San Pancho Getaways by Candice Fulton.
Temples, Tombs and Miracles:
Mascota and Talpa de Allende
In our last Getaways column, I left you exploring San Sebastián del Oeste, a historic mining town around two hours from San Pancho. It seems to me, since we're that far anyway, you may as well drive forty-five minutes to Mascota for lunch, then continue on to spend a couple of nights in one of my favorite towns, Talpa de Allende.
Leaving San Sebastián, turn left when the cobble road meets the highway you drove in on from Vallarta. Be fresh for this part of the drive, as it goes through and then down the mountains on a very scenic but also very curvy road. Once you reach the valley floor, you are in a part of Mexico known to have been settled since at least 1000 BC. Fields and farms fill this important valley, and Mascota is its center.
Don't get me started on the archeology of the area or we'll be here all day. The Museo Arqueológico, one block east of the plaza, has marvelous displays of the artifacts (and graves) excavated by Dr. Joseph Mountjoy backed by National Geographic, and whose active worksite I was fortunate enough to visit in 2005. The museum usually has English guidebooks and sometimes English-speaking guides. It's worth a visit today or on your way back from Talpa, and is a must-see if you're an archeology fan.
Also worthwhile is a stroll through the stunning ruins of the Unfinished Temple of the Precious Blood, started in 1900 and never completed due to the Mexican Revolution. Take your camera!
The colonial streets of Mascota are filled with charm. Wander through the main plaza and have a look at the beautiful church, then go have lunch at Restaurant Navidad, half a block east. The food is authentic Jalisco country cookin', inexpensive and delicious. Order a dish like the costillas (slow cooked ribs), or something else you've not tried. I've never been disappointed.
Now let's get back on the road to Talpa de Allende, forty-five minutes further on. Climb highway 70 back out of the valley. Again, the views are spectacular and so are the curves, but be patient as, in half an hour or so, you'll see signs for the Carretera a Talpa, which is an easy right turn off 70.
The sprawling and verdant valley of Mascota is replaced in Talpa by a tight valley of ranch land ringed by the tall peaks of the Sierra Madre. In a few minutes you'll notice, atop yet another hill, the dome of Cruz de Romero, your introduction to the pilgrim culture of Talpa.
For in the town of Talpa de Allende dwells a most famous and miraculous statue: Nuestra Señora de Rosario, Our Lady of the Rosary, whose purported powers attract many thousands of peregrinos (pilgrims) to her church every year. The peregrinos come by bus, by car, by truck, on horseback, and mostly on foot, some walking hundreds of miles to beseech or thank the Virgin. Here at Cruz de Romero (and do stop) they find refreshments and the start of a new trail taking them to town through the hills instead of down the dangerous highway.
You and I will join them in intriguing Talpa - part cowboy town, part sacred shrine - in the next issue of San Pancho Life.