Tocuaro, Mich., Mexico
Town devoted to hat makingAll around Lake Patzcuaro, there are little villages, each with its own specialty. Jaracuaro is just such a town. When lake levels were higher, Jaracuaro was an island, but now it is a dry hump of land sitting in a swamp, connected by a causeway. It is a desperately poor community that rarely gets tourists, so poor there aren't even any food stands at the plaza in front of the church. The people are friendly and absolutely delighted to share their world. This little hat factory was housed in a covered patio with a dirt floor. It had two sewing machines and a steaming machine to stiffen the straw hats. They sell for 30-50 pesos, less than four dollars apiece. People in the town braid the fiber strips by hand, these people sew the strips into hats, and others take the hats to market. The woman in pink invited us to her home to listen to her father and children sing us songs in the Purehepecha language.