For nearly 100 years Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato, Mexico, has been an abandoned mining town on the verge of extinction. Today, recognized by the federal government as a Pueblo Magico, the once prosperous town is making a comeback as a place to relax, kick-back, and enjoy. Just 45-minutes away from the bustling expatriate mecca of San Miguel de Allende, Pozos offers what San Miguel is not — a small-scale, tranquil, serene, intimate and lower-key approach to life. There are excellent restaurants and stunning accommodations where you can rest, refresh, and use as a base to explore the environs.
I loved walking the original cobblestone streets. I felt as if I was transported back to the early 20th century, and the architecture reminded me of old west towns you might see in 1950’s cowboy movies.
The hill town is easy to traverse, and within a few blocks of the lovely Su Casa B&B where I stayed, I discovered the central plaza, lined with several excellent art galleries, shops, El Secreto de Pozos B&B and Galleria No. 6. There is a local art scene with painting, sculpture, photography, music and pre-hispanic instruments, plus a self-guided gallery tour with each place well-marked.
Mineral de Pozos is on the priority list for tourism development by the federal and state offices of tourism. Pozos is also one of Adriana Cortes-Jimenez’ priorities. Her organization, Fundacion Communitaria del Bajio, is investing in the lives of local people who have the talent and wherewithal to build a tourism infrastructure that is owned and operated by Mexicans.
So often I heard, “We don’t want Pozos to become another San Miguel,” during the three days I was there. What does this mean? I asked people. I learned about how important it is to develop and invest in local ownership of businesses so that Mexicans can have a share of the economic prosperity that tourism brings. This means more than being trained as the restaurant cook, server, gardener or housekeeper. It means participating in the decisions of how the town develops, owning land, getting micro-finance loans to start restaurants, guide services, bed and breakfasts, and shops, and the training to run these successfully.
Please don’t get me wrong. San Miguel de Allende is a magnificent historic hill town with an incredible jardin (central garden), a splendid church, great walking streets, with an extraordinary art scene. It is a shopper’s paradise and many expats love the opportunity to live there to discover their passions. With its million dollar mansions and amazing views, it’s no wonder that the village has exploded and attracted the artistic and those searching for another way of life. I loved my visit to San Miguel and appreciated knowing it better! Oaxaca is where I belong.
Mexico was colonized by the Spanish in 1521 when Cortes landed in Veracruz. Mexicans have fought against colonialism for much of the nation’s existence. However, most major industry and manufacturing is still owned by foreigners. Walmart is one of Mexico’s largest employers. Canadians operate the mines in Guanajuato and pay minimum wage, I’m told. Mexico is oil-rich but has no refineries, shipping its natural resource to the U.S. for processing, and then back again to be used.
Tourism in Pozos represents a new opportunity for local ownership and control of one’s own destiny. For visitors, the opportunity is to discover great food, stunning views, excellent hiking and mountain bike trails, an opportunity to do community service with a local composting effort, and nature photography at its finest with abandoned mines as archeological focal points.
I hope you will give yourself time to go beyond San Miguel de Allende to take it a bit slower in Pozos. You won’t be sorry.
If you are interested in supporting the work of Fundacion Communitaria del Bajio, please contact Adriana Cortes Jimenez.
You might be interested in knowing that the blurry photos above are intentional. I am using an experimental lens called the Lensbaby Muse for my Nikon. It’s fun and creates some very interesting, and sometimes amusing, images! My friend Sam Robbins calls it the Woogity.