Casa Vecino Blog recently sat down with Belén Sandoval Navarro, the owner of Esto es México. Her store recently moved a block closer to Casa Vecino relocating from their original location on the plaza across from El Espresso to another southside landmark – taking over the Pacifico Deposito. Esto es México sells hand-crafted decorative items for the home, gifts, and other Mexican objects. Previous visitors to Sayulita will recognize the bright blue facade adorned with huge, brightly-painted wooden calaveras (skeletons).

As we spoke, Belén was painting intricate patterns on a white calavera (the ubiquitous, decorative skulls found all over Mexico and Latin America, especially during Day of the Dead, at the beginning of November).

Casa Vecino Blog: Hi Belén. First of all, congratulations on your new space. It looks great! Could you please tell me about the store in your own words?
Belén Sandoval Navarro: Well, this is a store where we sell Mexican crafts made locally. We mainly try to help people understand Mexican culture through our work.

CVB: And what would you say is your specialty or specialties?
BSN: Las calaveras, especially during Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). I paint them all by hand.

CVB: Tell me a little more about Día de los Muertos in Sayulita
BSN: We’ve only been celebrating Día de Muertos, with altars in the plaza, the midnight parade through the cemetery, and the all-night party for about nine years here in Sayulita. Every year has a certain theme; last years theme was fishers, surfers, and others who have lost their lives in the ocean. We decorated the town with fishes, turtles, and other things from the ocean. This year is dedicated to women who have lost the battle against cancer. Every year we put up colorful plastic flags in the plaza and the main streets, but we now realize that plastic is like a cancer on Mother Earth. Instead of these flags, this year we are making 12,000 Ojos de Dios (God’s eyes, votive objects made by weaving yarn around two or more wooden sticks bound together). We’ve already made over 10,000, so there are only 2,000 more to go!

CVB: What do you want visitors to know about your store?
BSN: I would like them to know that everyone can find something with true value to the artisan that made it as well as the person who buys it or receives it as a gift. In this way, we establish a connection between the artisans and the client. For me, the most marvelous day of the year is Día de Muertos. It’s a day with deep cultural significance to Mexico and Mexicans. It’s always something special for me; I am always painting with love, and when someone chooses a piece, they almost always feel a special connection to that piece. That is something very special for me.

CVB: Great. How long has Esto es México been open?
BSN: I first opened around the corner, in the store that is now Someone Somewhere, in 2009. After about one year there, I moved to the plaza, where I was for nine years. Then in the last couple months, I moved to where we are now, on the corner of Revolución and Mariscal streets.

CVB: What made you decide to move to Sayulita from your native Guadalajara?
BSN: I had been coming to Sayulita for vacation since I was a little girl. I have an aunt who owns a house here, and when her husband passed away she moved here permanently. When she came, she asked if I would like to go with her and I agreed. That was 14 years ago now.

CVB: Where do you get the wooden and clay materials that you paint on to create these pieces?
BSN: Everything that is wood–all the wooden boxes, my husband assembles and I paint. The clay calaveras are made by a group of artisanas (craftswomen) in a small factory in the state of Guerrero. The women make them there, and I go once a year to pick them up.

CVB: Have you always been a painter?
BSN: I never studied art or painting formally, but since I was a little girl, I had the curiosity to learn, so my mother would buy me pencils and paintbrushes, and I always, always loved painting. When I first opened the store, I would paint a few of the items. People seemed to love them, and I started painting more and more. Now I paint nearly everything you see here in the store. I have no plans to ever stop painting, so I love what I do!
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