It's a little before 6:00 A.M., and the first bird chitters in the tree outside my
window. Soon the bells of the parish church clang one after another. Dawn shows its
pinkish light a bit in later as the quiet village of Tequisquiapan, two hours
north of Mexico City in the State of
Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, the area now occupied by
what's now the town of Tequisquiapan was commonly known as "Tequesquiatlapan,"
meaning "River with carbontated water." Today, Tequisquiapan is a tourist town a
weekend retreat for hundreds of chilangos (Mexico City residents) who come for
its crystal clear air and sparkling thermal waters.
During much of the Pre-Hispanic period, the valley of Tequisquiapan was more than just
a village. The great Nahua and Chichimeca chieftains acknowledged the importance of the
According to the local chronicler, Jesus Landaverde Chavez, the lords of Jilotepec
frequented the natural springs and fountains of Tequisquiapan only during very special
occasions. Upon arriving , they would take a bath in the thermal waters of one of its
numerous springs, during which they would deal with affairs of state and settle mild
disputes among themselves.
The first Spanish settlements in this valley date from the 16th century, when Don Luis
de Velazco, then Vicerory of New Spain, conceded Alonso de Estrada y Lope de Sosa the
rights over the valley to breed livestock and keep stables. In the process of building
Hacienda de Tequisquiapan in 1596, he displaced the former residents of the site to the
other side of the river.
I came to Tequisquiapan to relax and discovered a quaintness and inner peace not often
found in touristy places. But my biggest surprise was the food a cornucopia of vinos
and quesos, salsas and sopes to titillate even the most jaded
Tequisquiapan is especially noted for its wines and cheeses, two entirely
"new" foods that first made their appearance in the Americas with the arrival of
the Spanish Conquistadors in 1521. It was during Mexico's colonial period, in what today
is the State of Queretaro, that the planting of grapevines and the culture of wine making
was first attempted and eventually took hold. The Spanish conquistadors also brought cows,
sheep and goats to the New World in 1492.
A Taste of Tequisquiapan
I got my first taste of Tequisquiapan at the local market across from my hotel, the El
Relox, which boasts the oldest swimming facilities in town. On weekends, Tequisquiapan's
market hums with activity. Here locals and visitors alike can find everything from real
and artificial flowers to beans, all sorts produce and meats, and even hats.
After popping a carmeled pecan called a garapinado in my mouth, I became
immediately addicted to these sweet little morsels. Roasted pecans and peanuts, candied
with brown sugar, fill large wok-type containers, sending the delicious aroma of pecan pie
wafting through the stalls.
At Quesos Quiroz, I found a veritable cheese paradise. Tables piled high with mild Panelo,
Ranchero, and Oaxaca cheeses, plus quesos frescos (soft crumbly
cheeses) flavored with chile, epazote, arbole, chipotle,
and jalapeno. My favorite, Queso a Humado, probably came from the nearby
State of Hidalgo, and had the aroma of smoked provolone. Senor Quiroz also let me try a
piece of Manchego, a mild cheese with the texture of mozzarella.
But with all the food around me and the aromas coming from the market's fondas (food
stalls) , I decided to find some lunch. Eating in a fonda of a market, with the
smells of roasting beef and frying oil and the sounds of chopping is an experience I won't
soon forget. It was like eating in someone's kitchen, sitting amidst cases of sodas piled
high, with Mexican music blaring out of a boombox and pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe
on the walls. On the recommendation of a local, I chose Fonda Juanita, a food stand run by
Juanita Romero Ugalde with her cook, Dolores Duran. When I arrived, Duran was cooking up chiles
rellenos. Ummm... did they look good.
Fonda Juanita's menu read like the table of contents of a traditional Mexican cookbook
and featured mole, chiles verdes, blue corn tortillas, quesadillas--bistek
y queso, frijoles, enchiladas verdes and sopes. I decided
to try sopes--thick, fried masa (dough) cakes fried with a variety of
toppings--a typical food of Tequisquiapan. Service was quick and soon my platter arrived
with a variety of sopes topped with queso fresco, pollo, and frijoles,
and a delicious salsa roja that wasn't at all hot. The total came to about five
pesos, including a cold soda.
Someone across from me had Milaneza, a platter of bistek, pounded and breaded
and served with frijoles, cebollas, and delicate homemade potato chips.
After lunch, I strolled around town. I was struck by the cleanliness and sense of order
that prevails in Tequisquiapan. Purple bougainvillea tumbles down well-kept walls, hinting
at the well-kept gardens behind them.
Seeing the Sights
A mosaic of small, irregular, interlocking stone blocks pave Tequisquiapan's narrow
streets, which lead to the central square, the Plaza Civica. Traffic is closed a block or
two from it creating a pedestrian zone. And there's no litter despite the large number of
hotels, restaurants and tourist shops that stand in two rings around the square. This
makes strolling a pleasant experience any time of day.
Portales, or arcades, line three sides of the Plaza Civica crowned by the pink
and white 19th-century Parish Church of Santa Maria Magdelena with its single, squat,
bell-tower on the fourth. Spanish missionaries said the town's first mass under the giant
mesquite tree next to it.
The fragrance of herbs drew me to Hierberia "Xochpila." Here I found herbs
for every sickness. I sat at a square-side table at K'Pucchinos next door to have a
cappuccino and pastel, a delicious chocolate cake smothered with fresh
strawberries. A flute and guitar player wandered up, but suddenly the ringing of church
bells announcing a wedding at the parish church, drowned out their tune.
Tequisquiapan is a place to unwind, to relax, to forget about the hustle and bustle of
life. People who go to Tequisquiapan looking to do something, invariably leave
disappointed, for there's nothing to do there. Those who go looking for a tranquil and
satisfying respite from their busy lives leave, just as invariably, restored and
refreshed, and satisfyingly full.