Obsession – San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua

I have written before about our craft obsession: alebrijes in Mexico, textiles in Guatemala, not to mention woodworking and pottery in travels past. We aren’t out trying to find things to buy and we avoid tchotchkes at all costs, but we have had ceramics on the brain ever since we visited the Ortiz-Gurdián museum in León. During a routine sightseeing trip to the museum we came across a collection of ceramics from San Juan de Oriente and have been planning to stop in at some point before we left Nicaragua. The town is one of a handful of towns collectively known as the Pueblos Blancos, each of which features its own signature craft (paintings, wood carvings, clothing, leather, etc).

We were still settled in Granada with no intention of getting back on the bikes just yet, and decided that a day trip to San Juan was in order. This excursion happened to coincide with our discovery that we were hosting bedbugs once again. We spent the morning laundering all of our clothes, spraying down the furniture with a thick layer of insecticide, and bagging everything else in industrial sized black garbage bags to sit in the hot, bedbug-killing sun. It was definitely a good day to get out of town.

We took a local bus instead of the bikes, as we planned on coming back heavily laden with breakables, and arrived in San Juan through a combination of microbuses and tuk-tuks just in time for a showy thunderstorm. We had been suffering through some brutal heat for days without respite, but the one day that we planned to spend walking around was grey, wet, and chilly. This just forced us to be more focused in our ceramic-browsing strategy. The town itself is only a few square blocks, most of which are private homes, although it seems that nearly everyone either made or sold ceramics or knew someone who did. We made a very thorough survey of all the shops in town and realized that some of the best ones were the first we had seen where we had been dropped off near the highway. We spent hours walking around the town, making mental lists of our favorite pieces, then realized that everyone was packing up and the sky was getting dark. We sprang into action, scooping up our favorites and maybe an impulse buy or two. We spent less than $50 for four very beautiful hand-thrown, hand-painted pieces. I think this might be the end of our craft shopping for this trip. It’s pricey to send stuff back to the States and we are reaching capacity in our imaginary home- it seems a bit silly to keep acquiring things when we are still so many months away from having a place to put them.

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