The famous Cinco de Mayo forts of Puebla

Many people know of Cinco de Mayo, but most don’t know why they are celebrating other than having a margarita or tequila shot. In fact, most people outside of Mexico think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, it’s not……. read more at http://mexico-visitor.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-famous-cinco-de-mayo-fort-of-puebla.html

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10 things you need to know about Puebla, Mexico

1 – Puebla was founded on April 16th, 1531 as the first ‘perfect’ city in the Americas; that is, a city built to accommodate only Spaniards.

2 – Unlike other cities, the archive of the city of Puebla preserves unique documents such as the original Royal Charter that establishes it’s foundation and it’s Royal Provision, showcasing the famous coast of arms of the city. Because of their importance, the aforementioned documents and many others belonging to the archive have been inserted in the UNESCO-Mexico Memory of the World Register.

Puebla's zocalo

Puebla’s zocalo

3 – The historic center of Puebla (World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1987) contains 2619 monuments distributed across 391 blocks; making Puebla the city with the largest number of monuments in the Americas.

4 – Many relevant historical events have occurred in the city of Puebla; for example, the famous battle of  “Cinco de Mayo”. This battle took place in 1862 and in it the Mexican army defeated the French army (then considered the strongest of all). Furthermore, the city is the birthplace of the Mexican Revolution; on November 18th, 1910 the Serdan siblings were attacked at their house by the Mexican government due to their subversive ideas and activities. The revolution spread across the country in the days after the attack.

5 – Talavera from Puebla is one of the few Mexican products with a protected designation of origin. Talavera is a type of ceramic that has been produced without interruption for more than four centuries, making it on of the most important folk art expressions in Mexico.

6 – The cuisine of Puebla is one of the most diverse and exquisite in Mexico and in the world. Puebla has provided Mexico with it’s most traditional dish; Mole Poblano (chili chocolate sauce). Also, one can find Chiles en Nogada (spicy peppers filled with mince and covered in batter with nut sauce), Chalupas (small fried tortilla snacks) and Cemitas (Puebla’s version of a torta sandwich).

7 – The Palafox library is considered the oldest library in the Americas with an intact collection. The building and all the shelves and furniture are original. These characteristics lead the UNESCO adding the library to it’s “Memory of the World” registry in 2005.

The Cathedral of Puebla at night

The Cathedral of Puebla at night

8 – The Cathedral of Puebla is considered

one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, in addition to having the tallest towers on the continent. Furthermore, the Cathedral safe

guards an important art collection (paintings, sculptures, music compositions and documents).

9 – Africam Safari is the most important zoo-safari in Latin America. Wild animals roam free and make an unforgettable experience for visitors, encouraging them to love and respect our planet.

10 – The Chapel of the Rosary is the greatest baroque jewel of the seventeenth century in Puebla and in Mexico. Since the day it opened its doors on April 16th 1690, the Chapel has been seen as one of a kind due to it’s symbolism and the quality of it’s decorations which are largely covered with gold foil.

Information courtesy of the Puebla Municipal Government.

For more information on Puebla, please see http://www.mexonline.com/cityguide-puebla.htm

Tequila, a quintessential Mexico town

Great article from the Boston Globe and writer Joe Ray. Sums up the town of Tequila and many of the smaller towns in Mexico. Side note: If you have a chance to taste or acquire Guillermo Sauza’s tequila (Fortaleza), jump at it. It’s one of Mexico’s finest boutique and handmade tequilas.

TEQUILA — Just beneath the angel statue at the front corner of the town square, a young girl in a frilly lavender dress runs through a swirl of soap bubbles, her arms outstretched, a magic wand waving above her head. Her smile is so large, it’s like the first time a child sees snow. Above her rises the rough stone facade of the Santiago Apostol church whose tower is topped by a great neon cross with a tiny heart at its center.

The deliciously sleepy town of Tequila — population 30,000 — is quintessential Mexico. At first blush it’s hard to imagine that it is at the center of a big industry, yet the city’s coat of arms is festooned with the agave plant used to create the spirit that is the economic heart of the region.

