By Dan and Lisa Goy from the August 2017 Edition
March 15 and 16, 2016 (Days 69-70)
The gang left at 8:30 am from Teotihuacan, headed for Querétaro with Mike and Kelly in the lead. It’s not a long drive, about 3 hours. Originally, we had planned to head for Zitácuaro, Michoacán to see the Monarch Butterflies, however we decided they were no longer there en masse.
Hwy 57 was a great toll road with little traffic. Along the way, Roland and Janice decided to bypass Querétaro and head directly to San Miguel. We did have a roadside stop and every-one said their goodbyes as three of our couples were now headed home to BC after our Querétaro stop. The rest of us would meet up with Roland and Janice in San Miguel de Allende.
Unfortunately, both Bruce and Marian and Rafael and Eileen had received some bad news about their mothers’ health and decided to cut the tour short. Grant and Anita also headed back with them as the 3 couples traveled together from BC to start the trip.
Back on the road again, as we got closer to town, we were very impressed with all the international manufacturing plants and operations we passed on the outskirts of town. We know now that Querétaro has 556 plants, in 13 industrial parks that include Magna, Bombardier, Johnson Controls, Hitachi and GM. We entered the city from the east and our campground was just north, at the Juriquilla Motel and Trailer Park. We avoided rush hour and traffic was light, always a plus.
The town itself was very modern and clean and our first look at the famous aqueduct was impressive. It did not take long and we were setting up. Unfortunately, I fell while jumping over a short wall and landed on my shoulder. I thought for sure I had broken something. Luckily, I did not, but it took over a week for the soreness and pain to dissipate. I must say I felt much better the next day. I am sure the extra strength Ibuprofen helped.
The next day we all headed into town to see what Queretaro had to offer. We jumped into the van and onto the 4 lane free-way which flowed well for the first 15 minutes, not so well for the following 45 minutes. We did make a beeline for the His-toric Centro. At first parking was very elusive however we prevailed and set out on foot. Most jumped on a tourist trolley bus. Lisa and I decided for the walking about option. Lots to see in the Historic District and we did, probably put on a few miles. On the way out, we stopped at a local Mercado. We also wanted to stroll the big park nearby but, unfortunately, it was closed.
The group showed up as scheduled at the rendezvous location and we were on our way, which only took 35 minutes to get back to the RVs. We had a final dinner with our larger group at a nearby restaurant and reminisced about our travels to date. Next morning we said our collective goodbyes very early to Bruce and Marian, Rafael and Eileen and Grant and Anita. They were headed north, with their first stop being Roca Azul near Guadalajara. Lisa and I and Mike and Kelly left at 9am and headed for San Miguel de Allende where we met up with Roland and Janice at the Campground.
Santiago de Querétaro is the capital and largest city of the state of Querétaro.
In 1996, the historic center of Querétaro was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Querétaro has repeatedly been recognized as the metro area with the best quality of life and as the safest city in Mexico and also as the most dynamic in Latin America. It is a strong business and economic centre and a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social and economic revitalization.
Querétaro has seen an outstanding industrial and economic development since the mid 1990s. Querétaro metropolitan area has the 2nd highest GDP per capita among Mexico’s metropolitan areas with 20,000 USD after Monterrey. The city is the fast-est-growing in the country, basing its economy on IT and data centers, logistics services, aircraft manufacturing and maintenance, call centers and a manufacturing center for automotive and machinery industry, chemicals and food products.
The region of Querétaro has a rapidily growing vineyards agriculture and it hosts the famous wine producer from Spain: Freixenet. The wine production in Querétaro is now the second largest in Mexico after the Baja California region. This has caused the city and the metropolitan area to attract many mi-grants from other parts of Mexico.
