Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos Offer a Return to Nature

I came to Mexico 10 years ago seeking what was missing for me in the States: a deep connection to place and living traditions that are naturally healthy and sustainable. I feel so fortunate to have found what I sought and to be living a life beyond my dreams.

My travels through Mexico led me to settle in Tepoztlán, an indigenous town in the south-central highlands in the state of Morelos. When I arrived here in 2007, I saw that this is not the typical expat community. The “Tepoztizos” come mainly from nearby Mexico City, other Latin American countries, the U.S., and Europe. There was (and is) no expat community per se to immerse myself in with organized activities, let alone a library with books in my mother tongue. This is Mexico alive with ancient ways. Speaking Spanish is a must.

Tepoztlán is a “Pueblo Mágico,” one of a select group of small towns valued for their traditions, charm, cuisine, crafts, nature, history, and attractiveness to visitors. Receiving government funding for tourist development, Tepoztlán is a bustling place on weekends and during holidays. Every week, I notice intriguing new restaurants and small hotels. But thanks to the protectiveness of the indigenous locals, neon signs, tall buildings and franchises are prohibited.

With its street market featuring indigenous crafts, jewelry, and clothes, the delicious food, striking mountains, historical sites, and multitudes of spiritual healing offerings, Tepoztlán is fast becoming a tourist destination for international travelers in addition to the Chilangos (natives of Mexico City), who regularly escape from their hectic urban lifestyles to unwind in this tranquil atmosphere two hours south.

I live in one of the villages in the municipality. Amatlán has a population of approximately 1,000, with around 8% being foreigners. I enjoy time alone at home to write, produce art, cook, or commune with nature. Which is easy and pleasant to do with the temperate climate and the fact that the rains (June through September) mostly come at night—so living on the edge of the village suits me fine.

Fortunately, when I need a bit of “town” energy, it is easy to hop on a combi (converted vans which serve as public transportation) and for 40 cents, I can be in town in 25 minutes. Wednesday and Sunday are market days, when I fill up on fresh produce including local avocados and wild greens, while sipping a made-to-order vegetable/fruit juice. After completing some errands at the copy shop and stationery and hardware stores, I’ll meet a friend for coffee in one of the trendy cafés. Then I’m back to the market for some borrego (lamb) or quesadillas, which will fill my belly for less than $3.

When there’s something I need that I can’t get in town, I can be in Cuernavaca (by bus for only $1.30) within an hour. There, I can get my chain store fix at Office Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, or Walmart, and procure specialty items in the large super markets. There’s even an upscale indoor mall complete with restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and Chili’s as well as a multiplex with the latest movies from Mexico and the States. Cuernavaca also offers cultural events such as live music, fine art, and museums.

I thrive living in this place, where I have a peaceful life abundant with nature and interaction with the community. What makes it all the more rich and delightful is the friends with whom I share the experience of being from somewhere else yet loving and choosing to live here. Besides drinking pure spring water from the mountains and living in a beautiful house for half of what I paid in the States (you can rent a very nice two-bedroom house for $650), the icing on the cake (or the filling in the tamale) is having internet in my house. Living a simple life in an indigenous village and being able to engage in the learning and instantaneous communication afforded by the world wide web, I enjoy the best of both worlds. There is nowhere I’d rather be.

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