Travelogue V A report on Alamos, Sonora, Mexico

Alamos which means Cottonwood Trees has to rank high on a list of places =

to see in Mexico. Earlier we gave a strong recommendation for Patzcuaro =

and I will have to say that Alamos is much more colonial than Patzcuaro. =

In fact you can make a strong case that it is the most colonial town in =

Mexico. I believe we have seen them all. San Miguel De Allende is more po=

pular as it is larger and has several beautiful churches. We have also s=

een Guataujato, El Fuerte and Zacatecas Let us tell you about Alamos. I=

n 1946 a fellow from Pennsylvania visited Alamos and then others, artists=

and prospectors came and the word slowly got out about a lost Colonial M=

ining town in the foot hills of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains cal=

led Alamos. =20

Coronado visited here in 1531 but it remained a sleepy Indian town until =

1683 when Silver was discovered. By 1731 the town had reached a populati=

on of 30,000. By the mid 1800's it became the capital of Occidental whic=

h was a new state created by Spain which covered most of Northwest Mexico=

=2E It was the wealthiest city in Sonora and attracted immigrants from a=

ll over the world but especially the Pacific with many from China and Jap=

an coming here to work in the mines and set up other businesses. In 1916=

they were expelled as part of the revolution because they had to much ec=

onomic power. Many fled to the mountains and eventually returned and have=

married and are of course mestizos (mixed blood).

There were 46 silver mines in the area and some gold was found as well. F=

rom 1910-20 revolutions by Indian mine workers, the revolution in Mexico =

and the fact that the silver was mined out the town suddenly declined rap=

idly in population and the wealthy people left. There are many stories o=

f the wealth and the size of the Hacienda's. One of the more interesting=

is that the family west of the church had silver bars laid down so they =

could walk to church on a silver walk way for a day.=20

Today about 150 families from the USA have homes here and about 50 Canadi=

ans. Some Canadians have bought a lot of the old silver mines but until =

silver becomes worth more activity has stopped. The population was about=

6000 but is now closer to 10,000. Alamos like San Miguel De Allende has=

building committees that have to approve all construction so it is resto=

red as original and some sites such as the church are historical and have=

to be left as is other than things to preserve it. The reason the town =

is so colonial is because of the influence of the USA and Canadians. Alt=

hough most only live here 2 - 4 months in the winter but the difference h=

ere is that they want it to remain like it was. Most of them learn Spani=

sh and support all sorts of local activities. It is through this outside=

money that so much has been restored here and it is still going on in a =

big way. You can buy a property for $20,000 that might cover a 1/2 of a =

square block but it may cost you $200,000 to restore. Still by standards=

in most places in the USA this seems like a good deal to me. One drawba=

ck is property rights of foreigners or for that matter Mexicans is always=

a bit up in the air. Bing Crosey, Archie Bunkers(can't think of his r=

eal name) Mickey Mantel and other famous people have owned homes and live=

d here. The president of Hersey Candy has a beautiful place here. One re=

stored probably will by $250.000 to $500,000.

There are two plaza's or zocolo's here. The one is more of a working one=

and the other is by the church and is social in nature. Every Sunday mo=

rning there is an open air market. On Sunday evening the band plays in t=

he center in a gazebo and there is a prominade. The boys go one way and =

the girls go the other way. There is church all the time but on Sunday t=

he custom is for man, women, boys and girls to sit in certain rows, of co=

urse everyone is Catholic. =20

The best Taco stand according to locals is one the north side of the work=

ing plaza and is the last one to the west. This could of course change. =

A secret is to just stand back awhile and observe which one the locals a=

re going to and how they seem to be on cleaning up. They are not going t=

o be wearing plastic gloves but it things are hot, and the hygiene looks =

decent you should be OK. We had no problems but then we have been in Mex=

ico for a long time so I suppose we have some immunity built up. As a fi=

rst timer I would recommend beef! Goat, etc. takes a bit of getting used=

to. BTW they have all kinds of topping to put on the Taco's. East of th=

is plaza is the market where you can buy most anything. We did look at s=

ome eggs in a carton and in opening the carton cockroaches came running o=

ut, racing for cover. Don't get me wrong the market was clean, the me=

at markets were the best I have seen and the streets are as clean here as=

anyplace we have been but termites and cockroaches in the mild climate a=

re a problem. It does get cool here at night during the winter and even =

in the hot summer, it rains in the afternoon and is cool at night.

I walked to the mirador, overlooking town and got some nice pictures. Yo=

u can drive there. I hike down a path which you can also hike up. It st=

arts from the river bed a bit north of the lookout. Follow the signs for=

the restaurante, Los Sabinos and right by the left side is a small trail=

heading up the side of the hill and will take you to the top. If you ca=

n't find it, hike to the top via the road and come down this way. It is =

a fantastic view and shows you how colonial the town is. Another proof o=

f how colonial it is can be found by seeing old pictures from the 1800's =

in the Museum which is open Wednesday through Sunday.

