Tlalpujahua, Michoacán – where it’s Christmas all year round

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Tlalpujahua, a “Pueblo Mágico” in Michoacán, has a rather unusual feel to it… it seems to be Christmas here all year round. Once a thriving mining town, it has now become famous for its handmade Christmas ornaments, mainly glass-blown “esferas” or balls for hanging on Christmas trees. In fact, they export millions around the world, especially to the USA and Canada.

About a two-hour drive from Mexico City, Tlalpujahua welcomed us with dazzling blue skies and its clear mountain air. It is a pretty little colonial town set in the mountains of Michoacán, with cobbled streets, open squares and a beautiful pink church overlooking the houses below it.

We began by photographing the Convento de San Francisco close to the square with gardens and a “kiosko” in the centre. It has a peaceful interior cloister with a fountain and pots of geraniums adding a splash of color. We then made our way up towards the main square with its arcades and small shops lining the streets. Several of the streets were full of stands selling a large variety of Christmas ornaments made by some of the 250 families who live around the town. In small houses or workshops, whole families do the glass-blowing, the dipping in paint and decorating all by hand. 

Above the main square was the unmistakeable Iglesia de El Carmen, a large pink church, probably one of the most beautiful in the country. The interior was a photographer’s dream, with ornate ceilings and walls decorated with flower motifs. The front façade also has some unusual “mermaid-type” figures.

Next we paid a visit to Sant Claus’ House where thousands of shiny ornaments of every shape and color tempt you to pile up your basket to take some of the locally-produced decorations home with you. We too fell under the spell and came out with boxes and bags protecting our delicate purchases. Upstairs, at La Terraza, we had the best views over the town and lunch.

On the way back down, we stopped to look inside crafts shops and checked out the local fruit preserves and drinks, before finding ourselves in a large building with scores of  stands selling glass balls and other ornaments. Most of the craftsmen making the ornaments were having their lunch break while we were there and so we didn’t see them actually making the products (we have seen them on other occasions) but it isn’t hard to find a small workshop open where you can photograph the process.

Our last stop was to see the Torre del Carmen, just outside the town, a lone bell-tower sticking up in the middle of a field, the only part left of the chapel after a mining landslide swept down through the town in 1937 killing many and burying half of the town.

Tlalpujahua is a charming little town with so much to photograph and see and with a rich historical past and we could have easily spent much more time there. We returned to Mexico City with our cameras’ memory cards full.


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