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We are traveling in Mexico again this winter of 2012
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

La Noria Leather Goods Factories

Saturday p.m.

Haven’t been doing too much the last few days so will continue catching up from earlier in the week. Continuing Tuesday’s outing
While at the tequila distillery The Driver was talking to the girls in the gift shop. When he mentioned we were on our way to La Noria one of them told him that her husband owned the little leather shop we always visit there. In fact last year Bill bought some pieces of leather from him. She said her name was Jessie and to tell him we had met her.

So of course we went to visit him. These are some photos from his leather shop. It is a very full small one room work/sales shop. He makes saddles – this is the wooden frame for a saddle – it is still in the shaping stage. Needs a lot of work yet to make it ready for the leather.
Saddle in the making - wooded under part
He had several belts he was working on. He was hand stamping the designs onto them. And putting the buckles and loops on them.

His young apprentice was staining them.
Work table and stains
He has worked here so long he has had to repair his chair. m on the table are some of the tools he uses

The Driver's legs in the background
Across the street from his shop is this nice looking building.

Pretty Outside
Until you look inside –things were not what they seemed from outside. This is a very common sight – really a shame – all these great places just going to ruin.
Not so pretty Inside
Just beyond this building is one of the other leather factories/shops we have visited before. The Driver is interested in working with leather so he was asking about buying some. They had a big piece of pig leather they showed him but it was too thick and stiff to do what Bill wants to do. So they took it to a machine out back to shave it some.
It's like a plainer for leather
But it was still too thick to use. Another look at the machine - probably older than me.

I’ve written about this place before and posted pictures of it but I always find something interesting to take another picture of. These metal things are the forms they use to cut out the soles for sandals

And this is their sewing machine. An old treadle used every day. On the wall are some purses for sale.
It's a Singer
We wanted our friend to see a really old shoe manufacture so we took a couple of side roads – always sharing them with our four footed friends
He's wondering where we're going.
This is another place I’ve posted about previously – but again it’s always interesting.

This is the outside – the building on the left – the brick one. It’s on a narrow street and has three big steep steps to go up into the workshop. In fact Bill had to move the Jeep so another vehicle could get down the street.
Factory on left - a home on the right.

There are three rooms. This one is mostly a storage area. Strips of leather for the making of the sandals, stirrups for saddles, finished and unfinished shoes.
Leather strips for making sandals
A large back room runs the length of the building. There the saddles are assembled on one side and just inside the door one man sits and pounds a big heavy staple like things into shoe soles. These hold the leather strips together.

Stack of soles and metal things he puts in them.
In the front room are a couple of tables and a sewing machine. While we were there Jessie’s husband from the small shop in town came over to use the sewing machine. This is his cousin’s place. Seems like everybody in town is related in some way.

I think he was putting together some kind of top for a more expensive sandal.
The guys working at the tables putting together the sandals they make there were from very young – 12 years old – to much older -60 maybe. The youngest boy was working alone the others at one big table.

The boy on the left is 20 he has been doing this for 6 years

Making the shoe The strips go through the metal staple like things then are braided together.

Here is a short video of the process. The strips are soaked in a bucket of water and vinegar to make them easier to work with. After they are woven together they are pounded to smooth them out then a cut lime is rubbed all over them to help condition the leather.
The older man on the right is in the process of making a shoe. The younger guy on the left is rubbing the cut lime over the leather.
Well that's all for tongiht. 

Friday, January 28, 2011


Thursday p.m.
After another busy day I'm still trying to catch up.
On Tuesday after leaving El Quelite we went towards La Noria stopping first at the Los Osuna Tequila Distillery. Last year when we went there they were shut down so we didn’t know what to expect. When we got to the parking lot there were a couple of cars there so we hoped we would be in luck. We were. As soon as we had we parked and stepped away from the car a young man jumped up from where he was sitting and offered to give us a private (no one else was there) tour of the distillery.
He first pointed out the beautiful grounds surrounding the distillery. Especially the huge Huanacaxtle trees growing there. The biggest one right in front is over 300 years old.
Tree is native to Mexico and Central America
Then he showed us some of the blue agave that is used to make the tequila. This one has several “sons” “or daughters.”
Blue Agave
Then he told us that Los Osuna tequila had won several awards in the San Francisco World Spirit Competition.

The distillery is family owned and has been in operation since 1876. The family first planted the blue agave used in the process in the 1860s. The agave plant has to grow for seven to eight years before it is harvested. Only the bulb or pineapple of the plant is used to make the tequila.
Pinas waiting to be cooked
The pineapple is put into big in-ground ovens and roasted. This transforms the starch into sugars and softens the fibers of the piñas to facilitate the extraction of their juice.
In-ground oven
The white piñas turn a caramel color while roasting and taste quite good. Very sweet.

Then they are shredded – our guide demonstrated how they used to be shredded. A big concrete/stone wheel pulled by two mules or burros ground them up. The juice flows through a pipe to be fermented.

Old shredding system
A short video of the old shredding process.

