Situated 2,000 metres above sea level Durango is an interesting colonial town built on riches from the mining (gold, silver and iron ore) and timber industries. On arrival, we found our way to the Cremeria Wallander in search of something soothing for our tender stomachs – after six weeks in Mexico we both succumbed to a brief but nasty bout of belly upset, enough said. Wallander’s is like stepping into a deli in East London – mountains of bread, cakes, cheese and cured meats to make even the recently sick person’s mouth water.
We were just finishing our delicious torta when Alejandro strode up to us and introduced himself as the son of the owner – the Wallander family originating from Sweden in the 19th Century. His brother is in Bristol studying English, and once he found out that Ned was from Bristol he was like a brother to us too.
It being Friday night, he took us out on the town to sample some Mariachi and Banda Sinaloense music – traditional genres heavily influenced by Germanic styles. In a bar in town we were treated to an imitation act by an Elton John-esque flamboyant Mariachi performer. And later on, Alejandro and his beautiful Guatemalan friend Helen showed us how to dance to Banda – those smooth Latino hips making it look so easy. When we gave it a go I felt like I was dancing with two left feet, and a big dose of British stiffness (four beers couldn’t help me loosen up!) The street music is great – bands of up to 12 people stand around waiting for punters to pay them for a song or two. Alejandro obliged and we were treated to a brass band serenade for 20 minutes.
The next day, we got up bright and early to join a tour of the Wallander factory. Despite being in Spanish (Alejandro obliged with a lot of translation – the finer vocabulary of dairy processing being a bit beyond our hungover abilities) it was fascinating. A family run affair employing local people who work very hard, and take their work very seriously. Many things were done lovingly by hand, and there was a lot more passion involved than the Tillamook factory we visited back in Oregon, which was totally industrialised and clinical. The business is expanding to sell products outside of the Durango area, following the silver route south to Mexico City is the plan. We wish them luck, and thank Alejandro and his family for all!