Dr. Marcos Osuna Tirado, visionary behind El
Quelite's rural tourism.
and Photos by
Thirty-three kilometers northeast of Mazatlan, visitors
leave behind the sun and sand attractions of one of Mexico's most popular
destinations to step into a fine example of rural or agricultural tourism.
Such vacation experiences are increasingly in demand around the world by travelers
who want to learn how others work and live.
Coordinación General de Turismo
del Estado de Sinaloa.
Turn right off Pacific Ocean Highway 15 and discover El
Quelite, a tidy little community of 2,000 - a pueblito - traditionally
based on cattle raising, agriculture, fruit growing and dairy products. Its
streets and town square, invitingly strollable and litter-free, are mostly
cobbled and graced with subtropical trees, shrubs and colorful flowers spilling
over the sidewalks. Buildings are scrubbed, painted and repaired and the entire
community is ready to welcome visitors by becoming a model of rural tourism
Framed by the Pacific Ocean, the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains and the
El Quelite River, the town has the qualities of a living museum of historic
architecture and a lifestyle not so far removed from its Spanish colonial
past. It is a walk through the history of the state of Sinaloa in miniature.
Park your rented car or mini-bus and enjoy the rest of your stay on foot.
You won't have far to go!
A number of major hotels in Mazatlan offer pickup for guided
day trips to El Quelite, or you may prefer to rent a car or go by public bus
to stay for two or three days. If you stay awhile, you will be able to walk
in the countryside, climb picturesque hills to admire the sunset, go horseback
riding and tour some of the ranches and fruit orchards.
Traditional bakery oven.
As in most small towns there are only one or two or a few
of everything - the open door of a store-front bakery invites visitors to
follow delicious smells into the tiny family-run shop. Take four giant steps
to the back wall and you will enter the working area where a large dome-shaped
brick oven cooks buns, breads, cakes and cookies to perfection every day.
Just down the street is one of three tortilla making shops
where you may watch this staple of the Mexican diet being expertly prepared
for pickup or delivery to people's homes. For 60 cents, you may buy a kilo,
that's 25 to 30 tortillas fresh off the griddle. Several cafés offer delicious
cuisine, including local variations of machaca, asado and chilorio.
The community cemetery is a history and
The church is a jewel of mid-nineteenth century architecture,
and the community cemetery is a well cared for piece of history. It offers
a glimpse of how a different culture remembers its loved ones. One of the
traditional country-style homes, owned by a local cattle rancher, dates from
1865. Called Mesón de Doña Mercedes, it offers gracious bed and breakfast
accommodation with rooms set around a flowered courtyard.
The driving force behind the town's rural tourism initiative
is El Quelite's medical doctor, Marcos Osuna Tirado, whose ties to the area
have been lifelong. He is a man of energy and innovative ideas who believes
it is important to diversify the local economy away from relying solely on
agricultural income. At this time, few people in El Quelite speak good English,
but Dr. Osuna is encouraging the young people to become motivated to train
as qualified guides, earn a little income, and practice the English that some
are learning in the local school of 250 children.
El Quelite streets invite leisurely
Dr. Osuna also manages to find time to practice what he
preaches. He has renovated his own family's historic Mesón de los Laureanos
to include bed and breakfast accommodation and a cantina-style restaurant
which serves meals, snacks and the always-welcome cool cerveza (Mexican
beer) amidst the flowering shrubs of his walled-in courtyard. Each room and
bathroom has been distinctively designed and colorfully furnished.
This is truly a man on a mission. To symbolize his passion
for the community and his connection through several generations, Dr. Osuna
proudly declares, "My umbilical cord is buried here!" The good doctor is not
kidding. It doesn't get more connected than that!