History of the word Querétaro
In the Otomi language, it is referred to as “Maxei” or “Ndamaxei”, which means ball game and the grand ball game respectively. In the P’urhépecha language it is referred to as “Créttaro”, meaning place of crags, referring to the rocky hills of La Cañada. In the Mendocino Codex the town is called Tlaschco or Tlaxco, from the Nahuatl for ball game. However, Querétaro most likely comes from k’eri ireta rho, meaning place of the great people, especially since during Aztec times when about 15,000 people lived here. Querétaro has an Aztec glyph to represent it as it was a tributary province. In 1655, it received a coat of arms from the Spanish Crown. The word Querétaro was voted by 33,000 participants as “the most beautiful word in the Spanish language”, before being approved by the Instituto Cervantes. In Pre-Columbian terminology, Querétaro literally means “the island of the blue salamanders.” Nevertheless, other scholars suggest that it can mean “place of the reptiles” or “place of the giant rocks.”
History of Queretaro – Pre-Hispanic period
The area was settled around 200 A.D. by Mesoamerican groups moving north, and archeological sites here show Teotihuacan influences. From the Classic Period, there were two population centers in this area called Toluquilla and Ranas. The mountain, now known as El Cerrito, was a ceremonial center, but was later abandoned for unknown reasons. In the later pre-Hispanic period, the area was populated by the Otomi, who had become sedentary urban dwellers with sophisticated politics by the time of the Aztec Empire, who referred to them as the Tlacetilli Otomi or “Otomi Nation/State”. This area was under control of the Otomi dominion of Xilotepeque in the 1440s, which in turn was subject to the Aztec Empire of Mexihco-Tenochtitlan. Under the reign of Ahuizotl in the late 15th century, the Aztecs administered the area directly, considering it a bulwark against the Chichimeca lands to the north. The Otomi were the most populous ethnicity in Xilotepec although there were other groups, primarily Chichimeca as well. These two groups are still found here today. During the pre-Hispanic and colonial times, the Otomi were organized into familial clan like groups with defined territories, living in stone, wood or adobe dwellings. They were sedentary farmers, who fought, but unlike the Aztecs, did not make warfare large part of their culture.
The origins of the Spanish city of Santiago de Querétaro is pegged to 25 July 1531 when Spaniard Hernán Pérez Bocane-gra y Córdoba arrived with the allied Otomi leader Conín (later named Fernando de Tapia) who was the administrative head of the Otomi peoples living in Aztec controlled territory. The Spanish and their Nahuan allies battled the local insurgent Otomi and Chichimecas at a hill now known as Sangremal called Ynlotepeque and considered sacred in pre-Hispanic times. It was written by Friar Isidro Félix de Espinoza that the Chichimeca were at the point of winning when a total eclipse of the sun occurred. This frightend the Chichimeca and the Spanish claimed to have seen an image of Saint James (the pa-tron saint of Spain) riding a white horse carrying a rose-colored cross. This event caused the Chichimeca to surrender and is why the city is called Santiago (Saint James) de Querétaro, with James as patron saint. This stone cross has been replicated and erected on the hill, which later was accompanied by a church and monastery.
Spanish dominion, however, grew gradually, and was definitively not won through just a single battle. In the 1520s, the Otomis and many Chichimecas of what is now southern Querétaro and northern Mexico State allied with Hernán Cortés under the control of the lord of Xilotepeque, who still main-tained a certain amount of control of the old dominion. The first Spanish arrived between 1526 and 1529, headed by Hernán Pérez de Bocanegra. Bocanegra at first tried non-violent means of subduing the area and founding a Spanish city. How-ever, the initial attempts to establish the city of Querétaro were repelled by the locals, forcing Bocanegra south and establishing the cities of Huimilpan and Acámbaro.
Bocanegra continued negotiating with the lord of Xilotepeque, Conín. The lord’s cooperation was gained, for which he was eventually credited for bringing an end to the Spanish-Chichime/Otomi conflict and was made the Spanish governor of the area. However, most of Querétaro’s early colonial history was marked by skirmishes between the remaining Chichimeca insurgency and the Spanish authorities, with one of the first being over the establishment of encomiendas. Conín separated the indigenous and Spanish residents of the new city, with the indigenous on and around Sangremal hill and the Spanish around the current historic center. The Spanish part of the city was laid out by D. Juan Sanchez de Alaniz, and the indigenous section was laid out in the traditional Otomi manner. The first city council convened in 1535, and settlement was named a Pueblo de Indios (Indian Village) in 1537, ending the encomiendas. During this time, the Franciscans arrived for missionary work, who were later joined by the Jesuits, the Augustinians and other who built monasteries such as the Monastery of San Francisco, Lima and the Monastery of Santa Cruz.
