painted talavera, antique doors and shutters, and Claire’s copper lanterns lent the lodge an air of timeless authenticity.
Later a fireplace inspired by those of San Miguel de Allende anchored the living room of one of my homes in San Antonio.
Today, we continue to take advantage of the many talented craftsmen of Mexico that bring with them generations of careful craft and artistry.
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