2015 MAR – TALPA

Talpa cathedral by night

Talpa cathedral by night

Talpa is inland from Banderas Bay involving a 4-hour drive over questionable roads and hair raising mountain passes. We climbed to peaks so high and dropped to valleys so low that my ears popped the whole time. Eventually I took to chewing gum in order to stabilize my ear drums.

Talpa is renown in Mexico for 3 things: (1) as a religious Mecca for pilgrims, (2) for their guava candy, and (3) their resin which is the basis of all Chiclets gum.

Talpa, way down in the valley

Talpa, way down in the valley

I noticed as we drove towards the town that there was a smooth, well laid sidewalk from at least 5-miles out of town. It was so surprising to see a neat sidewalk basically laid in the middle of nowhere. However, the reason became clear – the pilgrims walk for days to reach Talpa, and they do the final 5-mile approach to the town on their knees. Pilgrims come to ask the Virgin Mary to intercede for them, usually on behalf of a loved one. Perhaps they have a dying parent, or a deathly ill child, or an imminent divorce. Whatever their level of personal pain, they choose to crawl to the cathedral on their knees, as they pray – hence the neat sidewalk stretching for miles outside the town.

Cathedral door detail

Cathedral door detail

Once they reach the cathedral they directly pray to the Virgin. And also, to enhance their plea for intercession, the pilgrim can pay a Mariachi band to sing to the Virgin. We were fortunate to enter the cathedral just as the band started singing a heartfelt, lilting, pleading song to the Virgin Mary as they all stood before the alter. It was very moving and Francisco and I sat mute as we watched the band sing and the pilgrims weep.

The Virgin Mary

The Virgin Mary

As we left the cathedral, a hearse and funeral procession with Mariachi band in tow, plus a bunch of cowboys on ponies, arrived and they all entered the church.

Cowboys arriving for a funeral

Cowboys arriving for a funeral

Talpa parking lot

Talpa parking lot

About an hour later as we explored Talpa we saw the sad procession walking behind the hearse, probably heading for the cemetery. Much later that evening we were strolling thru the plaza and the Mariachi band was playing joyful music and the mourners were drinking tequila. I started to walk towards the “party” but Francisco rapidly steered me away. He said that was the band with the mourners and they would be very angry if a stranger intruded on their Wake. They might even attack me, he said, because they were all pretty drunk by now. Well, that convinced me and I followed Francisco away.

Boiled guava mush from the cauldron being spread onto wooden plank

Boiled guava mush from the cauldron being spread onto wooden plank

The second thing Talpa is famous for is their guava desert/candy, guayabate. We visited a facility where they were making the candy and even though I was interrupting them, the workers generously explained their process. They start the process with small yellow guavas (unlike the large pink guavas we have in South Africa) and toss them into a rotating copper cauldron which is heated from below. This “melts” the guavas into a thick mushy broth whilst also killing any bacteria, etc.

Drying rack

Drying rack

After a few hours, the mush is removed from the cauldron and laid on long wooden boards covered with a layer of plastic.

Slicing and sugaring the hardened mash / candy

Slicing and sugaring the hardened mash / candy

The mush is smoothed out on the wooden board and the board is then placed on racks to dry. 24 hours later the mush has hardened and it is then sliced, rolled in sugar, and wrapped in plastic for sale. The stuff is DELICIOUS!

Resin fashioned into hats and butterflies, etc

Resin fashioned into hats and butterflies, etc

The third thing Talpa is famous for is its resin. It is extracted from trees and a small amount, relatively speaking, is used to fashion tourist goodies, but the vast amount of resin is shipped to Chiclets as the basis for their chewing gum.

Once again Francisco had me sipping a variety of different drinks and eating tasty meals. At one point Francisco said his taco was filled with cows lips and cheeks, so after that I stopped asking what I was eating, and just enjoyed the meal. I figured ignorance is bliss when it came to the content of my tacos.

 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: