Anyone who has been to the town of Patzcuaro-- even for only a day-- notices the dozens of shops that surround the Plaza Grande (the main shopping area) displaying brightly colored tablecloths, bedspreads, and napkins. Every restaurant and cafe table and most of the hotel beds in Patzcuaro are covered with the hand loomed textiles. They are in fact-- pardon the pun-- part of the fabric of the town's charming landscape. All of the textiles seem to be made by the Adame family, but the cousins and in-laws involved in the industry are not necessarily working together; it seems that they actually don't even all know each other. It's kind of strange. But anyway…most tourists will buy something at one of the shops, at least a few napkins, because they're pretty easy to throw in one's suitcase. I have bought several pieces over the years, and regularly use them at my home in California. Cotton napkins and tablecloths that are affordable and can be machine washed and dried are a rarity here in the U.S. I have bought a few tablecloths for customers, and friends and family too, but that has been problematic; getting the right color and size for other folks can be challenging. So is finding a shop there that wants to ship an order to the U.S. After several years of discussions and attempts with various well-meaning and seemingly serious textile business owners, I was about to give up on the idea. I could never get anyone to tell me for starters 1)how much it would cost to ship to California and 2) how I could pay them. But then I received an email from a customer I've never met, with a very specific request for a Patzcuaro tablecloth, and I decided to give it one more try. I promptly sent Ron a message and a photo. Ron is an expat who I met the past summer, and like most of the expats in Patzcuaro, usually isn't super busy. So I asked Ron if by any chance, he was going to be walking down to Centro soon for coffee or groceries and if so could he please do me a big favor and see if any of the shops near there have a tablecloth like the one in the photo. Ron said he'd be happy to help. Within a few hours I received a detailed account of his search for the tablecloth I requested (no luck) followed by more emails with notes about dimensions available, conversations about delivery times, photos of some styles, and even scans of some business cards. Ron was really into this! So I proposed we talk more about doing some business together, which we did a few days later. And then Ron and I put together a scheme and he went about buying some cotton napkins, and he proceeded to conduct an experiment to see how we could transport the textiles and what it would cost. Here's Ron's theory about Mexico: "Nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, is ever straightforward in Mexico. And that theory seems to apply to something as pedestrian as napkins."
Long story short, the private companies like FedEx are ridiculously expensive and therefore not cost effective for us, so the Mexican correos (the post office) which has long held a reputation for being slow and incompetent was really our only viable option. FedEx promised to deliver in 3 days but cost 4 times as much. Really? $58 to mail 15 cloth napkins? So, on three separate days, Ron sent three packages to me containing cloth napkins from the Patzcuaro post office. I received 2 out of 3, within two weeks, which I consider pretty good. The first one he sent on November 26, still hadn't arrived by Jan. 8th. According to the "track and trace" widget on the correos website, the box didn't arrive at the airport in Mexico City until Dec. 22, which is 26 days later. So, after 42 days, I decided to check the website again, and the information was the same. According to the site, the box was last seen on Dec. 22 in Mexico City. I noticed there was a place to contact them with a question, and knowing full well that it was a real long shot I'd get an answer, I sent a short email with my question: "Where is this box?" --followed by the tracking number. Amazingly, I received a note early the next morning from the Correos Mexicanos telling me that the box had arrived at the Richmond, CA facility on Jan. 9-- that very morning. No way! At this point I stopped thinking about my package for a moment and had to marvel at the customer service and technological capabilities just exhibited by a government entity I had assumed, like most people do, was totally and completely dysfunctional. A few hours later there was a knock at my door. There it was-- box #3, which actually was box #1, with the remaining napkins in our Patzcuaro textile experiment.
It was a Mexican miracle.