4 Gratitudes from 5 weeks in Magical Tepotzlan, Mexico
January 1, 1970
by Taylor Arjinder
So let me tell you about how I ended up in Tepotzlan.
I met a boy who lived in Mexico City. We hit it off but I left for Quintana Roo—2 overnight buses away. So after a month in Quintana Roo and us chatting back and forth, I decided to go back to Mexico City to see him. And just in case, I accepted a a dog/housesit 1 hour away for shortly after.
Things with the boy didn’t pan out. But I got 5 weeks in gorgeous Tepotzlan instead.
At first sight, the mountains took my breath away—they look more like huge rocks at some parts. Growing up in cities and being more a beach traveller, I’ve never seen mountains like these. In July, it being the rainy season, everywhere is green and lush. The kind of green that shouts out I’m alive!
The cobblestone streets are quite picturesque but darn difficult to walk on especially w/ a 45 degree incline. Still I walk and walk because every new street I explore is so striking with the perfect mountain backdrop juxtaposed with stone walls, flowers or trees.
I always walk w/ my camera in hand, taking photos at every block, of the mundane to the magnificient. When you travel, even the simplest things are beautiful. This window dressing for instance.
I can go on and on about how beautiful Tepotzlan but you have to see it for yourself. It’s one of Mexico’s pueblos magicos and I do feel a certain magic in the air. Historically, it was a sacred place and nowadays the town attracts visitors attracted to temescals, crystal shops and the like. I certainly felt the effects of this, as I spent much of my time meditating, journaling, reading and listening to spiritual teachers and the like.
So here are my 4 things I’m grateful for in Tepotzlan:
1. Eating fresh tortillas.
When I say fresh, I mean fresh.
The señora boils the dried corn with a stone called kal for 10 minutes, so that the kernels are easy to peel (This corn is very hard, a different variety from the corn that is sold in the USA).. Then it is put into a mechanism that grinds the corn into a meal that, with the addition of water, becomes the dough for tortillas.
When I go to the senora’s house a few minutes’ walk from where I’m staying, she brings out a tub of the maiz and starts rolling them into balls, flattening them with a tortilla press and toasting it on a gas-fired pan right in front of me.
I always eat one while waiting. And when I carry the tortillas back in the kitchen towel I brought with me, it’s too hot to handle and I have to play hot potato!
They sell them all over the market in the center of town too. And along the main roads, dozens of houses and shops sell them fresh in a similar manner.
All this for only 10 pesos for a dozen. They’re a bit larger than the tortillas you find at tortillerias where they use a machine to stamp out the tortillas and much tastier, I guarantee.
2. The Wednesday and Sunday market.
The market by the zocalo is open 7 days a week but on Wednesdays and Sundays, several dozens of vendors come fill the whole town center with tents, selling fruit, shoes, incense, crystals, clothes and much more.
I’m a sucker for markets and I walk up and down the stalls every time, with a new item that I’m looking for. If I don’t find it, there’s no loss.
I must admit, the market is overpriced—sometimes more than double the prices of neighboring Cuautla or Cuernavaca I discovered. I love the festive energy buzzing with all the families out and about, children to the elderly on walkers all enjoying each other and the market.
And the music.
On Sundays, there’s 2 Mexican men who play music and sing on the street—one with a guitar and the other plays a earthen pot with what looks like a ladle. With the way their voices lilt comfortably in the cadence of the song, you feel that you’re in Mexico.
Sometimes in the Zocalo, there’s a woman who sings with a guitar to a small group of fans–Mexicans really know how to appreciate music!
Tip: If you must shop at the market and you’re on a budget, go later in the afternoon and the produce vendors will have grouped the ugly or overripe fruits/vegetables on a plastic tray for a big discount.
3. The most beautiful soccer field I’ve ever seen.
I saw a patch of green on Google Maps and decided to see what was there. I love nature, anything green especially when I’m in cities. What I found was better than I could have imagined.
The soccer field had the most amazing view of the mountains. When you’re anywhere in town, in the center or the surrounding areas, the mountains are obstructed by a building or trees and such. You get to see bits and pieces of the mountains, like a tease, but never in its entirety.
At the soccer field, however, w/ the land cleared, the mountains are on fully display. It’s, hands down, my favorite place in town.
You can go anytime and sit in the shade or in the sun or go for a jog. During the day the field isn’t used much as the sun is pretty hot but come late afternoon or early evening, the field definitely gets its fair use.
4. Cooking Lessons.
Now back to food, haha. Tona, the cleaning lady for the house house I was staying at, was a wonderful cook and we shared several afternoons together making different things with maize, which we buy for even cheaper than the tortillas from the same señora.
The first time we made a simple salsa w/ tomatillos, habanero and garlic and ate it as sopes here (with onion, cheese and the requisite cream):
The next time, we made gorditas which are fatter tortillas with a filling–we had cheese.
Then we made itacates. While I have been to 7 states prior to Morelos, I had never heard of them. It’s delicious and I found out why–the maize is mixed with pork lard and cheese before being shaped into a triangle and then toasted on a pan. I ate 6!
Things I am Saving for Next Time.
I’m a slow traveler. And I place more importance on the ease of how I feel, rather than filling it with things to see and do. So there’s always something leftover that I wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to. But maybe I’ll be graced with the opportunity to return to Tepotzlan and…
- Hike up to El Tepozteco—the main site that all visitors go see except me! (You can see some beautiful pictures here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/el-tepozteco)
- Visit the town of San Juan, further up the mountain. The locals recommend spending a beautiful afternoon there.
- Visit the nearby city of Cuernavaca to see the lake and some tourist sights like Diego Rivera’s murals at the Palacio of Cortes. (Or I can just see the murals on this website hehe: https://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facstaff/sullivanm/mexico/mexicocity/rivera/muralsintro.html)
- Make tamales with Tona!
I don’t stress over it though. Because I’m travelling afterall to be happy and not to see or do things.