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Rural El Tuito

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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 that 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 the history of this town since the days of the Spanish conquistadors.

Our first stop is the famous family-run panaderia, 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 and fired daily. On to the colorful plaza where we will walk around, experiencing the flavor of this rural town.

The first thing you will notice is the colorful adobe buildings in earthy colors of burnt orange, sage, 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. At her outdoor studio, Lilia has learned to create reproductions of pre-Hispanic clay figures from her famous father. Many are for sale at the local co-op art gallery.

The spacious plaza is typical of most rural towns and is the regional seat for the local government. City hall, or the Presidentia 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.” Here 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 the 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 corn tortillas from locally-grown corn; famous cookies and breads baked in an old wood-fired oven. We stop for a behind-the-scenes view in the local tortilla shop.

A walk along the Tuito River takes us past cows, horses, and goats grazing as we head to the co-op art gallery in the former summer home of famous Mexican artist Manual Lepe. We finish with a typical Mexican lunch in one of the family-owned restaurants (cost not included).