Located in the Mexican Plateau on the southeast side of the Sierra Gorda, is the “Pueblo Majico” Tequisquiapan, Queretaro, or “Tequis” as known by the locals. An area of 344 square kilometers and nestled in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks, the land is relatively flat with rolling hills, and mountain peaks in the distance. The San Juan/Tequisquiapan River crosses the town in the south at the Centenario Dam. Mesquite, junipers and cacti are prevalent along with various grasses. The highest elevations are in the eastern portion of the area, and are formed from volcanic basalt and vary in color from red to black. In some areas, you will find large deposits of quartz and opals.
The climate in this valley is comfortable, with low humidity and temperate temperatures. There are two well defined seasons – the wet season is from June to October and the dry season from November to April. The coldest months, October to February, may see the temperature drop to freezing on several occasions. But it heats up quickly during the day to temperatures above 70f on most days. The summers are warm, with cooler nights. Air conditioning is an unnecessary expense.
The population of the area is approximately 55,000, with 77% of the population concentrated in five communities. 51% reside inside the Tequisquiapan township itself.
Tourism is the main economic activity in this area, making it a popular place to visit for Mexican nationals who come on weekends, or have second homes constructed here. After tourism, agriculture and livestock provide the balance of the economic activity supporting the town. Bulls for bullfighting are raised here, as well as chicken, sheep, goats and pigs. Honey and wax are also produced.
This is also an area that supports the artisan communities all over Mexico. The town has a reputation for it’s local handicrafts as well as providing retail space for sellers of crafts from all other areas of the country. The two most popular crafts from the Tequisquiapan area basketry and furniture production made from wood, rattan, wicker and other materials. With the tourist trade, the production of crafts has grown providing a greater quantity and variety of goods in recent years.
There are several small towns that dot the area around Tequisquiapan. In Bernal, you will find more artisan work, including local wool textiles. In San Nicolas, the manufacture of concrete block as well as maintaining an agricultural industry supports the community. La Fuente produces chili peppers, corn, tomatoes and beans as their principle crops. La Trinidad hosts an archaeological site as well as the opal mining industry, but also produces corn and beans. Near the river’s edge, walnuts, peaches, pomegranates, avocados, apricots, limes, guavas and figs are grown in abundance.
Other industries in the area include wineries that produce 1.2 million bottles of wine, and cheese farms that produce a minimum of 400,000 kilos of cheeses per year.
The town, now near 500 years old, is a unique mixture of the very old to brand new construction. Newer parts of town that have been built more recently offer everything from minimalistic industrial style homes to the traditional look of the old hacienda style homes. All new construction is concrete and block. Around the town plaza in Centro,called the Miguel Hildalgo Plaza, the construction remains traditional with cobblestone streets and rustic buildings. The plaza is anchored by the Santa Maria de la Asuncion Temple. The church originally established in the 1500s, it was rebuilt in the 19th century after an earthquake leveled the front portion. The clock tower was added in 1897. On August 15th of each year, the town celebrates Our Lady of the Assumption, the patron saint of the town. The founding of the town itself is celebrated each year on June 24 in the oldest barrio, Barrio de la Magdalena, where the founding mass took place.
The town has many celebrations throughout the year, as most in Mexico do. On September 13, there is an annual pilgrimage to the Chapel on the Cerro Grande, where participants spend the night celebrating. The feast of Isadore the Laborer on May 15 each year is important to the town as it’s purpose is to ask for good crops in the current growing season. On September 8, the town celebrates the feast of Mary Magdalene, patron saint of the Barrio de la Magdalena, and on December 27, the feast of the Apostle John is celebrated in Barrio de San Juan.
The Feria Nacional del Queso y el Vino began in the 1980’s and continues today as a means to promote the regions cheese and wine production. This festival takes place for several weeks in May and June.
Tequisquiapan offers it’s residents and visitors a well constructed infrastructure which includes a good water treatment system with excellent water pressure. The sewer system is well maintained, as are the roadways. Most are paved with 2.3% still left as dirt or actual cobblestone streets. Many were paved using the modern equivalent of old cobblestone to maintain the historic quality of the town. The electric grid is very dependable, with only a few short outages per year due to heavy storms.
An excellent public transportation system is provided residents at a very low cost. Municipal buses cost as little as 25 cents in-town and long distance trips to nearby towns and cities usually never exceed $8. There is also a well organized and abundant taxi service. And if you are over 60, the government provides a discount program, IMAP, that will reduce your fare by as much as 50%.
The township maintains several beautiful parks like this one at the Cultural Center. The most important is the La Pila located north of the main town plaza. It hosts a fresh water spring with a large treed area for picnics and other outdoor activities. Previously a water mill, it’s adjacent storage reservoir built in 1567 can still be seen. This is also one of the sites of the annual Feria Nacional del Queso y el Vino.