Here, men wear cowboy hats, Wrangler shirts, jeans, and boots, and children scramble freely through the streets. Much of the town is surrounded by distilleries such as Cuervo and Sauza. Beyond them are thousands of square miles of the spiky, blue-tinged agave plant whose middle, known as the piña for its pineapple shape, is cooked and crushed to create the juice that is distilled into Mexico’s national spirit and is a big favorite north of the border.

Guillermo Erickson Sauza grew up straddling that border as the son of an American father and a mother whose ancestors founded the Sauza distillery in 1873. While the brand name and much of the distillery were sold by his grandfather in 1976, Sauza revived what was left as Tequila Fortaleza, where instead of answering to the whims of the market, he seems to answer only to himself and his ancestors.

“My grandfather wasn’t exactly the ‘come sit on my knee’ type,” Sauza says, communicating a reverence for his ancestors’ work ethic in every word. “We did about 7,000 cases last year. That’s about as small as you’re going to get,” he says. “We will never be a million-case brand,” he says, referring to the production capacity of some of his neighbors. “I’m not interested.”

We amble down to La Capilla, the unofficial name for a nameless hole-in-the-wall bar par excellence run by Javier Delgado, 89.

With yellowed walls, posters depicting the history of the tequila industry, antlers, bottles, and trophies, a beat-up bar, and an afternoon crowd of locals who emit a happy, relaxed vibe, “The Chapel” gives you the feeling that you have just walked into the best bar in Mexico. It’s also the birthplace of the improbably-tasty batanga, a blend of Coca-Cola, tequila, and lime served in a highball glass with a salted rim. La Capilla is the kind of place that consistently makes best bar in the world lists, but none of that really matters. People come here to be near Delgado.

“I’ve been a bartender for 75 years, and this is my father’s house,” Delgado says, gesturing around the room and behind the bar — toward his “nephew,” his sister’s grandson, Aaron de Jesus Mercado Aguas, 20.

I ask Aguas if he feels any pressure about eventually taking over the bar and he nods and blushes. When I ask why the bar is important, he simply says “Tio” — uncle.

“He has a lot of love for people, a lot of respect,” he says, repeating the second half of his sentence. “People leave here feeling better about themselves.”

I ask Delgado himself about the importance of the bar and he, too, blushes a bit, his dark skin and wrinkles making the blue rings around the outside edge of his irises glow brighter.

“I think people like to help me because I’m old,” he says.

He looks around again, skimming past the decor and focusing on the crowd. There’s a group of friends at a large table with a mother rocking a baby in a stroller, a few of Delgado’s friends, and my wife, Elisabeth, and me. If there’s a care in the world, it’s been checked at the door.

“I think people care,” says Delgado. “God brought us here to be together.”

We wave goodbye and walk out into the late afternoon, taking in the bright-colored exterior walls of the homes, the lengthening shadows, and the aromas of grilling that waft from the taco stands. We wander back toward the town square which, at this hour, is buzzing.

Everyone seems to live within walking distance of the square. They tip their hats and check in with each other, slowly creating that architecturally-inspired sense of community that city planners dream about.

“We were sitting on the plaza on Tuesday and it had an energy like something was about to happen, but it was just life,” says César Gutierrez Franco, a singer from Guadalajara who comes to Tequila about once a month with his wife, Claudia, and their infant daughter.

Sitting in front of a cafe, nibbling snacks, they’re basking in the town’s glow and sipping cantaritos, a tequila, citrus, and soda mix they’ve ordered from a bar around the corner.

“The town is a celebration of what being Mexican is all about. The small towns, the villages, the culture, and the ideas,” he says, gesturing at the plaza, then the churches that face each other at either end, where people invariably make the sign of the cross as they pass.

“Our culture is based on religion,” Franco says. “I’m an atheist, but I embrace it because it’s part of who we are.”

“I used to say that Tequila is better known in Moscow than in Guadalajara,” he says, seemingly conflating the town and the drink. “You could come here and see this little town in Mexico — sometimes friends would come with us and say, ‘Is this it?’ But the simplicity is the magic. It’s so simple, but it’s our legacy to the world.