When the settlement was declared a town in 1606 and by 1655, only Spaniards were living in the city proper. In 1656, it was decreed as the “Muy Noble y Leal Ciudad de Santiago de Querétaro” (Very Noble and Loyal City of Santiago de Querétaro). This honor was solicited by Viceroy Luís de Velasco, in recognition of Querétaro’s growth, agricultural production, industry and educational institutions. By the 18th century, it was informally known as the “Pearl of the Bajío” and “The Third City of the Viceroyalty”. By the 17th century, the Franciscans had been joined by the Dieguinos, who built the monastery of San Antonio, the Jesuits, who built the Colleges of San Ignacio and San Francisco Javier as well as the Dominicans, the Carme-lites and the Royal Convent of Santa Clara de Asís, which was one of the largest and most opulent in New Spain. Querétaro was also the site for the training of many of missionaries that went north as far as Texas and California. Most of these were educated at the Colegio de Propagación de la Fe (College for the Propagation of the Faith), which was established at the monastery of Santa Cruz in 1683. Some of its graduates even went as far as South America. Few of the buildings from the 16th century have remained intact, due to the violence during the city’s initial development, which reached its peak in the 17th century. As a result, most of the city’s oldest structures are of Baroque style.
Independence and capital status
Querétaro is considered to be one of the “cradles” of Mexi-can Independence and much of the credit is given to Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez. She was the wife of the city’s mayor, called a corregidor, at the beginning of the 19th century. She used her prominent position to gather intelligence for the nas-cent insurgency. Literary circles called tertulias were a popular pastime for the upper Creole classes, as they also served as a relatively safe place to discuss politics. One such occurred regu-larly at the house of José María Sánchez, with the name of the Asociación de Apatistas, which became a group dedicated to independence and winning supporters to the cause. Members included licenciados Lorenzo de la Parra, Juan Nepomuceno Mier y Altamirano, Manuel Ramírez de Arellano y Mario Lazo de la Vega José María Sánchez, Fray José Lozano, Antonio Tellez, don Emeterio y Epigmenio González, José Ignacio de Vil-laseñor Cervantes y Aldama, Dr. Manuel Marciano Iturriaga, Pedro Antonio de Septién Montero y Austri, Luis Mendoza, Juan José García Rebollo, Francisco Lojero, Ignacio Gutiérrez, Mariano Hidalgo, Mariano Lozada, José María Buenrostro, Manuel Delgado, Francisco Araujo, Felipe Coria, Francisco Lan-zagorta, Ignacio Villaseñor and José María Sotelo. The group was visited on occasion by Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, Miguel Domínguez and Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. This associación was important for the early organisation of those seeking independence for Mexico.
However the most famous of the tertulias was hosted by Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez herself at what is now the Palace of the Corregidora. Originally, they were open to both creoles and Spanish-born but after an altercation between Ignacio Allende and the Spaniard Crisóstomo López y Valdez, only creoles at-tended. The tertulias of Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez culminated in the Conspiracy of 1810, which was discovered before they had planned to act.
On 13 September 1810, Epigmenio Gonzalez was arrested for having stockpiled weapons for the insurgency and the next day Mayor Miguel Domínguez and his wife Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez were arrested for their roles in the Conspir-acy of 1810. With the conspiracy discovered, she still managed to get a warning to Miguel Hidalgo. He eluded capture and rushed to Dolores, where he gave his famous grito (the cry for independence). For her actions, La Corregidora was imprisoned several times between 1810 and 1817. She died impoverished and forgotten, but was later remembered when she became the first woman to appear on a Mexican coin. Once the armed battle began, the city was taken by the royalist army and was the last major city to be taken by the insurgents.
