Deep in the southernmost part of Mexico lay the remarkable rainforests of the Yucatán. It's a dense territory is quite unlike anything I've experienced in Mexico. The topography is incredibly luscious, where large pieces of earth have crumpled across this sacred land giving way to underground water channels that reveal glorious swimming holes the Mayans call “cenotes”. Nothing we will do in the Yucatán will remove the pleasure of these beautiful swimming holes.
Meanwhile: ancient temples stoically pierce the lush jungle canopy as they reach into the summer sky. The glassy waters of the Caribbean press against the edge of the dense peninsula crafting an air of mystery and intrigue.
The air is thick, humid and viscous. The somewhat imposing humidity forces any wanderer towards town in search of nourishment. We oblige willingly. The humble thoroughfare entertains a variety of shops in-between several small eateries boasting hand made tortillas and indigenous roasted meats.
Petite (and surprisingly square) caramel skinned natives cook on open planchas filling the already dense air with the odor of earthy spices that force an already aching anticipation. Having grown up so close to the Baja California border, I am vaguely familiar with this setting yet it is clear we are in a place with its own identity. We find a good spot to dive into this rich culinary experience and we order…everything. Again and again.
This kind of work needs fuel, and I've finally reconciled that I could eat authentic Mexican food A L L D A Y ---> E V E R Y D A Y
Besides the native cuisine, even the sounds of the town are different here. With sharp clicks and round vowels the Mayan language takes shape making the most common expressions seem bygone and sacred. Ebbing in and out of a dialect they have carried down from their ancestors and the familiar arrangement of Spanish (my sister and I speak) we connect with the locals somewhere between eye contact and theatrical hand gestures. I feel somewhat like a happy idiot and have no shame in my attempts to speak LA Spanish to Mayan locals. Sometimes I win-sometime sI loose.
**Mayan (we learned) is a language that is not taught in any schools but is passed on from generation to generation.
Draped across the small one road town-center bright colors and beautifully hand made items from across the region burst out into the street.
The inspiring craftsmanship of their wares beg you to empty your wallet at every turn. We resist as much as we can, and find ourselves obliging to items we just "have to have", but no idea how to carry home with us.
Beautiful things are everywhere. It's overwhelming. However-It took us three days however, to find Juan. He is an artist and we knew it the moment we spotted his work in town.
We noticed his technique in one of the high end boutiques in Tulum town that just seemed different from the rest of the street art. This guy is an artisan and we have to locate him- and buy EVERYTHING. His work was showcased in waterfront properties where New Yorkers and Angelinos like ourselves “rough it” in glorious casitas and villas situated on the beach that lack basic comforts (electricity, hot showers, and even sometimes private lavatories). Our villa, however, was absolute bliss, except for the midnight battle with an uninvited black scorpion (story for another day).
This little slice of heaven is a beautiful in every way. There is a hotel road that is a haven for ex-pats from across the globe and a refuge for city kids like ourselves. Culinary experts and urban hippies have found a utopia in the town of Tulum. We don’t blame them and one day dream of joining them.
I’ve always been drawn towards street art and it is this cornerstone that we began this little company upon-in as much as it is always my desire to find the actual artisans, to see what and how they do it so that we can support them directly.
So of course, we wandered around the town investigating for a few days asking many questions of store owners and unsuspecting informants. With as much information we could gather we set out into the jungle for answers.
After traversing the are we were told we ‘d find the maker of these special pieces (about an hour or so down a roughly paved road and down a dirt pathway behind a hand built display stand at the edge of the street) we found him. Juan is a good soul. He’s our kind of people. The kind of guy who would sit at our table for Sunday dinner.
Juan and his wife sustain their family like most Mayans-through the good work of their hands. Small fingers delicately weave carefully curated colored strings around dried vines that shape their unparalleled dreamcatchers.
They adorn these exceptional ornaments with colorful feathers, seashells from the shoreline and sometimes strips of wonderfully soft un-dyed leather. We were so overwhelmed- we bought... a lot.
It’s funny how we always gravitate toward individuals like him in any country in any language wherever we go. We will continue to support him and his family by importing these gorgeous dream catchers as a part of our permanent collection.
It was along our route to find Juan we discovered the best food in Quintana Roo at a roadside stand en route to Coba.
Brenda and her mother labor effortlessly over the most incredible roasted chicken I have ever tasted. They blessed us the last time I was in the area with the best meal I’d had in years and I’ve been thinking about her ever since. It was a great pleasure to bring my sister here to enjoy her heartfelt hospitality and shocking humility as she presents the exquisite dishes she and her mom pour their souls into.
They fed us a ridiculous feast those three days as we were searching for Juan and sent us to family members to wove beautiful tapestries and hammocks.
However...It occurs to me that these women are the reason we find ourselves here on the side of this very road. They spend their days filling people's lives with the appetite of their own hearts and send them off sustained, renewed and refreshed. We too are in search of living a life with this kind of passion and simplicity. It is also our deepest desire to live a life that brings joy with things that we too have made with our hands.
We stumbled upon so many other great creators who poured out their colors into striking pieces of woven fabrics and intricate objects that we could not bear to leave behind. And trust my suitcases-we didn't.
The only surprising absentees from this part of the world were the standard panhandlers hustling voyagers for change or handouts. We didn’t see one person living in visible poverty for the seven days we moved across the region. Although their lives were visibly modest, the entire culture emoted an affecting energy of happiness.
Perhaps its because the ancient Mayans have always just known that there is an abundantly rich life in the workmanship of ones hands…
We wanted to capture this intention and keep it with us always. So-in the only way we knew one might carry their secrets with us, we collected as many textiles and tapestries we could manage to haul across the border. It was not an easy feat!
This truly was an incredibly rich experience and we have refashioned and formed these hand woven items into beautiful accents that we share with you in our Yucatán collection. It is our deepest hope that we might embody their essence in creating a collection that will captivate and share the gorgeous spirit of these ancient splendors with you.