Tag Archives: Guanajuato

Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato — Mexico’s Newest Pueblo Magico

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.

Building Dreams in Guanajuato, Mexico: Economic Development and Tourism

A social service project high on a mountain top about forty-five minutes from Guanajuato city, is changing lives.  Up the hill past Valenciana and Mayolica Santa Rosa, lies the pueblo of Mineral de la Luz.  About 750 people live there today, from a peak of many thousands a hundred years ago when mining was at its peak.  (Still, Mexico is the number one silver producer in the world.) Many who make Mineral de la Luz their home are young men employed by the Endeavor Silver Corporation, a Canadian mining company that has took over  the rights in 2011 for extracting silver from the rich veins that lie deep within the earth.


Some say Mineral de la Luz is a ghost town, but with active silver mining, gorgeous views, historic adobe buildings, nearby ex-hacienda Jesus Maria (a restored elegant boutique hotel), and a population determined to improve themselves and their village, most know otherwise.  Adriana Cortes-Jimenez, executive director of Fundacion Communitaria del Bajio, is one of those people.  Adriana is a tireless advocate, passionately committed to helping local families find resources to improve education and start small businesses.  Adriana believes there can be a partnership between tourism and economic development.  She has many ideas.  So do the men and women of the village.


On this  weeklong trip together I rode shotgun in Adriana’s VW van, zig-zagging the backroads, high desert plateau, mountains and valleys of Guanajuato state.  We went from Irapuato to Guanajuato City and back again then to Valenciana, Sangre de Cristo and Mineral de la Luz, on to Trancas and Dolores Hidalgo, and finally to Mineral de Pozos, stopping to visit individuals and families in each location who are slowly building their dreams.  Many of Adriana’s 50+ projects have been in development for three to seven years, mostly because resources are scarce. In Mineral de la Luz, she has helped with the restoration of over 35 houses.  This gives people a lot of pride and hope.

During our time together we talked a lot about what visitors would be interested in seeing and doing, and what can be accomplished more quickly to stem the tide of out-migration.  So many have left in search of jobs and livelihood — a process that destroys families and communities.

I’ll be sending  Adriana my ideas in a report later this month to add to the great plans she already has in mind.


In Mineral de la Luz, we had a home-cooked lunch of delicious, fresh quesadillas. I watched our host prepare lunch and learned a new technique for chopping onions without crying!   The women of the family want to open a restaurant.


Their daughter, Alma Liliana Leon Araujo, is a talented 19-year old potter who brought together other teenagers like herself.


They formed a small cooperative studio and built two simple kilns — one gas-fired, one wood-fired.  Together, they dig the clay from local sources.  They have no way to gauge the temperature — there is no electricity.  Their pre-Columbian design pots are shaped by hand and then stone polished.  They are resourceful and talented and deserve to be encouraged.

This week, Adriana is making a visit to Asheville, North Carolina to see the arts trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains, once remote, but now connected through an economic development and tourism partnership.  She will also establish a 501(C)3 non-profit that can help support her endeavors in the U.S.

If you would like to help support this project, let me know and I’ll pass your name along to Adriana.  Or, contact her directly by clicking here!

Tunnels of Guanajuato City: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Who needs to leave North America to discover the richness of culture, architecture, archeology and history?  It’s here in Mexico.

For the past week, I’ve been traipsing around the State of Guanajuato with Adriana Cortes Jimenez, executive director of Fundacion Communitario del Bajio (without internet).  One of our first too brief stops was Guanajuato city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site or Patrimonio de la Humanidad, so designated in 1988.  It was built-up through the wealth of silver extracted from mines deep in the folds of the surrounding mountains.  The city itself is situated in the valley of one of those folds with outstanding examples of Baroque and neo-classical buildings wrapping up and around narrow alleyways called callejones and into the surrounding foothills.


I think what astounds me most about this extraordinary city are the tunnels.  Miners, skilled in digging deep into the earth to extract silver and gold ore, created underground passageways to traverse the mountainous city more easily.

Flor Lona, an architect friend who works with the Guanjauato Patrimonio de la Humanidad, took me on a driving tour through the tunnels that crisscross the city’s underbelly.  She explained this is the fastest way for cars and pedestrians to get from one place to another.


Having grown up in earthquake country (Southern California) and now living in the active earthquake zone of Oaxaca, I kept asking, “Is it safe?  Are there earthquakes here,” each time we went under these ancient excavations!  Another friend Berta said that this part of the state is solid rock and the city is structurally very sound.  No worries.  I still held on to my seat as we descended into the underground.


Above ground are Porfirio Diaz era grand epoque-style structures that house concerts, plays, outdoor cafes, upscale shopping including beautiful silver jewelry shops.  The jardin (garden) is a manicured space with winding passageways leading to small squares and courtyards where one discovers another cluster of stunning buildings, churches, and abuelas looking over balconies in houses where they were born.


It is a perfect pedestrian experience!  Very European, very much like an Italian hill town with a bit of Rome added.  Who needs to leave North America to discover the richness of culture, architecture, archeology and history?  It’s here in Mexico.