The town also has a bullring, which hosts bullfights, Flamenco dancing, and concerts.
There is mail service, but most residents rarely receive mail. Bills are hand delivered by company representatives hired for that purpose. Most freight items come by DHL or FedEx.
Phone service is delivered by TelMex and is excellent quality service. Several cell phone carriers are available including AT&T and TelCel. Service runs a little less than in the US. Internet service is available at about half the cost of US, but high speed service is available at 50,000 bps. Satellite and cable carriers are available and cost about half of US equivalents. These carriers also offer internet and telephone services bundled with a tv package.
The town has a newly built community center called Centro de Desarrollo Comunitario. There is an indoor olympic size pool, and health center. Many shows and events are produced here annually.
There are half a dozen or more private clinics offering medical and dental services, as well as private doctor’s offices. The municipal clinic, open 24 hours per day, offers clinic, emergency and trauma services for 50 pesos ($2.60) per visit. It is part of the subsidized healthcare sponsored by the federal government and is offered to all residents and expats free of charge. The equivalent of the U.S. “medicare” system here is the IMSS, and they have a hospital in Tequis and in the close by San Juan del Rio. The system is free to citizens who have paid into the system through payroll taxes, but is also offered to expats for only a few hundred dollars PER YEAR! This system provides full coverage after three years with no additional costs, and includes dental and prescription medications. You can also purchase and use private insurance much like in the U.S. Of course prices are much lower for both insurance and medical services, making insurance or a health plan required only for catastrophic illnesses. In 2017, the typical private doctor’s office visit was 400 pesos, ($21) and a root canal with a cap was 3850 pesos ($201).
Drugs are not as regulated as in the states. Most are available by asking the pharmacist, with the exception of hard narcotics and antibiotics. The cost is anywhere from 3 to 10% of retail US cost without insurance.
Education is rated well in the area. There is one special ed school with 16 teachers. There are 16 preschools, 36 primary schools, and more than a dozen middle schools. Televised middle school is also offered, as well as over the internet. There are 5 vocational / high schools in town, and 4 college campuses. Education is free through high school, and college costs are subsidized. One semester runs around $2000 in total costs.
Tourists and locals alike enjoy activities and sights that can be found in and around the town. One can tour vineyards and sample locally produced wines and cheeses, take a hot air balloon flight, visit ancient historical sites, go horseback riding, or shop in one of the states largest outdoor artisan markets. There are many restored haciendas in the area that can be visited. Some have become hotels. There are opal mines in the area that are still actively mined and one, La Carbonera, that is open to the public. There are many thermal spas and water parks in the area, some offering slides and other amenities. There are several archaeological excavation sites in the area that date from 900 CE, or around the time of the fall of the indigenous Teotihuacanians.
21 miles north, you will find the Pueblo Majico “Bernal”. Founded in 1642, this colonial village lies underneath one of the worlds 4 similar monoliths, and the third largest. Bernal also supports a large artisan community.
Cadereyta lies 19 miles from Tequis, at the entrance to the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro. There you will find impressive caves and archaeological sites.
Ezekiel Montes lies a little closer at 11 miles, and contains one of the area’s oldest temples, Saint Michaels, built in the 16th to 18th centuries by indigenous Otomies living in Queretaro. Here you will also find great examples of decorative objects made from “ixtle”, a fiber obtained from the agave plant.
In the opposite direction, San Juan del Rio lies 12 miles south of Tequis, and is the main shopping area for residents in the valley. This is a medium sized industrial city of about 300,000 residents. It also has an historic town center that is well worth a visit. The town hosts some of the areas most beautiful churches, dating from between the 16th and 19 centuries. Puenta de la Historia (History Bridge) which spans the San Juan River was in the 18th century, the most popular route for those traveling north and west of “New Spain”.
To the west about 40 miles, is Queretaro, the capital city of the state by the same name. This is the 3rd largest city in Mexico, with well over 650,000 inhabitants, and offers any service or product one might need as well as another historic district filled with interesting structures, venues and shops. It’s city center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.
The area, though is best known as a place of “great tranquility”. It’s place in history as a place of great healing waters set it’s ambiance in stone. This is a place to relax, and appreciate the beauty of nature, as well as the beauty of the town and it’s people. Fine wine, cheese, food, music and artwork are it’s claim to fame with good reason. This is a place to enjoy life and take a moment….or two…to breath!
Sources: VisitMexico.com https://www.visitmexico.com/es/destinos-principales/queretaro/tequisquiapan Tequisquiapan Municipality http://www.tequisquiapan.com.mx/