San Carlos Stories and Tips

Searching for Mayan Carpetes

Mayo weavers bringing their ware Photo, San Carlos, Mexico

If you want to purchase authentic woolen items crafted by indigenous people in a secluded Mayo village, visit Masaica. You'll need basic Spanish skills, a four-wheel drive, plenty of pesos and a sense of adventure!

Located off Highway 15 halfway between Oberdon and Los Mochis, it's a bit tricky to find. We left Alamos at 10:30am, turned south on Highway 15 and looked for a small sign indicating the turn (left) soon after the toll booth at 11:45am. The dirt road immediately forks, stay right. It was so rugged with washboards and ruts that a bicyclist had blown a tire. After stopping and trying to help him fix it we followed the road three miles until it reached an unmarked paved road. Turn left, and continue past the first obvious village you see on your right for one more mile. Another village appears on the right. This is Masaica. Turn in, drive past the tidy concrete homes with stick fences, and gradually make your way left through the village. Look for a snack stand, your best bet for finding someone who knows the directions for the dirt road leading to women selling "carpetes."

Don't be surprised if the locals don't know the way. It's not a store you're looking for.

We got directions from employees at the second snack shack and followed a sandy bumpy road that took us out of the village past a few scattered homes, and down through two arroyos, or gulleys. As we ascended the second hill, the landscape reminded us of Africa. Wide open barren land with scrubby trees and little concrete mud huts. A woman emerged from a home and approached us to see what we wanted. Her children, in somewhat tattered attire, trailed behind her, eyes wide and listening. She motioned for us to follow and led us to a patio, where a few garishly painted turtles and frogs were sitting on a bench, and gestured us to stay. Her husband came out with an armful of plastic containers and began demonstrating their dandy use.

But where were the carpetes?

We were having a bit of a communication breakdown. We wanted Mayo rugs, not plastic egg baskets. An uncomfortable pause lengthened. We looked at each another and attempted other stabs at our request. Was our pronunciation that bad? They weren't understanding our Spanish, or at least not acknowledging it. They just stood there watching us. Perhaps, we decided–conversing in English–should we make a few purchases and hightail it out of there?

Unbeknownst to us, a young child had run ahead to other villagers. Just when our feigned interest in their souvenirs was waning, we saw three women shuffling across the sand, balancing something on their heads. Aha!

They presented us with four choices. All were thick and heavy. Each rug took approximately four-six weeks to weave from homemade yarn. They shared the same natural colors–gray, brown, blue and beige–but differed slightly, as all Mayo rugs do, unless they are commercially mass produced. The largest two had brown and cream stripes with fringe for pesos equivalent to $600 US dollars. The other two, roughly 4x6, had zigzag borders with differing butterfly patterns, the traditional design of their region, for $300. David bowed out of the debate, leaving Scott and I to decide. We selected our rugs, and I agreed to a heavy oversized poncho, but too large to actually wear, from an elderly lady.

The money exchange turned out to be rather humorous when we realized that we might not even have that kind of cash on hand. What were we thinking? That they'd take Visa, Mastercard? Maybe have a cash machine? We rummaged through the truck looking for pesos, and dollars, combining our resources and sorting our money in little stacks.

We gathered quite a crowd. Once we thought we had it, one of the Mayo ladies counted it, but came up with a different amount. Scott counted it again. So did the lady. Again, different amounts. Soon they were spreading the cash all over the sand and were counting again. The repeating scenario struck me funny. I pictured us as a cartoon, entitled, "What not to do in a foreign country."

We would've been mortified to have every cent we owned strewn out in front of anyone but these gentle Mexicans. And as it turned out, the peso dollar conversion confusion was finally understood. The Mayo woman counted out a wad of pesos and firmly placed them in Scott's hand. There was laughter all around. We had been trying to overpay by eighty.

Returning to our truck, an elderly lady followed us, and asked where we were going. "Los Mochis," Scott said, thinking of the four hour drive ahead.

She muttered something about needing a ride, and proceeded to get in the front seat. Scott shot David a look. A ride where?

"Is it far?" David asked her in Spanish.

"Si," she said, pointing ahead.

Scott began to panic. She couldn't ride all the way to Los Mochis with us. With wide movements he waved his arms, "Ohhh, no, no, no."

But she fastened her seatbelt and looked straight ahead. David asked where she needed to go.

"La tienda," she said.

"Hey, she wants to go to the store," David said. "To buy soap. That's just up the road. Not far from here but a long walk for her."

Scott shrugged his shoulders and climbed in. Anywhere was a long walk from here, he agreed. We could at least take her there.

We bumped along the dusty landscape, passed through the first, then second arroyo, and came to a general store on the outskirts of the village. Was this it?

She shook her head no and pointed straight ahead.

We continued through the village and she settled back, content. The last concrete home disappeared as we pulled out onto the highway. Scott became nervous. Okay... now what?

But her intentions soon became clear. She tapped Scott's arm and pointed to the side of the highway where people were gathered at a bus stop.

"Do you want to stop here?" David asked in Spanish.

She grinned. "Si!"

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