After the end of the war, the Santiago de Querétaro became the capital of the state of Querétaro in 1823, with the first state congress convening at the Auditorium of the Instituto de Bellas Artes de la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in the city. The state’s first constitution was promulgated in the city in 1825, with the city as head of one of the state’s six districts. From 1869 to 1879, the districts were subdivided into municipalities, which the city of Querétaro as seat of both the municipality of Querétaro and the district of Querétaro. In the 20th century, the original municipality of Querétaro divided into three: Querétaro, El Marqués and Corregidora. The district system as a political entity was abolished after the Mexican Revolution, with the municipality as the base of local government. The first mu-nicipal president was Alfonso Camacho who took office in 1917.
In 1847, it was declared the capital of Mexico when U.S.
forces invaded the country. One year later, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in this city, ceding almost half of Mexico’s territory and ending the war. In 1854, another treaty signed here led to the Gadsden Purchase.
In 1867, Maximilian I of Mexico was defeated at the Battle of the Cerro de las Campanas, where the liberals took him prisoner along with Generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía. In May 1867, the emperor was sentenced to death along with Mejía and Miramón in the Cerro de las Campanas. No ma-jor battles were fought here during the Mexican Revolution but various factions passed through here given the state’s location between the northern states and Mexico City.
World Heritage Site by UNESCO
In 1996, the historic center of Querétaro was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. According to UNESCO’s website, the “old colonial town of Querétaro is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Otomi quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town with similar standards of living, a rare occurrence at a time when the Indigenous and Hispanic were usually separated by a large income gap and at odds with one another in other parts of the nation.
This peace and similarity of social integration is largely attributed to the fact that the local Indigenous ethnicities and Spanish reached peace early after contact and both functioned con-currently with the Indigenous retaining their own economic and social systems while the Criollos operated in a separate but integrated society within the city. The city is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries.” In 2008, National Geo-graphic listed Querétaro as one of the top 15 historic destinations of the world.
Notable sites in Queretaro
The most prominent feature of the city is its enormous aqueduct, consisting of seventy five arches, each twenty meters wide with a total extension of 1,280 meters and an average height of twenty three meters. It was built by the Marquis Juan Antonio de la Urrutia y Arana between 1726 and 1738 at the request of the nuns of the Santa Clara Convent to bring water to the residents of the city from La Cañada.
Most of the rest of Querétaro’s notable sites are located in the historic center, which is pedestrian-friendly and filled with colo-nial architecture. The local government maintains this area well, with cleaning crews to keep the streets clean and regulating vendors so that they do not block streets and sidewalks. In the evening, the area fills with people strolling the plazas and walk-ways and frequenting the area’s restaurants, cafes and food stands. One way to see this part of town is the Noche de Leyendas (Night of Legends), which is a hybrid between inter-active theater and a recounting of history. A group of actors guide visitors through the streets of the city narrating stories about what has happened in these places. This event begins at the main plaza, the Plaza de Armas in the center of the city with a re-enactment of the legend of Carambada. Then the show wanders the street all the while telling tales related to bandits, loves and myths. These tales demand audience participation providing lines and provoking debate.
The Plaza de Independencia or Plaza de Armas is the oldest part of the city, and is filled with Indian laurel trees, surrounded by outdoor restaurants and colonial mansions. Streets here are made of cobblestone and have names such as La Calle de Bimbo and the Callejón del Ciego. In the middle of this plaza is a fountain that honors Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana, who built that large aqueduct to bring water to the city. Around the plaza is the Galeria Libertad (Libertad Gallery) and the Casa de Ecala (Ecala House), which is a baronial mansion from the 18th century with large balconies and wrought ironwork. However, the best-known structure on this plaza is the Palacio de la Corregiadora.
In the center of downtown is the Church of San Francisco, finished at the beginning of the 18th century and from then on the most important in town, serving as the cathedral until the 20th century. It and the attached cloister is all that is left of a large complex that included several chapels and an orchard that extended for blocks to the east and south. On the facade, there is a depicting of Saint James fighting the Moors, cutting the head off of one. The main altar is Neoclassic, and replaced what reputedly was a masterpiece of Baroque design. This has happened frequently in the city; those Baroque altars not plun-dered over the course of Mexican history were replaced by newer designs. Older Baroque side altarpieces are still here, and are covered in gold leaf. Other notable pieces here include a large Baroque music stand and the seating of the choir section both done by architect Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras of Celaya in the 18th century. There are also sculptures done by Mariano Montenegro and Mariano Arce.
