A weekend with wine, cheese and handcrafts tossed in

Tequisquiapan, or Tequis for short, is a small, but growing town in southern Querétaro state. It is an easy 2.5 hour drive from either Mexico City or San Miguel Allende. This and its designation as as “Magical Town” (Pueblo Mágico) makes it a popular weekend destination from a number of larger cities in central Mexico.

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Santa Maria de la Asunción parish on the main square (credit: Mario Guerrero Ledesma)

Although much warmer and much drier, there is a San Miguel Allende feel to the place. The center is filled with very well kept colonial and colonial-style buildings, with cobblestone streets and the blocks immediately surrounding the main plaza are pedestrian-only. Although not as numerous, it also has a variety of upscale hotels, dining places as well as some very prominent real estate offices selling second homes and condos, primarily to Mexico City residents.

L: Street in the historic center (credit:Marrovi) and R: Entering the main plaza from Juarez Poniente)

Tequis’ claim to fame is locally-made wines and cheeses. It is on the eastern edge of the Bajío region, a relatively flat area in Mexico where the raising of dairy cattle and cheese making began early in the colonial period. The centuries of experience has allowed for the development of more gourmet cheeses. These include variations off of Mexican classics such as smoked Oaxaca and herbed panela, along with a number of specialty European cheeses from goats’ and sheep’s milk. Locally made wine is dominated by the Freixnet vineyards in nearby Ezequiel Montes, which makes mostly sparkling whites. But some others made by very small concerns can be found as well.

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Smoked provelone at the town’s annual wine and cheese festival
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Freixnet’s wine bar just off the main square.

Like many tourist towns, the main role of handcrafts is souvenirs and curiosities for visitors. The town has two handcrafts markets side-by-side east of the main parish church, several stores facing the main plaza and other stores and stands on the corner of Morelos Norte and Calle Niños Heroes, just off the southwest corner of the plaza. The quality of the crafts varies from relatively cheap curios to a couple of stores that sell very fine wares. Most are not from Tequis or Querétaro at all, but the state government does have a branch of its Casa de Artesanias on Morelos Norte. All of the wares here are from Querétaro, but unfortunately like at the main store in the state capital, nothing is labeled as to who made the piece or even where it is from. Staff is not of help either.

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Otomi woman embroidering and selling just off the main plaza

Tequis020There are three kinds of crafts available here which are most likely to be local, or at least from southern Querétaro. Tequis has a reputation for the making of baskets. There are rivers and other water sources nearby providing the needed environment in otherwise dry semi-desert. There is a basketry workshop next to the Casa de Artesanias, but it was not open during my visit. There was also an impressive wicker church model in the tourist office, but the woman working there did not know who made it, only that it was by a local maestro.

 

Southern Querétaro is rich in quartz, marble and even opals. Various stands and stalls sell minerals and finished opal and other pieces are are very likely to be local. Tequis offers tours to nearby mines as well, which offers other opportunities to buy.

The last are embroidery pieces and “Maria” rag dolls. The most numerous indigenous people in southern Querétaro are the Otomi. Women can generally be identified as they still wear traditional dress or at least some variation off of it. This is important to note because these handcrafts are generally not in stores or stands, but rather sold by the Otomi women themselves on the street. Purchases from these women pretty much assures that you are getting an authentic piece, whether it was made by them or by another member of the woman’s community.

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Otomi women in front of the parish church
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Embroidered ponches and rebozos. Interestingly enough, the dolls are in Otomi dress but are not “Marias”

Tequis is not a craft town in the sense of having a high concentration of artisans or specializing in one kind of handcraft. The main draw is being a weekend away from the noise and bustle of the city (and much less crowded than San Miguel), eating some gourmet meals, with handcraft shopping as an interesting added bonus.

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