We would recommend going to the Plaza De Armas and on the west side look =

for a sign that says Tourist Information and ask for Candy Joe(Jose Trini=

dar). He really is famous as a guide, good English and very funny, sell=

er of Mexican Jumping beans which he mainly sells to Europe and he does s=

ome real estate work as well. The main source of income is sesame seeds,=

then Jumping Beans, tourists and other things are agriculture, mainly c=

attle, Calcium mining and some pottery. You can arrange for a walking to=

ur and you get to go into some of the homes. This is what is really spec=

ial about colonial style and here more than anywhere we have been there a=

re huge court yards surround by the wall and living area. The court yard=

s has all sorts of trees, flowers, plants, pools, fountains, etc. Under =

the balconies are long porch like areas to sit, dine, they have many pain=

ting and other things of interest. These places are amazingly cool when =

it is blazing hot out. On Saturday there are tours of some restored homes=

=2E It would be well worth doing this if you are here on Saturday. In f=

act if you could time your visit for say Friday, Saturday and Sunday that=

would be ideal. There are several RV parks. The close one is Dolisa wh=

ere you can easily walk downtown. However all the rest would be fine as =

you can easily drive into town and park. The books tend to say you can't=

but you can as there do not seem to be any crime here so you can park on=

the street, well actually that is the only place to park in Alamos. The=

re is also a park on the other side of town. You go to the downtown PEME=

X, go around the circulation monument and head across a large street watc=

hing for traffic and head north to the river bed and there is a wide, goo=

d gravel road going east. You can follow the directions of Church's Mexi=

can Camping book or the Camping Guide that is on the Internet.

Back to the jumping beans, if you want to see the trees that produce the=

m they are next to the mirador railing on the northwest corner along the =

west side. They produce beans in October-November. The beans get a worm=

in them that stays alive for about 6 months and its movement causes the =

beans to quite actively move around, hence the name Mexican Jumping Bean.=

They are only found in a 400 square mile area around Alamos and are a s=

ource of income for the locals. Candy Joe is one of the leaders in this =

export business. Locals often put the beans in a circle and bet on which=

bean is going to be the first one out of the circle.

Just west of the northwest corner of the Plaza De Armas is a one way stre=

et coming to the plaza. Just a few doors down on the south side is an In=

ternet place. This is the fastest connection I have ever used outside th=

e USA bar none. It was just blazing fast!!! It was 10 peso's per hour.

El Carcel is the jail and is interesting to tour. Ask Candy Joe for dire=

ctions on the street to hike up the jail. This was the best view in town=

before the Mirador was completed. The road to the Mirador that you turn=

of off goes to El Fuerte but be sure to check on its condition in respec=

t to recent rains. IT IS ONLY FOR 4 x 4 and people with experience and e=

quipment to tackle bad roads. Two vehicles with winches would be idea bu=

t Candy Joe said I would have no trouble with my F-350 4 x 4. A tougher =

road goes on by the airport and eventually goes to Bahuichivo which is on=

the Copper Canyon Railroad. This would be a great adventure! BTW Candy =

Joe has that nickname because he always carries candy and gives it to kid=

s, pets and of course eats some himself. He speaks excellent English and=

spent 5 years after high school in the Phoenix area going to school taki=

ng English courses and working.

Joe will take you to where the best mines sites were and also to a place =

where they make pottery. The pottery place is signed west of town and yo=

u can go on your own. The mine slag pile you can see on your own as it i=

s about 6 miles west at Mina Nuevo. There is a crafts market by the chur=

ch, lots of good eating places, lots of nice hotels, a couple of bed an=

d breakfasts, leather and saddle shops, cell phones for Mexico work, t=

wo new PEMEX stations west of town. The road from Navojoa is full of pot=

holes. It takes a hour plus to get here from Navojoa. It is supposed to=

be rebuild but Candy Joe said this is Mexico, don't count on it. There=

is a nearby town with a nice church I am told but we did not see it. Th=

ere is the story of a vision that is told that happened at this site. Th=

ere is a bank and it will change dollars to Peso's and they have an ATM m=

achine. We had no trouble here but it is wise to not have $100 bills, h=

ave $50 and $20 bills. Many places in Mexico will not take $100 bills be=

cause of fear of counterfeiting. I think given the new bills this is unf=

ounded by it is true. Walmart and Sam's, Costco and many banks will not =

take $100 bills. In Sinaloa and Sanora and I belive Chihuahua the toll r=

oad booths will take $20 bills or less. You will get the change in Peso'=

s but they give a good, fair rate of exchange.

This town is very Spanish and as I said earlier most Americans and Canadi=

ans that live here speak Spanish so the locals speak Spanish so don't exp=

ect English. However you can get by fine with gestures, having them writ=

e the price of things down or show the price on a calculator. It is laid=

back, perfectly safe to walk down town and back in the evening and it is=

fun to see the social life around the plaza. Most of the stores close u=

p around dark or shortly there after so for shopping you should do it in =

the day time. Typically things don't get moving in Mexico until 9 or 10 =

am and that is true here as well. Most stores do stay open in the aftern=

oon and do not close say from 2-4 pm.