Also Read: About Patzcuaro’s Lakeside Villages
Tocuaro is just a 20-minute drive around the lakeside (clockwise around the Lake) from Patzcuaro, on the left hand-side of the roadway.
Although Tocuaro appears to be just another sleepy village along the road around Lake Patzcuaro, the town is home to internationally-renowned traditional mask makers.
Masks were used in pre-Hispanic times during religious ceremonies and are often used to represent people or animals and to tell stories. After the Spanish Conquest, mask makers began to incorporate symbols and stories from the Catholic Church.
Today in Tocuaro, masks run the gamut from traditional Purepecha designs, to Christian images, to political caricatures. All of the masks are manifested from the creativity and imagination of the local mask makers who have been practicing their trade here for centuries.
Browse: Tocuaro Picture Gallery
Fine Masks: Tocuaro’s Key Attraction
Tocuaro’s main street from the highway to the church is lined with mask making workshops; cottage-like enterprises which are run inside of the homes of local artisans. There are also a few additional workshops along the side streets.
The Horta family dominates the trade and the talent in town. Look for signs advertising mascaras, knock on the door, and then ask to see their work and/or a demonstration.
Juan Horta, considered the recent father of the trade, passed away in December of 2006, but his family continues to show his work and that of his sons. His workshop is two blocks down the main street on the left hand side.
His widow can tell you about his life as a mask-maker, the symbolism he incorporated in his work (snakes for luck, owls for wisdom, iguanas for beauty) and the struggles her sons face in continuing the trade.
Juan’s brother, Felipe, owns the first shop on the right and he and his wife are very welcoming people, although they don’t speak English. He allows tourists to take pictures, encourages people to get their hands dirty and try to do some carving, and will even offer you the chance to test this theory – that after a week of lessons, you too can be a mask maker.
A good mask currently costs several hundred dollars, so be sure to stop by an ATM in Patzcuaro before you head off. Most mask makers accept US dollars in cash, but no artisans accept credit, debit or AMEX cards or traveler’s checks.
Tocuaro’s climate is similar to nearby Patzcuaro. The village is quite high up in the mountains (just under 7,200ft) so it can get chilly in the mornings and evenings of the cooler months between October and April; bring warm clothing with you during these months. Most of the time, this region enjoys a warm, and at times wet, spring-like climate.
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