Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - I have been going to El Tuito since the early 70's when I would arrive after commuting by panga from Yelapa to Boca; the combination of the early morning sea mist followed by a steep mountain rise by car toward the pines 1500 feet above often led to kind of indolence that seemed a form of sleeping sickness which lasted an hour. Following a quick nap we were ready for the day; celebrating the Virgin in January, collecting gondos in April and plums in May, or delivering health clinics in June before the rains made the roads impassable to the ranchos.
El Tuito has been the center of the Municipio de Cabo Corrientes for several hundred years and has remained much the same for as long; a dry, breathless cowboy town where one loads up on provisions before heading to the coast.
While Cabo Corrientes is just 90 minutes south of its wealthy neighbor, it remains one of the poorest municipalities in Jalisco. As of late, El Tuito has some new gifts to offer, making a day trip de riguer, including some eateries on the square that offer foods like chanfaina, pelliscadas and panela along with old breakfast favorites like chilaquiles, café and raicilla with milk still warm from the cow's teat.
The latest shop to open is a jewel called Galería Coppelia. The curators are Maria Santander and Rodrigo Garcia, who live in El Tuito and have brought to life a gathering place where artisans working in all media cooperatively offer their art at affordable prices.
When we visited the gallery a few weeks ago we sampled a vanilla, coffee and chocolate liqueur while we shopped in the 125-year old adobe house which has been carefully restored and is lovingly patrolled by the obvious caretaker, Sweenie the dog.
Maria and Rodrigo are enthusiastic hosts who are dedicated to giving back to a community that has so clearly nourished them. Maria's father was the Mexican playwright Felipe Santander, and her mother is Miranda Collet, a featured artist at the gallery. As one views the paintings, masks, ceramic figurines, textiles and jewelry, Maria's knowledge of art and crafts is evident. Rodrigo's father is a long time leader in the community.
While visiting each special room in the gallery I touched textiles from Mexico, India, Guatemala, and enjoyed the lyrical paintings and quirky hand painted furniture that made me wish I had a few extra rooms in my house. Traditional, hand-made pre-Columbian replicas of figurines of west México are available for purchase along with jewelry, masks and mirrors.
While there is plenty of shopping in the Bahía, there are few galleries as eclectic, affordable and as worthy of your time and inspection. The many different arts and crafts items displayed at GaleríaCoppelia will surely find their way into your hands - and your purchase will support local families.
A relaxed round trip to El Tuito requires a day; its about a 90 minute drive from downtown Vallarta. Leave in the morning and arrive in time for breakfast on the square at Mario's, then head over to Galería Coppelia, located behind the square at Calle Galeana #2.
Galería Coppelia is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm, or any other time by appointment. For more information, call (322) 269-0210 or email marisancollet(at)gmail.com.
Dr. Leslie Korn specializes in integrative mind body medicine for the treatment of PTSD and chronic illness. She did her graduate training at Harvard Medical School where she introduced bodywork to the department of psychiatry and conducted ethnobotanical research on Papaya. She began her research in Cabo Corrientes in 1974, and was a 2009-2010 Mexico Fulbright scholar. She currently divides her time between PV and Washington. To learn more about her work, visit DrLeslieKorn.com.
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