The One Mexican City Mexicans (and Expats) Are Keeping to Themselves
Querétaro : Mexico’s New Hot Spot
Getting the “inside scoop” on Mexican cities from Mexicans who live there has evolved into one of my favorite blog tasks. Coupled with information from a long-term expat and Spanish-language articles, here is what you need to know about Queretáro - a city I am convinced that Mexicans and expats there want to keep for themselves.
Guest blog by resident Jorge Hernandez
As I was thinking about what to say about Querétaro, One of the things that came to mind to mention since this article is for people considering moving to Mexico, is that they should know that all the Mexican states are divided into municipios, each one having its own presidente municipal.
For example, my home state is Querétaro, a state with 18 municipios. I was born in a municipo called Cadereyta de Montes, and raised in another municipio called Ezequiel Montes, about an hours drive from the City of Querétaro. One of the interesting things about Ezequiel Montes are the vineyards, including Finca Sala Vivé or Freixenet Mexico, which you may know as a leading producer of Cava.
When you see photo journals of the City of Querétaro, they will always include pictures of Peña de Bernal, which is the third tallest monoliths in the world and dominates the vista from Calle Corregidora in the nearby pueblo of Bernal (which is also officially designated as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos). The second site you will see in many photos is The Templo de la Cruz, built in 1654 is located at the top of the hilltop of Sangremal, one of the religious sites most representative of the city, and the site where the city was founded. The temple has generated many legends,* some quite dark, others inspirational for the religious.
The City of Queréro is stratified into very specific zones. The Centro Historico looks pretty much like any Mexican colonial downtown, except that Queretaro is a more organized, without stairs to climb and blind alleyways like other down towns. The city’s zones tend to be very specific to whether they are colonial, industrial or residential.
Most expats prefer to live in the Centro Histórico, drawn to famous 17th and 18th-century architecture such as La Casa del Atrio, La Mariposa, Mesón de Santa Rosa, Doña Urraca o Tikua Sur Este. Just steps from the Plaza de Armas, the city’s main plaza, you will find the Andador Carranza, a picturesque thoroughfare of art galleries, restaurants, and occasional strolling guitar players. However, the majority of the city’s population live in the suburbs.
Curiously enough, fewer expats live in Quéretaro than in San Miguel de Allende (only an hour away). Being Mexican, I can only guess that the Centro Histórico in Querétaro is not as quiet. Perhaps I am biased, but Querétaro has more activity.
While I am not what you Americans call a "foodie," I am still Mexican! I love the barbacoa de res and gorditas con queso de chile that they sell in Ezequiel Montes. For many people, las carnitas in Santa Rosa Jauregui are definitely worth trying when you visit there. The cheese they produce in Tequisquiapan, the wine from the vineyards, the xoconostles en caldo de olla make up some of the best dishes in this part of Mexico. If you want to go more native, try the nopales en penca, which are baby nopales with tomate, onion, and peppers, all of it inside nopal called penca that is baked in an underground oven.
Another thing to know, especially for people coming from abroad, and I believe it applies to many Mexican states besides Querétaro, are the two prices when buying products on the street or taking taxis: the one for tourists and the one for locals. If a person looks like they might be more affluent, lenders sell their products at a higher price than they would even Mexican tourists. The right thing to do in these cases is to buy only in places where the prices are fixed, like in the supermarket or to use Uber if you want to ensure the same price as a local [editor’s note: It is like this throughout Mexico with everything from taxi fares to rent. With experience you will know when to haggle.]
A more recent event to Querétaro is the Festival Internacional de Artes Escénicas (International Festival of Performing Arts), now in its second year. The free event in October features ensembles of theater, contemporary dance, folklore, tango, and circus-like performances, totaling close to 70 acts.
Tree of crosses
In certain seasons in the City of Querétaro, you will find it hard to choose which of the many events you can attend. You have the Festival de la Ciudad Film Festival (City Film Festival) at Cineteca Rosalia Solanom, and the Festival de Comunidades Extranjeras (Festival of Foreign Communities) opening with a 2-hour parade.
You also can choose to attend the Día Internacional de la Danza (International Day of Dance), or the Amealco artisan festival. During certain week-ends you will find children's events and live entertainment in every plaza, all under huge canopies with chairs set out for the public, and all for free or close to it. The Festival de Mole y Nieves which is held in La Cañada, a town about 5 miles from the City of Querétaro and its oldest, founded by the Spaniards in 1529.
Another sign of Querétaro’s charm is that many weddings are being planned there, another claim to fame of San Miguel de Allende being usurped.
* My favorite legend is that of the tree of crosses. Antonio Márgil de Jesús, a Franciscan friar who arrived in 1697. The story has it that members of the religious order would arrive so exhausted from their religious labors throughout the world that they would drive their walking sticks into the garden of the temple, which provoked the sprouting of a tree with needle-like thorns in the shape of crosses instead of flowers or fruit.
The famous tree of crosses turned into one of the main tourist attractions in the area, and many who visit believe the tree divine.
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About the author:
Kerry Baker is the author of two books.\, available on Amazon. The first is the Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online, a curation of the best free tools for learning Spanish on the web, curated into lesson plans according to level. Boredom with the same tools is the biggest reason people give up learning a second language. With the guide, you can create a new lesson plan every day.
The second book, If Only I Had a Place, is the ultimate guide to renting in Mexico. Don’t be fooled. Renting in Mexico is different. Learn what realtors do not want you to know, and rent luxuriously for less. The Mexico Solution: Saving your money, sanity, and quality of life through part-time life in Mexico, is her most recent book.