Situated in the mountains of western Mexico, at 7300 feet above sea level, this small town is world famous for the making of guitars and all kinds of wooden handicrafts. Paracho is located 141 km (87 mi) west of Morelia City, south of Zamora, not far from Mt. Paracutin. (That's about halfway between Puerta Vallarta and Mexico City, as the crow flies.)
For those not familiar with Paracho, approximately 60 percent of the jobs are related to the production of acoustic instruments. This includes wood sales, paints, and mechanical parts. There are factories that mass produce instruments, but these are referred to as "comon" or common. Only a few of the craftsman produce "fina" or fine instruments. The best work is done totally by hand. A fancy custom bridge may take 20 hours to craft to perfection. Custom inlayed names or designs in (antique) ivory or shell may take even more time.
The "Centro para la Investigacion y Desarollo de la Guitarra" (Center for the Investigation and Development of the Guitar) is located in Paracho, and every August the National Guitar Fair takes place there. Awards are given to the constructors of the finest musical instuments. An award is given for concert guitars and student model guitars. The judges are usually constructors themselves. They closely inspect craftsmanship, detail, and tone quality.
Mr. Jose Luis Diaz R. is one of Paracho Mexico's foremost acoustic instrument constructors, with over 40 years of experience. He started by helping his grandfather make violins and other instruments. Today he mostly makes guitars, and has won many first prizes in the national competition.
I didn't want to pay an exorbitant amount of money to have them made in America, and I did not want to risk being disapointed by inferior handiwork. After some research, I found that the best guitarts in the world are considered to be those handmade in Paracho, Mexico. Mr. Diaz was noted in the New York Times and elsewhere. Perhaps more importantly, he was well known by word of mouth in Paracho, even from other top instrument makers.
I noticed that he had two same guitars with the same body designs. They were raw, unfinished, and unstrung. I asked him which would be better,when completed. He picked one up and tapped it on the back with his knuckle. Then he did the same to the second guitar, detecting more of a thud. He recommended the first one, and proceeded to finish it for me.
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