The church’s cloister is now the Museo Regional (Regional Museum). Built between 1660 and 1698, (elcima) the monastery it houses was the first in the city, built by Franciscans to evangelize the native populations here. The architecture is representative of Franciscan style, with simple lines and decoration. The museum exhibits artifacts from the pre-Hispanic, colonial and post-Independence eras of this region’s history. The Plaza de la Constitución and Jardin Zenea plaza (named after liberal governor Benito Zenea) were part of the atrium of the church and monastery. This area is crowded every night and all day on Sunday, when the municipal band plays dance music from the 1940s to the 1960s.
The Palacio de la Corregidora was originally called the Casas Reales y Cárceles (Royal Houses and Jails). Today it houses the government of the state of Querétaro. Its name comes from its most famous occupant, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, who was the wife of the mayor or Corregidor of the city. Ortiz de Domínguez is a heroine of the Mexican War of Independence and the Conspiracy of 1810 that lead to the start of the War. Her final resting place is the Mausoleum of the Corregidora.
The Church and ex-monastery of San Felipe Neri was built between 1786 and 1805. It was opened and blessed by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who also officiated the first Mass. In 1921, this church was declared the Cathedral of Querétaro by Pope Benedict XV. The church is constructed of tezontle and has al-tarpieces of cantera stone. The facade shows the transition be-tween Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, and is considered to be the last Baroque facade in the city. Inside the nave is so-ber, austere and completely neoclassical. The old monastery complex now houses the Ministry of Urban Development and Public Works and is commonly referred to as the Palace of Conín.
The Church and ex-convent of Santa Rosa de Viterbo is at-tributed to Alarife Ignacio Maraiano de las Casas and financed by José Velasquez de Lorea, finished in 1752. The church has twin entrances, which was common with convent churches. The two arches are decorated with mocking faces put there by Casas to those who did not think he could manage the building of the institution. The outside is flanked by scroll-shaped flying buttresses, which only serve as decoration and are unique to Querétaro. The tower has a unique shape and is topped with a pyramid-shaped crest. There is an inner doorway decorated in Churrigueresque style and an image of Saint Rose. Inside, the most outstanding feature is the pulpit inlaid with ivory, nacre, turtle shell and silver, and its altarpieces are gold covered in Querétaro Baroque style. The entrance to the sac-risty contains paintings of José Velazquez de Lore and Sor Ana María de San Francisco y Neve. The convent complex was later amplified by Juan Caballero y Osio. The nuns dedicated them-selves to primary education and by 1727 it became the Royal College of Santa Rosa. The convent was closed in 1861 due to the Reform Laws and was subsequently used as a hospital for about 100 years. Today the convent portion is home to the Centro de Estudios de Diseño y Artes Graficas Mexico-Italiano.
The church and monastery of La Santa Cruz, located on San-gremal Hill, where the appearance of Saint James is said to have occurred. Both the church and the monastery are Franciscan, and in one of the few monasteries to be in operation in Mexico. This was also the site of the Colegio de la Propagación de la Fe, the first missionary school established in the Americas. From here, missionaries such as Junípero Serra set out on foot, as required by the Order, to establish missions as far away as Texas and California. During the early War of Independence, Miguel Domínguez, Querétaro’s mayor and part of the 1810 Conspiracy was imprisoned here. The church has been com-pletely restored and its main attraction is the pink stone cross that was placed on this hill in the 16th century. Its altarpieces are also of pink stone and are a mix of Baroque and Neoclassi-cal. Tours are available and feature how the aqueduct brought water here to cisterns, from which the residents of the city would fill their buckets. There is also a thorn tree said to have grown from the walking stick of Friar Antonio Margil de Jesús, and is considered miraculous as the thorns grow in the shape of a cross.
