People don’t often recommend that you visit a place on an overcast day. Unfortunately for those of us who live in central Mexico, many summer afternoons are filled with gray days composed of O’Keefe-esque cloud formations and a serious chance of rain. But the town of El Mineral de Pozos, with its whitewashed adobe houses, crouching around the tiny, and in this season, electric green plaza are nicely contrasted by an overcast horizon and rolling clouds.
We arrive late in the afternoon and go straight to the mines. Even having been to El Mineral de Pozos in the past, they never fail to inspire my imagination. This was a silver and gold mining boom-town from the late 1800s all the way until 1942 when the last mine shut its doors and shut the workers off its property. What remains are dilapidated ruins, with tailing rock scattered in every direction, and the traces of what used to be working mine shafts, ovens and mining company headquarters. If you take the winding gravel road out of town (follow the signs for antiguo abasto) make sure that you take the time to drive past the last mine and get a good look at them from their mountain perches. The view from the mountainside of these ancient haciendas is much more encompassing than viewing them from their entrance side.
Apparently there are mine guides everywhere. Campesinos who will take you on a tour and even lead you into some ancient shafts for a price. The problem is finding them. There is no official tourist office here and don’t hold out hope for any kind of safety measures or guide certification. Explore at your own risk. There is one mine with open access for guests where you will find a “pase usted” sign spray-painted in giant yellow lettering.
Pozos’ quiet meandering atmosphere is a roller coaster in comparison to its ghost town days after the mines shut down. In recent years, money has flowed in thanks to foreign tourism and its designation as “Pueblo Magico” by Mexican Federal Secretary Of Tourism.
Surrounding the main plaza are an assortment of arts and crafts stores which sell local and regional Mexican goods. Several of the best shops and galleries are connected to small boutique hotels. At Dos Suites B and B you will find Lovely Lemons, described as a “boutique and modern apothecary”, along with Gallery 6 next door connected to El Secreto hotel, an eclectic mix of Mexico inspired contemporary art. Also stop by the Casa Mexicana Hotel’s boutique that includes a lovely patio and five guestrooms.
Eating options in Pozos are limited but the best spot in town is the restaurant of Hotel Posada de las Minas, just a block off the main square. It has enchanting open-air seating on the central patio, and on overcast days like the one we visited, a cozy inside bar with chimenea. The food is a delicious fusion of traditional Mexican with modern culinary touches and the staff is super friendly. For a light snack in the afternoon or a great view of the city with espresso in hand, visit the Caffe d’Fama, upstairs from the La Fama shop on the corner of the main plaza. At the top of a steep, curving set of original stone steps is their coffee bar and restaurant with a selection of paninis and salads from 45 to 60 pesos each. This spot is a deal and a delight, easy to spend hours staring out a heavily draped window at the town-scape below. Other options are Los Mineros, with good, basic Mexican fare and Emilio’s bar across the plaza, also with typical Mexican dishes and roasted corn on the grill outside. Emilio’s has over 75 black and white photos of the Mexican revolution and is the perfect spot to sip a tequila and watch the teenagers stroll around the plaza at sunset. Ask the bartender to set you up with a table outside so you can watch the world go by.
The city has lots of natural beauty and a serious abandonment issue. Alongside elaborate churches are crumbling walls encircling weed-infested lots. Lovely parks and cactus gardens lead the way to untended rock paths and poor neighborhoods. Across from Posada de Las Minas on Leandro Valle street we encounter Don Trinidad Flores, who claims to be the last living miner in town. He started crawling into mine shafts at the age of nine and recounts for us all the boom/bust cycles of Pozos, complete with dates and photocopied articles from publications all over the world. His children have long since immigrated to the United States and while he wears a new fleece pullover and talks about communicating with them over the internet, his relics and memorabilia create a lost-in-time atmosphere inside his shop, much like the rest of the city despite it’s touches of modernity.
There are rumors of an even more touristy makeover for Pozos: government funding that will develop walking, biking and horseback riding trails in the vicinity and a shopping complex just outside of town with ATMs and new restaurants. Folks living there for the past 10 years will tell you it’s all a matter a time before Pozos booms like its touristy neighbor to the south, San Miguel de Allende. But until that time it’s still a sleepy way to while away a delightful afternoon… even if it rains.
Lydia Carey lives in central Mexico and works as the editor and translator of This: Viaje y Estilo. She is co-owner of verbamate.com, a translating and editing company. In her spare time she roams the country with Ercilia, Mona and Chicken (two of them dogs, one human) looking for a good story or a really cold beer.