|Carved wood masks, clay “trees of life,’’ religious icons and more at the shop Zocalo. (Necee Regis for The Boston Globe)|
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico - High in the Sierra, this colonial town is a popular destination for US travelers and retired expats. The historic center, a UNESCO heritage site, is filled to brimming with shops selling trinkets, art, and crafts, and with restaurants, boutiques, and bars.
After a month spent wandering San Miguel de Allende’s hilly cobblestone streets, we found our hands-down favorite shop for quality crafts. Just a few blocks down from El Jardin (The Garden), the town’s main square, Zócalo offers handcrafted artisan wares at reasonable prices.
Step in from the street to a series of rooms, each painted a bright yellow ochre that’s a perfect backdrop for the vibrant array of clay figurines, decorative plates and platters, confetti glassware, glossy ceramic pineapples, candles, and the dizzyingly complex “trees of life,’’ storytelling tableaus made of painted clay. If religious iconography is your thing, the shop is a good source for retablos (devotional paintings on tin), brightly painted nativities, and Day of the Dead candelabras and papier-mâché sculptures. Carved wood masks cover one wall, with images of devils, cheetahs, horned rams, and angry half-human, half-animal faces with bright red tongues.
And you needn’t worry about getting things home; they’ll tally the cost and ship anything anywhere.
Zócalo, Hernandez Macias 110, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 011-52-415-152-0663, www.zocalotx.com