Beyond the luxurious resort experiences offered at Mexico’s most exclusive beach destinations, there is a vast group of “Magical Towns,” or Pueblos Mágicos, that are located all across the country and that remain largely undiscovered. In 2001, the Mexico Tourism Board acknowledged that Mexico offered a magical element that went beyond its beaches and that kept tourists coming back. For this reason, they created the Magical Towns Program, an initiative that seeks to promote a series of towns across the country that are significant due to their history, rich culture, unique traditions, and natural beauty. These towns welcome visitors from all around the world, offering them a truly magical experience.
Metepec, whose name comes from Náhuatl and means “hill of the maguey plants,” is a city in the state of Mexico, just east of the state capital of Toluca, which on September 14, 2012 was designated the title of Magical Town. After the disappearance of the Teotihuacan culture in the 8th century, Metepec became a center for trade and cultural exchange. In 1477, the Aztecs took control of Metepec, and when the Spanish arrived, the Franciscan monks turned it into a center for indoctrination. During the 16th century, the Franciscan monks founded the Convento de San Juan Bautista, which is the main religious structure in town.
Metepec’s rich historical heritage is reflected throughout the religious character of its architecture. The historic center of the town has remarkable traditions of vernacular architecture, characterized by the use of materials such as adobe and ashlar stone, as well as the abundance of balconies, portals, partitions, and ornamental elements made out of clay, wood, and iron.
The town of Metepec is widely recognized as an artisan village that produces a wide range of crafts and traditional handmade items made from clay and ceramic. But perhaps the single most representative craft that Metepec is known for is the famous árbol de la vida, or “tree of life,” which is a traditional and often colorful pottery representation of the tree from which Adam and Eve ate in the Biblical story.
A day trip to Metepec must include a visit to the Ex-Convento de San Juan Bautista, the Igesia del Calvario, a stroll through the Cerro de los Magueyes until you reach the ermita del Tepeyac over the vestiges of an ancient Mexica temple, and, of course, a visit to the artisan’s workshops. The neighborhoods of Santiaguito, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Espíritu Santo are great places to observe artisans in action because workshops are always open to the public. The Casa del Artesano and its various corridors exhibit pieces made by artisans from Metepec that have won awards at a national level.
Insider Tip: Once your bags are full and your wallets are (almost) empty, we recommend that you kick back and relax with a delicious glass of garañona in hand. Garañona is a unique alcoholic beverage from Metepec with a sweet and strong taste that is made from 15 herbs. Locals claim that it is an aphrodisiac, and the only place where you can find it is the famous Bar 2 de abril in the city center.
For more useful information, such as how to get there, or where to stay, please visit: http://www.visitmexico.com/en/magicaltowns/center-region/metepec