It's a really strange atmosphere. As I arrived in Creel on the train I came upon three crowds.
The first was the smallest: the people greeting the train trying to get the tourist business. This was much less intense than I expected, certainly not as pushy as I've experienced in Thailand. (on a tangent I've been thinking a lot about Thailand, which led to thinking about the constant comparisons with Thailand and this trip. It's a bit like dating someone new after a big breakup. As much as you want to enjoy the new girl/experience purely on it's own merits, it's impossible not to make the comparisons. Tangent over.) I already knew which hotel I wanted to stay at (casa margarita) and immediately found the guy for there, got in their minibus, and was driven less than 20 meters! I guess the minibus is just a cattle pen, to stop the stupid tourists from going astray.
After sorting out my room (100 pesos, or $8) and a tour for the afternoon (250 pesos) I came across the other two crowds in creel.
I'd heard about the brightly colored clothing of the Tamuhara women (the indigenous people of this area) but had not expected to see so many in the town. There were girls and ladies everywhere, but about 40 clustered around the bank. I learned later that the government was giving out some kind of money that day, so people had come from all over the area to get it. On the tour that afternoon I saw many of them walking miles back out of town.
The third crowd was a funeral. There was a procession leaving the church next to the hotel, accompanied by a military vehicle with 5 soldiers standing on the back. Later that evening a German girl staying at the hotel told me that seven people had been killed in Creel the previous evening as part of a drug war that's happening. I'm not sure if this is true, or if the funeral was related to that, but I'm a bit freaked out.
However, before learning all this, I spent a great afternoon on a tour, being driven with three Mexican tourists around some beautiful parts of the region. The horseshoe lake (with Tamuhara women selling beautiful crafts), a rock shaped like an elephant (with Tamuhara women selling beautiful crafts), rocks shaped like frogs (with Tamuhara women selling beautiful crafts), rocks shaped like mushrooms (with Tamuhara women selling beautiful crafts), rocks shaped like phaluses (with Tamuhara women selling beautiful crafts), and then the real highlight was a really beautiful high waterfall (with Tamuhara women selling beautiful crafts). It was a mile or so up a rutted track, past women washing their clothes in the stream and lines of brightly colored clothes drying on fences, skinny donkeys, beautiful cliffs, pine trees. And the falls were magnificent. And although it was a bit odd having people selling stuff everywhere we went, it is such amazing craftwork. They make baskets woven from dry grass, beautiful jewelry, snakes from bent sticks, wooden spoons. I'll definitely take some home.
I spoke to the guide at 3 Amigos. He cautioned me against going into remote canyons alone because people involved in growing drugs wouldn't welcome a stranger. But he thought that going to divisadero and hiing down into thecanyon there would be fine. Going to bopitalas and asking about the situation before hiking should also be fine.