From colourful market stalls to chic boutiques, shopaholics may well think that they've arrived in the Promised Land. Mexico 's intriguing diversity of crafts is the product of a synergy between Old and New Worlds. Spanish technologies, such as leatherwork and ceramic glazing, have been adapted by local artisans - who you can see plying their craft in village workshops today. Buying from an artesano will guarantee a good price and make sure the lion's share of the profit goes to the right place, but be prepared to haggle.
Mexican toys have a naive vitality, something that has been picked up on by western shopkeepers and gallery owners. With desirability comes price and recently artists have started to monogram their works. Fortunately the majority remains very cheap and very cheerful. Marionettes, carved masks, Papier-mâché fruit and lacquered animals are all popular, and it's a churlish traveller who isn't tempted by one of the ludicrously overcrowded toy trucks.
Despite their best efforts the Spanish didn't manage to mine Mexico 's silver reserves dry. Mexican jewellery is now popular all over the world, clearly good news for the 300 or so silversmiths who work in Taxco and the goldsmiths of the Yucatán peninsula. Those who's pockets don't go that deep will be happy to find the Mexicans have found plenty of things to make out of pressed tin, anything from lamps to candlesticks.
Textiles come in a rainbow of colours, but you must be careful when washing them as the natural dyes used can run. Similarly hand-made clothing may shrink, so buy any loose fitting. Flowers, plants and animals are beautifully embroidered onto blouses, and silk and wool woven into traditional sashes and scarves( rebozos). In the highlands warm days are often followed by chilly nights and out come the sarapes, or woollen blankets.
When shopping for ceramics what you'll get depends on where you are. Techniques and materials differ greatly from area to area, so while in Oaxaca you may well be underwhelmed by a monochrome choice of black pottery or black pottery, a little further up the coast you'll be greeted by limitless figurines depicting anything from Old Testament players to folkloric beasts.These days most of the population have traded in their sombreros for Panama hats, and the artisans have transferred their weaving skills to making baskets and hammocks. Wooden musical instruments are also good quality and make popular presents.