Friday, 16 November 2007

Boycott Manos Magicas in Puebla

Well, with doing my Spanish homework taking up lots of the time I can get at the computer, and our many weekend trips to different parts of the country, I feel like I'll never be able to catch up on all the stuff I'd love to share with you. I have figured out that I can't directly move my photos from iPhoto on Barry's Mac to my Picasa web page because he has an old version of the operating system - in fact he tells me he has the correct version in Australia but has not installed it. Short of buying it myself and trying to install, I am going to be stuck with the painful methods of moving individual photos to the blog and continually failing when I try to post a slide show or short video. When I look at the photos , much of the magic of our adventures comes back to me, fortunately. So I might defer writing in detail (if at all) about 4 or 5 weeks' worth of adventures, and then when I get back to Australia try and work some magic with my PC so I can post my photos on Picasa and let you see them from there.

However, I have one duty to fulfil as a consumer advocate. The weekend after Bev and Judy left, Barry and I went to Puebla for the weekend. It is a beautiful colonial city, renowned for its tiles and ceramics. Most of you who live in Melbourne will have seen the lovely talavera dinner set I bought when we were here two years ago. It is absolutely gorgeous, cost a fortune (including the shipping cost which doubled its price), and has been disastrous! We expected problems with the shipping, and I was ecstatic when it arrived intact, but within days of starting to use it, the mugs, which are not a standard piece but had been made to order in the beautiful traditional pattern of peaches I chose, started to break when I poured hot water into them to make tea. They either developed slow leaks or more often disastrous cracks, and all but one of them fell victim. I would only try to use one on days when I was feeling full of optimism, but inevitably as I preheated them with tap water, drained them, introduced my tea bag and and started gently pouring water from the jug, a feeling of dread descended, and either intensified as the crack sounded or lifted if the mug lived for another day.

At the time I complained to Manos Magicas (literally "magic hands") where I had bought the set, and they graciously agreed to replace them and sent 6 new ones to us in Mexico City. But Barry, who was coming through Mexico City on the way home from another trip to the US, was overburdened with books, so he left the entire box of mugs with Maggui to mind. As part of the set, I had also selected a bowl which is talavera both inside and out, again a special order. When the mugs started failing, I noted with great concern that there was a leaf missing in the interior pattern on one bowl: the glaze had lifted off, it seemed, so I stopped using it, never dared use them in the microwave, and gave the damaged one to Barry to return to Puebla when he went there for a conference during the next year. As this is also not a stock item, they said they would replace that bowl and he could pick it up next time he was in Puebla. On that trip to Manos Magicas, he also bought a couple of new large and small plates to augment the settings.

When he got home from that brief trip, he brought back the replacement mugs, again intact thanks to excellent packing, and also the new pieces he had bought. But once more, within days, the mugs started to crack. What kind of mug will break when you pour boiling water in it, well you may ask. And what kind of plate breaks when you carve a leg off a roast chook and put it on the plate? Got it in one, talavera from Manos Magicas. While not one of the small plates, which we use frequently, has had a problem, more than half of the big plates have cracked either when putting hot food on them, one when it was in a low oven to preheat (to avoid a sudden shock!) or have cracked when I take them out of the dishwasher or the cupboard. Some I have glued together, others just chucked out in disgust.

So while we were in Puebla, Barry reluctantly agreed to go back to Manos Magicas. We were there a long time, speaking but eventually shouting, to the person in charge of the shop, then by phone to the manager, and then to his wife, who came in to handle us personally. Barry was in a rage at their refusal to replace all our broken pieces, and in the end , after a really long battle and threats to complain to the local equivalent of Consumer Affairs, they agreed we could take 6 new cups - a stock item this time, what they call a lechera, a broad cup for milk or cafe au lait. I figured maybe it was the design of the mugs at fault, and that a stock item would be a better bet. They also provided several new plates free, plus the replacement bowl (and we decided, to be fair, to pay them for a couple of extra bowls they had made and set aside for us). Barry insisted we use them here, as he said there is no point schlepping them back to Oz if they are going to break right away. To my horror and grief, 2 of the 3 lecheras I unpacked have already broken. I am feeling quite strong today and am about to unwrap a few plates and start using them to see whether they are any better! But every time I use them I continue to get great aesthetic pleasure from them, so no wonder my heart is breaking along with the china. So my piece of consumer advice to any of you who travel in Mexico is under no circumstance should you ever buy talavera to use (as opposed to displaying it for its beauty) from Manos Magicas in Puebla.

I have attached a photo of a cup, so you can see how nice the pattern is, but if you look closely you can see is cracked. There is one of the interior which shows the crack clearly, which I sent to them with my last outraged email, but I will spare you the agony. But to show why I am seduced by the beauty of their stuff, I am also attaching a few other shots of the stuff on display in their shop. Don't be fooled - just don't ever buy anything if you intend any use for it other than just looking. And a shot of a typical tiled wall and of the Cathedral, to show we did see a lot more of Puebla than just the inside of Manos Magicas!

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