Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Get out of town for a day and explore the past with a trip to 500-year-old pre-Hispanic El Tuito which lies an hour south of Puerto Vallarta. Feel the cooler weather as we travel along the "palms to pines highway" into this verdant valley which lies 2000 feet up in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Life moves slower in this small, rural town and the agricultural and cottage industries will surely interest you as you listen to its history since the days of the Spanish conquistadors.
Our first stop is the famous family-run panadería where we sample empañadas baked in a wood-fired brick oven. Then to Mi Pretexto, a small family raicilla farm started 20 years ago, to observe how raicilla is made.
Next, we venture up a dirt road to the brickyard where hundreds of hand-made bricks are made daily and fired in their two-story kiln. On to the colorful plaza where we will walk around, experiencing the flavor of this country town.
The first thing you will notice are the colorful adobe buildings in earthy colors of burnt orange, ivory and brown, created from a wash made of the local clays. Potters come from near and far to dig their own clay here which they claim is some of the best in this part of Mexico.
Lilia has learned to create reproductions of pre-Hispanic clay figures from her famous father Luis. We stop at her outdoor studio to see works in progress.
The spacious plaza is typical of most Mexican towns and is the regional seat for the local government. City hall, or the presidencia as it is called, is a prominent building on the plaza and houses a colorful mural, "The Universal Revolution," depicting the ancient history of El Tuito, an Indian name meaning "beautiful valley."
This is also where folks gather for fiestas, celebrations, market days, and dancing. The folkloric group of young people in regional costumes is a favorite on this outdoor stage. The 200-year-old church is known for its simplicity and the large boulder placed in the sanctuary, a remnant from the days of the Conquistador's simple Catholic chapel, and used today as the altar.
The many cottage industries, most run by the women, are the mainstay for many families of this town of 3500 people: panela cheese from the local dairies; blue tortillas from locally-grown corn; famous cookies and breads baked in old wood-fired ovens. We stop for a behind the scenes view in the local tortilla shop where over 40,000 tortillas are made daily!
A walk along the Tuito River takes us past cows, horses and goats grazing as we head to the co-op art gallery Coppelia in the former summer home of famous Mexican artist Manual Lepe. Our last stop is for a typical Mexican lunch in one of the family-owned restaurants (cost not included).
If you are visiting Puerto Vallarta, I will happily take you on an El Tuito walking tour. This is an adventure into rural Mexico that you will truly enjoy. Two transportation options are available, including private car.
For more information about this, or one of my other entertaining and educational Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours, contact me at sandra.learn.vallarta(at)gmail.com.
Sandra Cesca has lived in Puerto Vallarta for 11 years. She is a cultural tour guide with her own small business: Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours. She is also a cultural photographer and writer whose work can be found on Your Cultural Insider and Sandra Cesca Photography. Contact her: sandra.learn.vallarta(at)gmail.com.