MEXICAN CULTURAL JOURNIES: QUERÉTARO DE SANTIAGO
TESQUISQUIAPAN, BERNAL AND MINTERAL DE POZOS
June 2-6, 2006
QUERÉTARO DE SANTIAGO:
Caesar, our guide on a walking tour of the old city, took us first to the most famous exconvent of Santa Clara de Jesus,
once the most wealthy and prestigious convent for young upper class women whose family paid a large "dowry" to gain their admission.
The Nepture Fountain, outside Santa Clara, is considered one of the best figures in the city. It is situated across the
street from the exclusive boutique hotel, The Marquesa, built in the 17th century for the wife of the Spanish Governer.
The interior wall painting and elaborate decorations remain intact despite becoming a store and warehouse during the last century.
The tour continued in the city center with the San Francisco Church across the street from Zenea Garden plaza and fountain,
once within the grounds of the Monestery.
In another plaza nearby stands a noble statue to the Corregidora, the heroine of the Revolution of 1810 who gave the alarm. Up the
walking street 5th of Mayo is the giant figure of a native dancer. The busy passageway leads up to the Revolution Plaza or the Plaza des Armas
with the Governor's Palace.
On June 2nd we headed for one of our favorite cities, Queretero last visited in
September 2003. While the rest on the Mexican Cultural Journeys tour was housed at the Hotel Alferero, our hotel for four nights was the Quinta Santiago, a 350 year old former convent.
Inside the Governor's Palace and beyond the grand central courtyard, Caesar showed us the adjacent courtyard that once
served as the jail with two small grottos where prisoners were chained for punishment.
The tour ended here at this immaculate plaza with the "dog" fountain which honors Don Juan Antonio de Urretia,
the builder of the city's famous aquaduct.
Jim continued touring on our own and this year were able to get inside the Teatro de la República. The building honors the
Republic with displays and is the home of many musical and dance events.
On the newly rebuilt Plaza Almeda we discovered Harry's New Orleans Cafe and lunched on oysters on the half shell and "Po Boys."
On our final evening in the city we took the "Legends Tour" with a historical costumed guide who related some of the city's
most famous ghost stories. The tour began in our hotel where we climbed to the roof to view the city and neighboring
monestary San Felipe. He told us the story of a nun who fell in love with a priest from San Felipe whom she met
in the tunnels below the city at night. When he failed to appear again and she learned he had died, she locked herself in her
cell and remained there until she died. Her cell was Room 118 located next door to our room 119 in the hotel. Luckily, we didn't see
her ghost or hear stange noises as reported by others.
We also learned of the death of the Emperor Maximilian who hid in the Convent of the Capachinas and of
ghosts haunting the dimly lite Matamoros Alley that once housed wealthy nuns from Santa Clara. The tour ended on the Plaza des Armas with a tale of two frozen bodies discovered on
Christmas day, one a rich man and one a poor beggar. Our last night's dinner was again at Harry's with Damyn and John.
On our last morning in the city we toured several more famous churches including the Cathedral and the ex Convent of Santa Rosa
where the exterior was designed by a 12 year old boy prodigy.
San Augustin's was another remarkable church with its fine stone facade with carved figures on the roof and altar piece.
TESQUISQUIAPAN AND BERNAL:
We took two side tours out of the city. On Sunday, we headed east to the colorful towns of Tesquisquipan and Bernal.
The main plaza in Tesquisquipan was full of people shopping and eating. The colorful streets radiating out from the plaza
welcomed the many out of town guests.
The Sunday Market was in full swing. Damyn and Jim both bought leather jackets and local women displayed the region's specialties:
needlework and fabrics.
We arrived in town for the last day of a big Wine and Cheese Festival at a local park where we sampled different products for lunch.
On route to Bernal we made a stop at the Freixenet Winery and sampled their wares as well. Great sparking wines.
Bernal is another pictureque tourist town built below the third (or fourth depending on whose list) larges monolith in the world.
Its colorful busy streets were full of vendors and Sunday day-trippers. The design of many of buildings were a unique style with
unusual tiles and mouldings.
MINERAL DE POZOS:
Next door, artist Janice Freeman took us on a tour of her new home and studio with its commanding view of the ruined town which
is just now beginning to rebuild with both Mexicans and Ex Pats restoring properties.
We toured the upper town plaza with its Music Museum Shop specializing in hand made wooden and clay instruments. We purchased the
clay turtle pipe played by the shop owner.
Jim purchased another local speciality, a doll dressed in clothes representative of Pozos. Then it was back to lunch at the Posada.
After lunch we visited another art studio of Lena Bartula and her partner Cynthia Buzzard, a documentary filmmaker who is working on
a documentary on Pozos.
While some of the old buildings remain standing, many are no more than free-standing walls or shells throughout this old "ghost" town.
Many are "For Sale" and available to the industrious pioneer who wants to resettle.
Just outside the town with its crumbling adobe walls are the ruins of the former silver mines, long since abandoned. Unsecured mine shafts drop
down hundreds of feet along the desert floor making in perilous to walk for human and beast.
While Mineral de Pozos now has a growing population of around 1500, only about 40 Ex Pats make their home in this remote hillside
town sitting at an elevation of 7200 feet. For once Jim was not raving about moving again. We're staying in Ajijic!
The next day we headed north out to the old mining town of Mineral de Pozos in the State of Guanajuato. Our first stop was at
the newly restored Posada de Las Minas where we ordered lunch before heading out for a tour of the town.
LINKS TO QUERETARO, TIAQUISQUIAPAN, BERNAL AND MINERAL DE POZOS WEBSITES:
Queretaro de Santiago
Mineral de Pozos
Posada de Las Minas: Mineral de Pozos
Mexico Travel Pages
Jim & Robin's Home Page