Another Face of Mexico: The Rancho Tour from San Miguel de Allende
Half of Mexico does not live in the cities and towns most tourists visit. They live in the small pueblos and ranchos that dot the countryside, the "campo." They are subsistence farmers, ranchers, fishermen and artisans, the descendants of the indigenous people who were here before Cortés and his “Conquest.” And most tourists never get to meet them or see much of their traditional way of life. But in San Miguel de Allende you can do that easily with The Rancho Tour to Agustín Gonzalez, a rancho community about 20 minutes outside this UNESCO-recognized colonial city. The people here are direct descendants of the Otomí people who built the Cañada de la Virgen pyramid just a couple of miles away some 900 years ago. The half-day tour includes visits to four local homes. You learn how they use traditional "milpas" planting methods to grow three crops of corn, beans and squash in the same field. You see how they harvest and dry the corn, shuck and parch it, then grind it in a "metate," just as their ancestors have done for centuries. You can even try your hand at it yourself! Then watch them form it into tortillas and gorditas to be cooked on a "comal" over a mesquite fire. Then you get to eat them, with lots of traditional fillings! And man, are they good! The tour also visits a stone carver, who crafts beautiful small figures from the local indigenous cantera stone. Then we meet a village elder and learn how to speak a few words of Otomí. You also meet several of Las Rancheritas, members of a women’s co-operative who make and sell hand-hooked rugs/tapestries to raise the standard of living of their families and their community. The Rancho Tour is an experience of another face of Mexico, one few tourists ever see… or feel or taste, unique and wonderful.