When the Bishop comes to town, it is cause for a big celebration; it only happens about once per year, after all. And when the Bishop comes to El Quelite, Mexico, the population of this quaint little town seems to double.
El Quelite is located next to the El Quelite River in the state of Sinaloa, about 40 minutes north of Mazatlan on Hwy 15 past the white orb that marks the imaginary line that is the Tropic of Cancer. The row of colourful bougainvillea lining the road entering this quaint town was planted because of one man’s pride in his hometown. Dr. Marcos Osuna resides in El Quelite, a remarkably clean maintained Mexican village. He owns the El Mesón de los Laureanos restaurant.
The day I arrived at El Quelite, Dr. Osuna was rather busy with all the excitement surrounding the Bishop’s visit. A special spot was reserved directly in front of the church’s steps. People came to town by the car and truck load, many cramming into the back of pick up trucks. The children got the day off school. The girls wore white dresses for the bishop would be performing christenings on this special day.
Prior to our arrival, the bishop sat for breakfast at El Mesón de los Laureanos. Dr Osuna had hired a mariachi band to play for the honoured man. The Olé Tour’s bus that I was on arrived at approximately 11:00. After being introduced by our informative and entertaining tour guide, Tomatto, Dr. Osuna had the band play a song for us.
Tomatto (Luis Rosas González – who has now sadly passed away) then officially started our tour of this historical place. Our walk took us past a lazy dog lying in the middle of a well manicured street lined by brightly coloured homes. Tomatto pointed out the local flora in the region – poinsettias, plum trees, angel’s trumpet plants, and of course, more bougainvilleas. These trees are similar to poinsettias in that the bright pink colour of the tree is actually the leaf, not the flower; the flowering part of the tree is white.
We walked past a graveyard, where he explained that the size of the gravesite indicates the wealth of the family. Past the graveyard is the entry into the largest game cock nursery in Northwest Mexico which is owned by Hector Encisco. These spectacular roosters are used for cock fights, which, much to the chagrin of fellow animal activists is still legal and active in Mexico.
From the farm, we took a short bus ride past the charreada ring where local rodeos are performed, and the field where baseball and ulama are played. Ulama is one of the oldest sports in the world; the modern form similar to a game of soccer, but played by bouncing the ball with the hips.
The smells of freshly baked bread led us directly to the family run bakery. The traditional domed brick oven bakes delicious buns and sweet breads. From the bakery, we headed straight over to Dr. Osuna’s restaurant. The entrance to El Mesón de los Laureanos is very inviting. Flowering trees have overtaken the well in the corner of the courtyard of this open air restaurant. We had a delicious traditional meal – our choice of beef, pork chops, or tongue soup – each including warm soft shelled tortillas, beans, nachos, salsa, and nopalitos salad – made from nopal cactus.
Dr. Osuna was performing a television interview, so I strolled around the town for a short while. The streets had become almost deserted as the activity surrounding the 18th century church had moved over to the plaza. At the back of the plaza is a dance floor for festivals. Artisans displayed their wares in front of their businesses. Favourites were painted clay roof tiles.
I marveled at how well maintained each of the buildings was in this rustic area – not one piece of litter was tossed haphazardly into the cobblestone streets or on sidewalks, as is sadly the case in some other parts of Mexico. Though satellite dishes now don the red rooftops of some of the homes in El Quelite, this quaint little village has not lost any of the charm that is ever so “Mexico.”
Though Olé Tours is not the only tour company offering tours, and El Quelite is not the only small town dotting the landscape in the Mazatlan area, I’d highly recommend escaping the comfort zone of the Golden Zone’s beaches to experience Mexican culture at it’s finest.