In case you do not have your plans set for the Holy Week vacation period here are some suggestions for this year. Because it is such a major holiday season in Mexico, many tourist destination have events during this week, and many have a section dedicated to Mexican handcrafts, with actual artisans and often with high-quality products (which usually sell out very fast) Here are three examples:
The Tianguis Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday Market) is a major event for the small city of Uruapan, in the heart of avocado-growing country, but still fairly unknown to tourists outside of Michoacan. While the market is worth going to on its own, there is much more, parades other events dedicated to the state’s indigenous peoples, a food market to die for and one of two of the state’s major handcrafts competitions. While there are events all week, for shopping, Palm Sunday is recommended as all the best stuff sells pretty much on the first day or so. The area does have a reputation for being unsafe as it is on the edge of the Tierra Caliente (where drug routes are) and the Michoacan highlands. However, I have been here and the town proper is quite safe, especially for this event. There are major hotels in the town center and most of the city is walkable.
The Festival de Cartonería (Paper Mache Fair) celebrates Mexico City’s tradition of making figures for celebrations and holidays such as piñatas, Judas effigies, skeletal figures and alebrijes. This annual event began only in 2012, but it has quickly become an important venue for a craft tradition that has not yet received its due. The event extends from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, but I recommend visiting on Saturday afternoon, when they “burn” (really explode) various effigies of Judas… either as the traditional devil figure or more creative images…often of politicians. It is one of still few events that can obtain permits for this activity.
Artisans all over the central valleys of Oaxaca will be out in force for the tourists with many different small exhibitions of local handcrafts. All of the towns with handcraft traditions such as San Bartolo Coyotepec, San Martin Tilcajete, Arrazola and others will have events during the week, especially on Easter weekend. A list of ferias and expos for the state can be seen here.
A newcomer to the Holy Week scene can be found in the small town of Zacualpan, Morelos. This is a sugar-cane growing area just east of the city of Cuautla. Handcraft-wise the town is best know for its paper mache work related to its annual Mojiganga event, where groups called cofradias compete with themed costumes with elaborate masks and other accesories which take the entire year to create. This is the first year for this particular event, which will resurrect the Burning of Judas in this area on Holy Saturday along with promoting the handcrafts of eastern Morelos state, including paper mache, ceramics, wax, and textiles including rebozos. Be sure to try the local aguardiente or sugar cane liquor, which holds its own against any rum. The burning of Judas will occur at 6pm on Holy Saturday at the town’s main square.