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Western Mexico A Traveler's Treasury Paperback – May 13, 2013
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Whether you're an intrepid on-the-road adventurer or a relaxed armchair traveler, Tony Burton's "Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury" is an ideal companion... One factor that lends special appeal to this singular travel book is Burton's departure from the stock formula found in conventional guides. He adheres to a more organic approach, drawing on personal experience and meticulous research to divulge the virtues and peculiarities of every destination.
Another major strength is the author's attention to historical details that enrich the individual profile of each place. In some cases he scratched up intriguing facts by chatting with the local people, in others he tapped on tireless study of a vast array of previously published works. The bibliography lists writings going back as far as 1899, as well as "Lake Chapala through the Ages," Burton's own compilation of excerpts from works by other travel writers covering the era of 1530-1910.
Above all, the British-born geographer is a bold adventurer who delights in departing from the main travel routes to explore back roads and discover unexpected corners that other travelers and writers often see as nothing more than dots on the map. He has a knack for digging up the idiosyncrasies of each destination he visits, be it local legends and folklore, off-beat museums, geological characteristics, mining deposits of minerals, stones and precious metals, or an outstanding restaurant, inn or spa worthy of mention.
First published in 1993, the revised and expanded fourth edition of "Western Mexico"... opens with what qualifies as the most comprehensive guide to the Lake Chapala region available in English. "The next segment explores the agricultural valley and the Sierra highlands stretching west from Guadalajara. Part three covers Tapalpa, Mazamitla and other high altitude spots, plus the city of Colima. From there the text follows a route northeast of Guadalajara into the region of Los Altos and beyond Jalisco's borders to León, Guanajuato and Aguascalientes, continuing into Zacatecas and the far-flung northern "hand" of Jalisco.
Material in parts six and seven spans the Pacific coast from San Blas, Nayarit to Cuyutlán, Colima. The final chapters thoroughly survey the state of Michoacán.
The development of Puerto Vallarta and the birth of the Paricutín volcano stand out among the book's fascinating historical accounts. Expositions on Jalisco's Manantlán Biosphere Reserve and the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries of Michoacán are obligatory reading to grasp the value of Mexico's extraordinary natural treasures.
Burton's clear writing style and bonus sidebar boxes added to each chapter make for easy, breezy reading. A series of area maps drawn by the author and Mark Eager's attractive pen and ink illustrations of different locales complement the text. The cover art work is a reproduction of a watercolor scene of Ajijic by the late Georg Rauch.
- review by Dale Hoyt Palfrey of the latest (4th) edition of "WesternMexico, a Traveler's Treasury" for The Guadalajara Reporter, 18 April2014.
Review of Western Mexico, A Traveler's Treasury (4th edition) by James Tipton for Mexconnect.
For anyone who lives or travels in western Mexico, Tony Burton's Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury is a "must have." I own a well traveled copy of the third edition (2001) but I was delighted to see a fourth edition (2014) recently appear...in part because so many changes have taken place in the decade or so that has followed the third edition. For example, Guachimontones, the round pyramids west of Guadalajara, is described in far more detail than in the third addition.
There are lots of other changes as well. "A federal project to promote cultural tourism, called Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns), has brought much more publicity to no fewer than 15 towns featured in previous editions, including Tapalpa, Tequila, Mazamitla, San Sabastián del Oeste, Lagos de Moreno, Comala, Pátzcuaro, Santa Clara del Cobre and Angangueo." In this past decade, the "quality of hotels has also improved, with the opening of excellent boutique hotels, some of them in quite unexpected places...."
New chapters have been added, new material has been added to existing chapters, maps and directions have been updated, new destinations, like Zacatecas, have been developed in detail.
Reading Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury, I felt that old desire rise up in me to be on the road, if only for a day or two. And so, even before writing this review, I called a young Mexican adventuress in Guadalajara. With the Kindle version of Western Mexico in hand we headed up a now modern highway to the charming old colonial town of Mazamitla, high in the mountains on the south side of Lake Chapala... and far more sophisticated than when I visited it twenty years ago. We even stayed in the inexpensive ($40US) boutique hotel Hostal Ciervo Rojo (a member of the Haciendas and Country Houses of Jalisco) recommended by Tony in his book.
A few days I went with a Chapala buddy on a day trip to Guachimontones, the round pyramids west of Guadalajara, passing trucks loaded with sugar cane, passing stands of a local potent drink called pajarete (a combination of milk, aguardiente, brown sugar, and sometimes chocolate) to arrive at what has become in a few short years, "one of the most astonishing archaeological sites anywhere n Mexico," although only twenty years ago it was only "mounds of earth". "The dramatic circular structures at Guachimontones, tiered in concentric terraces, are absolutely stunning...."
As Tony notes in his Introduction, this is "not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all the possible day trips and longer tours in the region.... Rather, it is a personal, idiosyncratic collection of my favorite places in Western Mexico...." The book is filled with whatever Tony finds fascinating... interesting and curious details of history and geography and geology and flora and fauna, and art and architecture and archaeology.
My kind of book!
If you live in western Mexico or are thinking about living here or visiting here, make this the first book you buy. It has always been a favorite of mine and this latest edition of Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury is the best ever!
About the Author
Tony Burton has specialized in exploring and writing about Mexico for more than thirty years. He is the author of "Lake Chapala through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales" (2008) and co-author of "Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico" (2010), and a three-time winner of ARETUR’s annual international travel-writing competition for articles about Mexico. Burton has an MA in Geography from the University of Cambridge (UK). He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and served for 6 years as the Chief Geography Examiner for the International Baccalaureate.
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This new edition not only incorporates several new chapters, but new material has been added in every chapter. As you travel with Tony, you find out the history and the legends that capture the heart of Mexico... Do you know why the seal of Aguascalientes includes a pair of lips in the state's coat-of-arms? I didn't! You'll find out the best places to stay, cultural places to visit and sometimes even where to eat. You also find out the best dates to visit, either during their grand fiestas or a quiet time when you might have the village to yourself...whatever your cup of tea, you'll find it here!
As Mr. Burton takes you from the villages around Lake Chapala all the way west to Banderas Bay and Barra de Navidad, you'll find yourself wanting to use this book as your map to experience the drive around Western Mexico yourself...to visit the cities, churches, museums ...it made me want to discover for myself the many hidden treasures...like Los Negritos, the wealth of beautiful mid-17th century churches, all the ancient haciendas, the magnificent murals of La Morena, the Athens of Jalisco, Mexico's mini-Venice, the Perforated City (because of its subterranean tunnels), and the town renowned for its miniature tea-sets...who knew?
He describes cities we only circumvent when we drive to and from the United States and he makes me feel as if I've missed something very special. He quotes the words of poet Daniel Kuri Breña, about a Mexican city that "doesn't proffer itself easily to anyone" but has to be "discovered and conquered just like a loved one." I thought this was also an excellent description of Mexico...It's not always easy to get around, but it is so worth the trip. Tony Burton has opened it up for us.
All I can say is thank you, Tony, for sharing your love of Mexico...it's apparent even when you're not sugar-coating an area, but giving us all its warts and wounds. I learned some fascinating history about the area of the world where I've chosen to make my forever home.
We just wish that Tony had the time to do more of Western Mexico as well as the rest of the country but we can't even begin to imagine what an undertaking that would be after reading this new edition! Good job, Tony! And thanks.