“I like that.”
Direct Link: http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2012/10/20/quintessential-mexican-town-shows-its-industry-and-its-spirit/Nv1gWyldyQT4eY5sAzuvJN/story.html

An Interview with Jennifer & David MacKay of Solipaso in Alamos, Sonora

MexicoVisitor was lucky enough to catch up with an interesting couple living in colonial town of Alamos, Sonora. Jennifer & David MacKay are the owners of Solipaso Tours and their new project, El Pedregal Nature Lodge & Retreat Center. Read all about their experience of living and working in one of Mexico’s historic gems and an eco-tourism hotbed.

Jennifer and David MacKay

MexicoVisitor: Tell us about your first experience in Mexico and how did you end up in Alamos, Sonora?

Jennifer & David MacKay: We had both travelled to Mexico in our younger years, to the Yucatan and to the Baja…But, our lives in Alamos began through a family connection. David’s step-father and mother had purchased an amazing old building, La Ciudadela…one of the oldest buildings in this historic silver mining town. In 1994, we drove from CA to Alamos to visit them and were enchanted with the beauty and way of life in Alamos. On our drive back to CA we decided we were going to move to Alamos for a while. David quit his job at Backroads Bicycle Tours and I continued on at the same place as a trip leader (with a very flexible schedule). We were fortunate to be able to live in the enchanting La Ciudadela. It is a whole city block with many rooms, courtyards, fireplaces and more. We worked on fixing up that place and eventually turned it into a small inn. We also explored the area by foot, bike and car and then started leading tours  in the area. After 10 years in that location, we moved to another place which we turned into a restaurant/café and a three room inn. Around that time, we purchased the land we now live on, called El Pedregal. We have 20 acres of beautiful land on the edge of town and we have created El Pedregal Nature Lodge and Retreat Center. We raised our two daughters here, who went all the way through the public school system and are now both going to college in the USA. It has been a great place to live, raise a family and work for ourselves. We’ve now been in Alamos for 18 years and it is very much home for us and our girls!

MexicoVisitor: What is the idea behind Solipaso?

Jennifer & David MacKay: We started Solipaso as a way to work legally in Mexico and encompass all of the various things we do. We offer a variety of local trips, including birding outings and a float trip on the Rio Mayo. We also run birding and natural history trips throughout Mexico. On the international market of birding tour companies we are very small, owner-operated and specializing in Mexico. We also have our hotel, which offers lodging and meals. In addition, we also do a lot of custom trips and itineraries for people visiting Mexico with an emphasis on birding. Solipaso is owned and operated by us and we very fortunate to have several local guides here in Alamos as well as in other areas we travel.

MexicoVisitor: Solipaso is a leader in the conservation of your area, how has the local response been to your work?

Jennifer & David MacKay: Solipaso isn’t so directly involved in conservation, although we are involved in promoting ecotourism which is a way of getting people informed about and involved in conservation. We, as individuals, work directly in conservation in a couple of ways. Jennifer is working with the conservation project, Rancho Ecologico Monte Mojino (which is a project of Nature and Culture International). This project focuses on purchasing and protecting tropical deciduous forest. They have focused on ranches that are important for the conservation of the Rio Cuchujaqui watershed. All of the land lies within the federal reserve, known as the Area de Proteccion de Flora y Fauna Sierra de Alamos-Rio Cuchujaqui, overseen by CONANP. Essentially, NCI is creating a reserve within the reserve. This conservation effort is understood and supported by some in the area and others are still trying to understand why conservation is necessary. The local tradition of cattle ranching is very much a part of the campo culture and land is there to be used for grazing. Part of the ongoing effort of the project is to slowly lead by example and show the upsides of conservation. We are actively trying to get more scientific research done on the land and also trying to involve the local community in conservation projects that somehow benefit them. We have the strong support of CONANP.

The hills surrounding Alamos are amazing!

Jennifer is also involved in a big project to create a big city park and green space for Alamos. It is called Parque La Colorada and it will be a 300 acre park and it’s three main focuses will be recreation, education and conservation. A group of people is helping with the project and a Mexican non-profit has been formed to oversee it. We are in the process of raising the funds for the purchase of the land (and are half way there!). We have tax deductible status in the USA for all dollar donations and we are in the process of getting donatario status in Mexico for the same. This park will be another place to highlight the importance of taking care of the land and our environment.

