Last updateFri, 13 Feb 2015 3pm

Driving off into the sunset: faithful, much-traveled VW van finds new owner

One of lakeside’s most distinctive vehicles has left the area. Owner Marianne Carlson turned over the keys of “Tawanda,” the painted VW van she has driven for 20 years, to Norberto H. Dorantes from Tlajomulco. 

Soon after she purchased the utilitarian vehicle from the original U.S. owner, Carlson, the founder of the annual Feria del Maestros artisan exhibit, drew Aztec and Maya designs on the van and then brought in friends to do the painting. 

“She was just so ugly,” says Carlson. “I had to do something, so I sat my friends down around the van and put a paintbrush in one of their hands and a glass of champagne in the other.” 

Carlson, accompanied by a variety of friends, traveled thousands of miles across Mexico searching out the best artisans. In the early years, it was enough to meet the maestros and to buy their work for herself and to stock the shop she then operated in Ajijic. When she became determined to provide a place for the artists to sell their wares, the mileage on Tawanda soared. 

“It has been so important to me to help the artists make a living wage so that they can continue to create pottery, textiles, metal and glass pieces just as their grandfathers and their fathers did before them,” she says. 

Several members of the new owner’s family pooled their resources so that he could purchase the van, which they promise will come back to Chapala when they make weekend excursions to the lake. 

It’s entirely possible that area residents familiar with the uniquely decorated van will spot it near the IMSS hospital in Tlajomulco where Dorantes and several family members work.