Now they use a big electric machine to do the job.
New shredder system
The juice then ferments in big wooden barrels for three days.
Fermenting in big barrel - smells kind of good
Then to the first of the two distilling processes. The first process called destronamiento yields a product called ordinary. Here is done in stainless steel tanks. Here it is being tested for its alcoholic content. Usually 40 – 45 percent. Today it was 27% - not enough yet. This leaves the liquid kind of milky and nasty smelling and tasting. Like medicine. Ick.
Measuring the alcoholic content
The second distillation, called rectification, is done in an old wooden distiller. When it reaches 80+% it is ready for further processing. By now it is a clear liquid and smells much better.
Getting closer
This is just a picture of the very old boiler the plant used to use.
Have a picture of new one - but who cares.
Next we walked towards the laboratory building. Here they produce the distilled water that is added to the liquor to lower the alcoholic content within guidelines.
Water producing room
And we got to look into the room where the aging barrels are stored. They use white oak only. And only store the tequila for about three years. The darker the tequila the longer it has been stored.
Oak Barrels for aging tequila
The Blanco, white tequila, has not been aged. It is bottled immediately.
The Añejo, aged tequila has been stored a minimum of one year, but less than three years in the oak barrels.
After our tour we were offered sips of their product. The Driver and I declined but Tom enjoyed a couple of sips.

Just a couple more pictures of the beautiful grounds.
After finishing our tour we continued on to the little town of La Noria.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tom's first day - lots of places to see

Thursday a.m.

Up real early this a.m. Sun was just coming up. A really beautiful sunrise but now it has cooled off and is getting really cloudy and dark over ocean.
Just starting to come up

In all its glory
We’ve been really busy the last few days. First off I’ve been having a little trouble with my stomach for a few days so after our busy day in Malpica and Copala I was kind of down and out Saturday and Sunday. Then our friend from Indiana got in Monday afternoon. He is here on vacation and we’ve been running him ragged.
First thing we did was take him to Fat Fish for ribs Monday night! Our friend from Mazatlan Angelica joined us for dinner. Had a good time eating and talking and planning Toms itinerary. So much to see and so little time.
Angelica and Tom dinner at Fat Fish -he looks like he is praying -maybe praying for strength after hearing everywhere we are going to take him.
Tuesday morning bright and early we picked him up from his hotel and headed inland to El Quelite for breakfast.
First we took him to visit with the ladies and guys who work in the bean sorting warehouse.
Every time we go there we learn something new about the process. There are two different batches of white type beans in the big bags stored there. The first and most expensive type is the bean that is harvested right off the plant. They are not broken or split and contain no rocks or other debris. The second type is what they sort. These are the beans that fall to the ground when the first batch is harvested. Then they are gathered up from the ground. That is why the beans themselves have to be picked out from the rubble from the dirt. They are split and broken and sell for less.
From there we went to our favorite restaurant for breakfast/lunch. Showed Tom the fancy dining rooms and restrooms and made sure we sat under the roof.
Just some of the interesting things there.
We reminded him about my encounter with the iguanas here. I noticed he kept looking up after that. But it was too cool for them to be out and about.
After eating we walked a couple of blocks to show him the cheese factory. (We ate some of the soft cheese with our meal.) Unfortunately they weren’t making any cheese that day.
Outside in the yard
But a truck had just pulled in to unload some barrels of milk.

Unloading truck - roosters on roof
While standing there talking to the workers we noticed that there were rooster cages on top of the factory. And much to our surprise out of the home behind us came the head lady from the bean warehouse. She told us that she and her husband own the ware house and their nephew owns the cheese factory and indeed those were fighting cocks in the cages on the roof. She called to him to bring a couple of them down to show them to us. He and his friend brought down a couple of beautiful birds. One rust colored

and one with gold neck feathers.
Beautiful birds
Then they held them facing each other so we could see the puff up their neck feathers. [No birds were hurt in demonstration.]

After the birds were put away we were offered some freshly made cheese. Had to refuse as we were not going back to the RV for quite a while and had no refrigeration with us.
Bowl of fresh cheese
Our friend, the owner of the warehouse, also told us we were welcome to stay at her home as she has two empty bedrooms upstairs, any time we are in town.

The Driver is sure handy to have around.
As we were getting ready to leave this gentleman came to visit with the workers.

Every day means of transportation
Next we drove up to the ranch where they raise many many fighting cocks but it was closed and all the birds were asleep in the shade under their huts. Oh we did find out from the nephew that the fighting cocks are raised on special food to muscle them up/out and they cost around US$100 when they are almost mature.
Stopped by the cemetery to marvel at the monuments and their colors.

From there we went up to the El Mirador – look out point.

Had never been there. The Driver could only get us part of the way up there then we had to walk a paved but winding path to the top.

steep windy path to top
Very nice view from up there.
Most of the town

Lots of farming
I was hoping that when we got back down to the car that it was back on the main road but he had waited for us and then backed down the narrow path back to the wider dirt road.
It was still quite early in the day so we continued to squire Tom around. Next stop the Tequilla Distillery and La Noria leather factories.