Traveling Mexico’s Mountainside like a Local
By Michelle Rodrigues
Tourism in Mexico has seen a drastic drop since the swine flu fright and the recent economic downturn experienced throughout the world, but this doesn’t stop everyone. Mexico is still optimistic and thriving with the continuation of its beautiful colors, traditions and cultures.
Aerial view of Mexico mountains
Initiatives like La Ruta del Tequila and the public awareness of World Heritage Sites in Mexico have been able to release knowledge and understanding of the deep history Mexico holds. One such project – Project:Exposure – has been piloted off in the fun and lively town of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico. The team and I went to Tequila for a week for the project, which is hosted by WHL Consulting.
Add a little Mexican fun into the work mix and you’ve got an experiential travel story to tell the grandchildren. Experiencing local travel is the whole fun of traveling in the first place. What’s not to like about tacos al pastor and a few laughs with charros over palomas?
Sunday is no day for resting in Tequila, but for enjoying, eating, dancing and singing. The town’s center square is lined up front, back, and side to side with street carts offering tacos of every variety. A local favorite, al pastor, similar to that of Greek gyros, are pork based and mixed with a touch of pineapple. Mix that with a touch of grilled onions and cilantro and you have pure satisfaction. Complete with a staged concert and a little bit of dancing, Sunday was a fun day for local activity.
Sunday parade in Tequila
Being what most people believe to be the birthplace of tequila, Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico is in no shortage of it. Even having your gas pumped at the local gas station prompts the question, “Excuse me, would you like some tequila?”
One night during the week the team and I went to a local bar that we passed by during the day. Within minutes we were right in the middle of it all with the locals. Being the welcoming people Mexicans are, our local friends took us under their wing and guided us to the best tequila (most argued Los Abuelos), to the full serviced delivery tacos (al pastor, of course), to the variety of drinks tequila is used in (which is absolutely everything, but my favorite was a paloma; grapefruit soda, splash of lime juice and white tequila).
There were even a couple of true charros in the house. The charros were champions in their day of charraría, the national sport of Mexico. These traditional Mexican horsemen won trophies in the Mexican rodeos and proudly told stories of successes and even failures.
Project:Exposure has been launched by WHL Consulting as a program to help local small accommodation providers do just as its name says, expose. Tequila is more than just the ever so popular alcoholic beverage, it is host to many local hotels with a traditional Mexican flare and contemporary accommodations.
With an extensive market readiness assessment, Project:Exposure determines the level of which each hotel is ready for the international market and the tourists it brings along. For the market ready and nearly market ready group, an experienced market copywriter (my role) and photographer (represented by 360 Cities) chime in with a content collection segment to assemble the necessary pieces for presence on the Internet.
These two groups are determined by different rankings of focus, such as the level of completion of the property, any available literature and the condition the property is in. With content collected, I was able to write the true story about these small and medium hotels surrounded by their contribution to their community, the environment and the betterment of the tourism industry in Mexico. Fortunately, we’ve partnered up with 360 Cities to provide these accommodations with completely spherical virtual tours that can be embedded on any website.
A Hacienda I’d Like to Call “Home”
Through this trip I’ve learned that Mexico is full of the beautiful small hacienda hotels I pictured. What I had in mind were home-like hotels placed in the mountains with beautiful views, traditional Mexican décor with hardwood furniture, those little metal star lanterns and bright colors tastefully placed. These haciendas were just that and more. The last night of the trip we stayed at Hacienda El Carmen in between the towns of Teuchitlan and Ezetlan. This amazing getaway is tucked in the mountains with a beautiful spa, gardens and rooms decorated in traditional Mexican décor.
Courtyard of Hacienda El Carmen
Mexico is full of activities and local travel experiences, too many to accomplish in one week. Thankfully I was able to experience an ancient ceremony at the Guachimontones ruins, have drinks and tacos with a champion Charro, tour a tequila distillery and have breakfast tortillas made fresh every morning by a woman who has been making them for years. With that, I can’t wait to go back.
Ancient ceremony at Guachimontones ruins
Photos by Michelle Rodrigues
Michelle Rodrigues, TIES Travel Ambassador
Born and raised in New York, NY, Michelle Rodrigues moved to Miami, Florida to pursue her undergraduate degree in hospitality management and travel with a minor in journalism at Florida International University. Now that she has graduated, Michelle will be working with whl.travel as project manager and content editor for the North American and Caribbean Region. She loves to travel and explore new cultures and foods. With her love of food, Michelle often spends her spare time in the kitchen experimenting with new flavours and recipes. Along with promoting ecotourism and responsible travel, Michelle volunteers for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Relay for Life.