Christmas in Tepoztlan

At one point yesterday, as I was wandering aimlessly around Tepoztlan thinking about what I should do next, I let go.

I let go of the need to do anything next. Of the need to have an agenda.

I can’t recall when I’ve ever done this before on a vacation. But this is the entire reason I decided to come here. And it’s starting to work.

I actually don’t even have to blog about this trip. But I wish I could capture in words what this city is like. I want to hold onto the memories I’m making.

I just love it here. The food is different and fun and sometimes delicious and sometimes just interesting. The flow of traffic and people is constant, cops with whistles that make randomly weird sounds seemingly without rhyme or reason as they try to keep cars moving throught pedestrian-clogged intersections. The local ice cream shop, Tepoznieves, has so many flavors that I watched one scooper hunt all over the store trying to find what the customer ordered. (The ice cream is not super creamy; it has lots of ice crystals. But it is extremely tasty. And in addition to ice cream and sherbet and sorbet, they have these delicate fruity icy concoctions, kind of like a frozen margarita or mojito.


The fact that it was a holiday made no difference. Everything was open the last two days. The market seemed busier today than any time since I got here. People were eating and drinking and buying weird items.

Anelee, my airbnb host, told me that on Christmas eve if I walked around the city, I might get invited in to have some food and rock the baby. And she said then they might give me a gift of tupperware. I didn’t try. I went out for an early dinner of pizza and beer and then came back here and read and just played games on my phone. Because I can do that. It’s that kind of vacation.

Tonight I went to a highly recommended Mexican restaurant called Los Colorines. When I ordered una cerveza, the server brought a tray with eight bottles for me to choose from; I selected Tecate. Then I ordered guacamole and chips to start, and huauzontles with mole sauce. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, especially when the server brought a small plate and explained (en Español) what it was for. It turns out it was for the stems, which were edible but very tough. It was a mess separating the tender parts from the woody stems. But it was delicious. And the salsa was to die for. The entire meal was the equivalent of $10 US! And I was (and still am) completely stuffed.

Los Colorines
Los Colorines. The name of the restaurant translates to “The Colorful.” An apt name.

This city is the mythical birthplace of Quetzlcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the Aztec people. This may be related to that fact that it also has a strong spiritual identify, with lots of shops and kiosks selling incense and stones (which may have some special properties).

But I am most struck by the extraordinary variety of items for sale in the market at the zócalo. Unlike in South America, where the market stalls seemed to all have the same things (woolens, leather, and mate gourds), there doesn’t seem to be any one particular local craft. There are some tacky souvenier shops selling t-shirts and coffee mugs, there are some upscale galleries, and everything in between.

Two other interesting observations.

  • I can order ice cream in Spanish without too much difficulty, and I know the numbers well enough to figure out how much something costs. But anything more complicated and I’m lost. Still, when I say, “No hablo español,” people nod and shrug and go on speaking in Spanish, with occasionally a word or two of English thrown in. They’re very friendly and sympathetic about it, but I’m still completely befuddled much of the time.
  • I must be the only “Anglo” in this entire city. With my white hair and pale white skin, I know I stand out. I am the racial minority here. No one seems surprised by my presence, though. And it doesn’t make me feel too self-conscious, but I am definitely aware of being the one who doesn’t fit in. I kind of like it.

I’ll throw in a few photo, none of which captures the lively spirit of this place. I’m actually not taking very many photos for that very reason. I don’t think it’s possible to understand what Tepoztlan is like without being here.

Lucky for me, I am.

Sorry for you, you’re not.

View from the restaurant where I had pizza for dinner last night
I kind of don’t want to know what all this is.
Pre-Hispanic food stand
I got lunch at this food stand. All vegetarian pre-Hispanic food. (Except one of the items had grasshopper.) The one I got had carrot and potato and I’m not sure what else.
Tupperware for sale
Tupperware for sale

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