There are already articles on folks planning to leave urban areas for more spacious surroundings once the plague peaks and has run its course. If you are one of these folks thinking, like Oliver Douglas did, of moving out to green acres from centro here are a list of nearby villages including their history plus pros and cons to consider before thrusting your Eva Gabor to holler towards the hollow “Goodbye city life!”
Alcocer – Great location and easy access top Alcocer’s charms. Along with being the home of the first volcano to erupt in the Americas once all the continents separated from Pangea making for a lovely hiking area in the Picacho mountains.
The hacienda here was owned by a minor government official during the Inquisition named Juan de Alcocer. From 1618 to 1647 Juan raised mules for use in the Silver Route that transported silver from the mines back to Spain. The hacienda was a working one and not the home of the owners so there are no ruins of a majestic hacienda home. You can still see the storage areas and corrals that local pigs, cows, horses and goats now gambol about the stone walls held together by mortar and memory.
Los Lopez – Home to the remains of an old bridge the Spanish used when their wagons were loaded with silver from the mines. Long known as a robbery hot spot, today metal detectors enthusiasts use the area to search for lost treasures from long dead highway robbers.
Although it’s a community laced with dirt roads, Los Lopez is surprisingly active, with a kindergarten, middle school, and recently opened state-of-the-art orphanage campus. It also has the only indigenous chapel I’ve seen that instead of decaying was recently added on to giving testament to the increasing vitality of Los Lopez.
Cruz de Palmar – You enter Cruz de Palmar viewing the monolith with a chapel on top. Often tour guides will tell you the monolith was once a pyramid, but it’s simply a natural rock formation. In the field across from it is a clump of trees growing over the remains of a pre-Hispanic pyramid the Spanish called Soledad in honor of the Virgin of Solitude, one of eight in the area.
Cruz de Palmar got its name from a local priest noticing two palm trees that crossed each other.
The town is where an 18th century hacienda once thrived. Chapels for the hacienda are now private homes, but you can peer into remains featuring frescoes that must have been glorious in their day. The hacienda was owned by a family named Taboada and, later, Juarez, however, all records were long ago destroyed. Older residents recall where the school now stands were adobe huts with thatched roofs for hacienda workers and their families.
Corner of Purgatory – A mountain town with lovely views and a well maintained church to the Lord of Good Health. That’s pretty much it as the roads turn to muddy adventures beyond it. Still, sort of cool to say you enter and exit Purgatory daily without having to die first, though the logic of going to Purgatory, on purpose, is rather elusive.
Pantoja – A ranch area folks moved to when the dam was finished in 1969, and areas then known as San Marcos and Flores were flooded in forming the lake. Many families moved closer to the railroad and highway to be on dry land before starting the brick factories that fill Pantoja. Bricks are formed from a mixture of lake clay, sawdust and copious amounts of livestock dung and the area smells accordingly.
Pantoja features the shortest Wikipedia entry I’ve ever seen: one line stating that the struggle for Independence from Spain ended here, on St. Joseph’s Day in 1821, after a decade of fighting. Why such an historic event happened in Pantoja, or what was even there then (nothing in Pantoja looks very old), are mysteries to be solved another day.
Comonfort – Originally called Chamacuero, indigenous for an area of ruins was in reference to the ancient ruins that dot the area. The name changed in honor of President Comonfort that was assassinated here.
The town, an often overlooked gem, features unique churches built on mountain tops and pyramids, several museums, weekend music and dancing plus a wide array of area specific culinary treats. However, the area is rarely visited by foreigners beyond a handful looking for inexpensive garden pots.
Empalme Escobedo – Just beyond Comonfort lies the village named for a military official and the place where the trains change cars. Literally. All day long trains slowly move in and out of town to switch around cars leaving icky soot in their wake. On the plus side Escobedo features the kindest people I’ve ever met and a large church featuring amazing Federal style architecture, but, oddly, only on the inside.
Soria – a small, picture post card pretty town just outside of Escobedo. During the Colonial Era there was a Spaniard, Jose Valencia, originally from Soria, Spain. Jose had a pack of mules transporting merchandise from Veracruz to Mexico City. Along the way, there was a deep ravine where it was said that the devil lived in.
One day Jose with his mules had some valuable cargo and when passing through the gorge a mule broke down and plummeted to the bottom of the ravine. Jose decided, in spite of his fear of the devil, to go down to pick up the merchandise. When Jose arrived in the ravine’s bottom he found riches in gold, silver, porcelain and fine cloth accumulated there. Products of accidents similar to that of his own mule, but whose owners had not retrieved their cargo out of fear. Jose carried out all the valuables that were in the ravine, which made him very rich.
Jose then bought a very large farm that had a wheat mill he called Soria after his hometown in Spain. Jose’s daughter, Emeteria, inherited the mill converting it into a textile factory. By the 1970s and 1980s Soria cashmere was the apex of male fashion and considered the best in Mexico. Today Soria spins and weaves cashmere that is later sold around the world. No longer with 1500 employees, the Soria factory has 150, as most fabric now comes from China.
Estancia de Canal – a picturesque site laced with streams with creeks from a mountain spring that burbles down to the lake. The road into town overflows with water as you cross a stream reminiscent of the English countryside with nicely spaced rocks a toddler would love to hop among.
The area was originally set up for the workers of the Canal family during the Colonial Era. The Canals are for whom Canal St. is named for as they lived in the building that is now the bank across from Starbucks. The Canal family owned the land their workers resided on. Many years and a revolution later, residents were granted the properties.
It is odd to see such a verdant area in a high desert area and worth a foray to view something geographically unique. Hikers and mountain bikers roam the area.
Esperanza – like Estancia de Canal, another area with its own springs offering year round lushness unusual to the area. Also the village is home to the ruins of nearby Hacienda San Roque, our oldest in the area.
San Isidro – Isidro, or Isidore, was a farmer that would get so caught up in his prayers he’d lose track of time so God would send down oxen and angels from Heaven to do his farm work for him, making Isidore the patron of farmers. Countless villages and chapels, in all directions from San Miguel, are named for him as the Otomi, indigenous farmers, still live and farm in those areas.
Jalpa – a village in a valley of three extinct volcanoes around a spring fed lake. During the Inquisition wheat was grown here in support of the silver mines. The ancient aqueduct system crisscrosses the mountains with one of two grinding stones lying in the churchyard while another is rumored to be at the bottom of the lake.
Jalpa is easy to access and whenever you find a paved road in the middle of nowhere, chances are a government official owns land at the end of the road.
In 1810 Ignacio Perez spent the night in Jalpa on his ride to warn Ignacio Allende and Fr. Hidalgo of the approaching Spanish army. The revolution is believed to have been delayed one day because of a fiesta in Jalpa that detained Señor Perez.
Jalpa fell into ruins after the revolution until the 1970s when Texan and Mexican gamblers flew their amphibian planes to the village’s lake to play poker at the old hacienda.
Nuetla –a surprisingly large town economically known for honey and mines for the ingredients used in concrete.
Go a bit farther from town for an Alpine-like lake lined with mountains and wildflowers. Truly gorgeous and it is marvelous to have a mountain lake so close to San Miguel. Granted, we’ve our own lake but it is surrounded by mud and thorns lining the shores. Consequently our lake, like a Seurat painting, is only pretty from a distance.
So much has changed when it comes to real estate and where it is best to live, yet, with land spreading out so far and wide, just give me that countryside!
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on history, holidays, tours and living in San Miguel.