A Day Trip By Car To Copala
by JackMoreau March 11,2005
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My wife and I often take the day and go up to Copala, with a few interesting stops along the way. There is a lot of beautiful scenery and some of the vegetation we see includes mango trees, market gardens, banana trees, and coconut plantations. To start this trip you take the highway that heads towards the airport, this is Hwy 15. You go past the airport sign and through a town called Villa Union. Now, Villa union is known for it's military post the Spaniards established there when they used Mazatlan as a sentinel post.
Not far down the road our first stop is the brick factory. Did you know a brick maker can make up to 1000 bricks a day? They are still using the centuries year old tradition of grainshafts, clay, and water mixture. This is then put into a form, which is made of wood and makes four bricks at a time. The bricks are then dried naturally by the sun on both sides for about 24 hours. They are then stacked up tinker toy style and wood from the area is put in the middle of this structure, lit on fire, and in about one hour the bricks have been cured. The heat generated by the burning wood and combustion of the grain shafts hardens the bricks. This process also turns the bricks from brown to the reddish color that we see them. In the summer when the heat and humidity is high, they light a big bonfire during the night and work from about 2:00 am to 10:00. Also if they have a rainfall all the days work is ruined unless it's covered with plastic tarps.
How much do they sell for? A 1000 bricks sells for about 700 - 800 pesos. We turn onto hwy 40 and our next stop is a small pueblo called Malpica. Here we visit the town bakery, which is in the family home. We always buy a treat or two, which are always fresh from the oven. Across the road is the town's tile factory, which is in the backyard of the family home. Gorge has been making tiles for about 30 years, since he was 12. Gorge always makes a tile for us. It's a combination of sand, marble dust, cement and water. The tiles are soaked in water for 18 hours and then sun dried. No two tiles are the same as each one is made individually. These are not the glazed and baked tiles that we're use to. These tiles get shinier the more you wash them. Gorge sells samples of his work and I use mine as heating pads.
Our next stop is Felipe's pottery and furniture factory. We love visiting with Felipe as he always has interesting stories to tell us. On one visit he pointed out different local plants to us and explained their healing powers. Some were for digestion, pain, fever. He was drinking an elixir that particular day for stomach pain. He has a thriving pottery business, and a family run furniture factory. The clay for his pottery is found in the nearby mountains. Once the piece has been formed, it is then dried in the shade for 3 days, the 4th day in the sun, and the 5th day in the firing kiln. The maple furniture is the heavy wood, and the most common used as they can get it from the forests near by. The cedar is imported from Chiapas, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Belize and costs a bit more. A beautiful table and 6 chairs can be yours for 4000 pesos. And he does ship all over the continent. You can find Felipe just before entering Concordia on the lefthand side of the Highway.
Our next stop is the washing ladies. This is just as we're entering Concordia. It's a bit hard to find, but well worth it. It's a natural hot spring that is centuries old. In 1953 the government decided to preserve and upgrade these springs for the Concordia villagers. The open-air structure modernized the washing process by replacing the rocks the ladies scrubbed the clothes on with concrete slabs and installed roofs for shade. You can see ladies walking from town with their washing wrapped and carried on top of their heads. The washing stalls are always filled with women working. They are very friendly and even offer to let you help them with the wash! Or if you want to leave your laundry they will do it for you for 1 peso per item.
Concordia is the next stop. This community is known for it's furniture, pottery and mining. It was founded in January of 1565. Concordia was once a French garrison during France's occupation of Mexico. That is why you will see fair skinned and blue eyed Mexican's in this town. The colonial church built in 1640 is the oldest of its style in Sinaloa. City Hall, constructed in 1905 is an interesting structure with its French style. A fine chime clock brought from Italy is still preserved in the building. Concordia also holds the claim to fame for the world's largest rocking chair located in its town square. A great photo opportunity!
Our final destination is Copala. Climbing to over 2000 feet above sea level, this community of about 700 people is what a typical colonial village should look like. The Spanish discovered the town in 1565 and worked the silver and gold mines there.They are still in operation to this day to a lesser degree. It is not unusual to see chickens, pigs, and donkeys running through narrow cobblestone streets. The San Jose Church built in the 1600's is now under preservation, so blasting has been put to a stop pending its restoration. Copala is also home to 2 fine restaurants, the Butter Company and Daniels. We like having lunch at Butter Co and margaritas and banana coconut cream pie at Daniels. Daniel sold the restaurant a few yrs ago but still owns and operates the hotel near the restaurant. He is a wealth of information and is a pleasure to talk to. This village was featured in National Geographic some years ago and much of its fame is owed to Daniel, as he was instrumental in bringing the tourist trade to Copala.
We fully recommend this day trip and if you don't wish to drive then leave the driving up to one of the many fine tour companies in Mazatlan.