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Dolores Hidalgo

Where art mirrors life

“Each one is different and each one contains different elements that I see from nature,” says an artisan who’s showing us the unique process of making Talavera ceramics. “I see the birds, the flowers, the colors. They all go into my art, into what I do.”

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We’re visiting Dolores Hidalgo, a village 45 minutes from San Miguel de Allende. One glimpse outside of the artisan’s exuberantly cluttered studio, and we can see just what he means. This village matches the vibrant colors and bold patterns of the ceramics for which it is famous.

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The artisan slowly traces patterns across a vase using a thin paintbrush loaded with black pigment. His delicate lines will be filled by three assistants brandishing a variety of colors. The hues start off subtle—opaque and pastel—but once they’re put through the kiln, they emerge in the hot, bright palette that distinguishes Talavera.

 

The hues start off subtle—opaque and pastel—but once they’re put through the kiln, they emerge in the hot, bright palette that distinguishes Talavera.

The artisan tells us that some visitors look at the unfired ceramics and wish they could preserve the original colors of the paint. “That isn’t real Talavera,” he says. “It has to go through the fire and the real colors come out once the glass-infused paint is activated under extreme heat. You can’t just do it halfway.”

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Outside, the bright sun activates Dolores Hidalgo’s equally vivid structures. The village sits at 6,480 feet, a bit higher than San Miguel. It’s time for some helado—ice cream—which is another of Dolores Hidalgo’s specialities. The classic flavor is mantecado, but we’re also offered tastes of the equally beloved piñón, pistachio, strawberry, mango, and chocolate varieties. Then the ice cream purveyors teasingly tempt us with experimental flavors too; there’s chicharrón, tequila, cactus, and other curious selections.

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We retire to the park with helado scoops in hand, and watch the activity all around us. There is so much energy contained here, such a variety that it can only be matched by the kaleidoscopic patterns of the Talavera. A young woman walks by with a grin on her face, carrying a styrofoam cup with a straw. It’s local code for, “I’m having a michelada before 5:00 pm, thank you very much.” In this place, art seamlessly mirrors life.