The Museo de Arte (Museum of Art) is located in the former monastery of San Agustin. The building is considered one of the major Baroque works of art in Mexico, built in the 18th century and is attributed to Ignacio Mariano de la Casa It has a facade of cantera stone in which an image of a crucified Christ is surrounded by grapevines. The niches around the main portal contain images of Saint Joseph, Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Monica and others. Its cupola contains life-sized images of an-gels, but its bell tower was never finished. The monastery was
occupied by Augustine friars starting in 1743 and is considered to be one of the finest Baroque monasteries in the Americas. Its fame as such comes from the decoration of the arches and columns that surround the inner courtyard. On the ground floor, there are faces with fierce expressions, while those on the upper floor have more serene expressions. Surrounding both sets of faces are chains linking the images. The museum contains one of the most important collections of colonial-era art and is organized by painting style. Some European works are here but the focus is on the painters of New Spain, including some of the most famous. The museum also sponsors temporary exhibits, theatrical works, as well as literary, photography and musical events.
The Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) is located in the former Royal Convent of Santa Clara. In the 18th century, sisters of the Capuchin order moved from Mexico City to Querétaro to occupy this complex, which was built by the city for them. This was done to show the city’s economic strength as well as secure its social position in New Spain. After the Reform Laws, this building had a number of uses, as a prison with Maximilian I as its most famous prisoner, a military barracks and offices. Today it is home to a cultural center. In 1997, the Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City), which belongs to the Instituto Queretano de la Cultura y las Artes (Querétaro Institute of Culture and the Arts) was moved to this building, and is mostly dedicated to contemporary art. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum sponsors temporary exhibitions of drawings, photographs, sculptures, etc. as well as recitals in dance, music and other arts. The museum has exchange pro-grams with Sweden and has established the Children’s Library of the Museum of the City. Its goal is to interest children in the arts through books, workshops and other activities. The Church of Santa Clara maintains its religious function. Inside are six Baroque altarpieces and a choir loft, all of which are covered in gold leaf. On the altarpieces sculptures and paintings of saints appear, as well as the faces of angels among the thickly textured ornamentation covering the altarpieces.
The Teatro de la Republica (Theatre of the Republic) was built between 1845 and 1852 an originally called Teatro Iturbide. In 1867, the court martial of Maximiliano I and his generals, Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía sentenced the three to death. The Constitution of 1917 was publicized here. In 1922, the governor of Querétaro state changed the name to its current one in honor of the 1917 event. The theatre is primarily used for acts and ceremonies on the state, national and inter-national levels, such as the swearing in of the state’s governor.
The city still contains a number of mansions from the colonial era, most of which have been converted into a number of uses. One of these is the La Casa de la Zacatecana (The Zacatecana House) on Independencia 51, which has been restored as a museum to show what many of these mansions were like. Associated with this house as well as others are stories about love, murder and retribution. Another of these houses is the La Casa de la Marquesa (Marquesa House), which was an opulent residence that now serves as a hotel. The courtyard is in the Mudéjar or Spanish Moorish style, with Moorish arches and pattered walls. This area serves as the hotel’s lobby.
Festival of Santiago de Querétaro
The Festival of Santiago de Querétaro is an annual arts and cultural event that takes place in the city for eight days during Holy Week. It is sponsored by the city of Querétaro along with CONACULTA and the Secretary of Tourism for the state of Querétaro. Each year the event has a theme, which was being “Arte in Todos los Sentidos” (Art in All Senses) in 2009. The events are held in various locations, such as City Museum, the Guerrero Garden, the Zenea Garden and the Rosalio Solano Theatre as well as the various plazas around the city center. The festival is held during Holy Week holiday to attract Mexican and international visitors to the city. The event starts with an inaugural parade through the streets of the historic center, starting from Corregidora Street to Constituyentes, Angela Peralta, Juárez, Madera nd Guerrero streets. The parade ends at the site where public officials open the event.
Over the eight days, both Mexican and international artists per-form and exhibit their work. Events include music, painting, dance, photography, literature, special workshops and a children’s pavilion. One final day, there is a culinary event were visitors can sample regional cuisine from restaurants of the city.
As you can see there is lots to see and do in Queretaro!
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Dan and Lisa Goy, owners of Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours, have been making Mexico their second home for more than 30 years and love to introduce Mexico to newcomers.