Cesar Peña offers a wide selection of authentic Talavera pottery at Casa Uxmal on Hidalgo Street.
An Oasis in the Desert
Travelers have long been drawn to this oasis on the Rio Grande. The American Indians who inhabited the area more than 4,000 years ago left detailed pictographs on cave walls, now a sort of primitive history book etched in stone. Spanish missionaries planted a church here in 1635 and christened the spot San Felipe del Rio. It was named not for the Rio Grande but in honor of San Felipe Springs, which still offers up to 90 million gallons of spring water every minute.
Some will remember Ciudad Acuña as the nighttime home of famous disc jockey Wolfman Jack, who blasted the border from the 1 million-watt XERF-AM just south of the city. Today, travelers of all ages come to enjoy the area's raw natural beauty and the excitement of a border town.
Lake Amistad is the embodiment of the friendship between the two countries. Three rivers--the Rio Grande, the Pecos, and the Devils--all converge here to form one of the largest lakes in Texas, with more than 850 miles of shoreline. Two large bronze eagles sit on the 6-mile bridge that spans the lake, signifying the partnership between the two countries. Locals remember that it was on this spot that several U.S. and Mexican Presidents stood, shook hands, and sealed the bond of cooperation.
Anglers and boaters come seeking the largemouth bass and huge catfish living in the lake. Nature lovers come to hike, bike, and experience the wide-open spaces. But invariably, most tourists eventually find themselves drawn to Ciudad Acuña, with its broad, welcoming main street lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels. The city's wide selection of curios is especially popular in November when visitors look to get a head start on holiday shopping.
Cesar Peña takes a knife from his pocket and offers the sharpened blade to his customer. "Go ahead, senorita," the owner of Casa Uxmal implores. "Scratch the plate. It's real Talavera. You cannot hurt it. If it's real Talavera, the glaze will not come off."
In addition to the prized Talavera pottery, merchants offer rustic pine furniture and beautiful Mexican pewter. There's also blown glass, wrought iron, leather goods, and home accessories of all kinds. Tourists can even find colorful serapes, cotton blankets, and studded sombreros. However, the challenge most shoppers face is picking the quality items from a sea of imitations.
"The best thing to do if you're looking for quality is to look everywhere," Senor Peña suggests. "Compare the quality before you decide what to buy."
Friends Donna Moody, Linda Dorris, Terry Pool, and Janice Petty, all from San Angelo, have long planned regular shopping excursions to Ciudad Acuña. "We've been coming here since the sixties when we were just teenagers," Donna says. "We all love Mexican decorative items. That's part of being Texan, I guess. And we like to bargain. Everybody wants a good deal."
Shopkeepers expect customers to haggle over the price. "Always, everybody tries to get a better price," Senor Peña says with a smile. "Everybody is free to try. That's democracy. I do the same thing."