MexicoVisitor: We noticed your other project; El Pedregal. What is it?

One of the casitas at El Pedregal

Jennifer & David MacKay: El Pedregal is our newest encantation in Alamos. We purchased 20 acres of land right on the edge of town and have created a beautiful place for people to come visit. On the land we have a main lodge around which we’ve built 5 guest casitas (rooms). We also have an big outdoor palapa and barbeque area, a great place for events of all kinds. And, there is a strawbale building on the property, which is Jennifer’s yoga studio and massage room. It is also a space that is very suitable for events, presentations, talks, parties, etc…On the land, we have a couple miles of trails which are good for a walk, run or birding. The land has been cattle free since 2005 and the habitat is getting really good! The regenerative capacity of this forest is amazing! So, we are also doing some conservation work here by simply showing how dense the forest can be and how close to the surface ground water can be when you remove cattle.

MexicoVisitor: Alamos is a colonial gem hidden in the hills of Sonora, tell us a little more about it? What’s the draw for visitors?

Jennifer & David MacKay: Alamos is, indeed, a very special place to visit and to live. It is like visiting ‘real’ Mexico. Although tourism is one of the main industries, Alamos is not a very touristy place….there are several things to do for visitors, but I think it’s main draw is that it is a very relaxing place to be. It’s a great place to come and get out of the rat race and the fast paced life that so many people live. We have many guests that arrive with a long list of things they want to do. After a couple days, they start to relax and the days become very mellow! But there is plenty to do as well. We have a great museum. Every Saturday there is a wonderful Home and Garden tour that takes visitors to 3 different restored haciendas. It’s a great way to learn more about the beautiful architecture and about the different people who live here. The proceeds of that tour go to the local scholarship fund. Solipaso runs a great day long float trip to the Rio Mayo, which is great for all ages, abilities and interests. The village of La Aduana lies a few miles away…it is the home of the original silver mines and is now a very little town surrounded by ruins of the old silver mining boom. The church there is 100 years older than the one in Alamos.  It’s also a great place to pick up a few locally made crafts. Walking around town and exploring the town is also a favorite activity! There is a variety of places to eat, from taco stands to great Mexican food to fancy international fare.

Colonial Alamos

MexicoVisitor: Everyone is concerned about safety in Mexico, how’s your neck of the woods?

Jennifer & David MacKay: Todo tranquilo aqui! There is a great deal made about safety in Mexico…especially in the US media. The reality is so much different than what they portray. We travel all over Mexico, going to remote places and we’ve never had anything but good experiences. Of course, one never hears about all the good stuff going on. Alamos is very safe…and I would say that Mexico is safe for visitors. The violence is very targeted, much like gang wars. There is not random violence like you see in the USA. They don’t have metal detectors at schools here…the good life goes on in Mexico and we encourage everyone to visit! Here in Sonora, our young daughters drive back and forth from the USA regularly and I actually feel safer for them when they are in Mexico because people here are good and helpful. There are many elderly women that live in Alamos that drive back and forth to Tucson by themselves. Mexicans are traveling all over this country without incident. It is safe and all is well. If you are involved with the shady side of life, then you might have some trouble! Otherwise, it’s safe! Of course, we use the same street smarts and precautions traveling here as we use traveling anywhere else in the world, including the USA!

MexicoVisitor: Is there anything else you would like our reader’s to know about you, Solipaso and/or Alamos?

Jennifer & David MacKay: We really like to help people have a great experience when they visit us here in Alamos or travel with us on our bird tours. Since we run all aspects of our business, we are able to give very personal attention and customized service. We love Mexico and it shows through our work and what we do.

MexicoVisitor: How can we reach you?

Jennifer & David MacKay: We have two websites. For Solipaso and all our tours, go to www.solipaso.com. For El Pedregal Nature Lodge and Retreat Center, go to www.elpedregalmexico.com. We can be reached by email at: info@solipaso.com. We have a toll free number from the USA: 1.888.383.0062. And from within Mexico we can be reached at: 647.428.1509

Editor’s Note: You can find more information on Alamos at http://mexonline.com/cityguide-alamos.htm