the state of
Aguascalientes and it's capital city
owe their similar name to the
thermal springs found in this
central area of Mexico. Chichimec
Indians formerly lived here but on
October 22, 1574 King Phillip II of
Spain founded the Villa de Nuestra
Senora de la Asuncion de las
Aguas Calientes (Village of Our
Lady of Assumption of Hot
Springs) to offer accommodation
on the silver route between
Mexico City and Zacatecas.
My reason for visiting was the National San Marcos Fair, the oldest annual fair in Mexico. Initiated in April 25, 1604, it is now a major commercial, industrial and agricultural exposition. It is held during the last 2 weeks of April and the 1st week of May. This year at the Hacienda Penuelos, where bulls are raised for bullfighting, Cesar Pastor, the bullfighter organized the first Aguascalientes Pamplonada based on the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Children giggled with joy as young bulls under 4 years old chased them into the ring where bullfighter, Arturo Gilio along with 9 year old Juan Pablo Sanchez and 11 year old Joselito Adame showed off their torreadoric skills. Our US$14 ticket got us a paella lunch, open beer bar, Mariachis and fun at the bullring. I was fortunate to catch a famous Aguascalientes sunset from the Virgin of Conception Church at Penuelos.
Back in town I grabbed a bite at the Cenaduria Esthela Café on Jose Maria Chavez 644-A. A bowl of the soup Pozole Mixto with tongue, leg of pork and guacamole and a corn grain atole drink hit the spot. Then I headed over to the stalls lining the street near the Fiesta Americana Hotel and San Marcos Garden. Along with the wonderful and often very colourful Mexican craftware, I noted they were selling queso de tuna, the cactus caramel and also an assortment of CDs and watches found in many markets. Gambling and teenager drinking is allowed only during the fair. Tambara musical groups of drums, trombones and trumpets serenaded me as I made my way toward the sound of cheers. They were coming from the old Casino building. There bets were being placed on cockfights in the palenque and at the tables on the second floor. From that vantage point I got a great view of the San Marcos church stalls below. Over a million visitors come to enjoy Folklorico dances, ballet, free concerts, formal balls, rodeos and fireworks here each year.
A 17th century neo-classical estate, now the Government Palace on the Patria Plaza, was my first stop the next morning. Its magnificent interior consists of 111 arches with 2 courtyards separated by a carved central staircase. Detailed murals by Chilean artist Osvaldo Barra Cunningham depict scenes of the San Marcos Fair and the history of Aguascalientes.
Time was short so for U.S.$3 I hopped on the new trolley bus whose 2 routes allowed hop on and off stops during its city circuit. For US $9. couples can get into a lot of hot water. At the corner of Alameda and Tecnologico 102. Avenues I found a little 19th century courtyard, where enclosed, Ojocaliente hot pools surround a fountain. They tell me that rheumatism, arthritis and liver ailments may be alleviated here. Next door modern large thermal swimming pools with a tower diving board and an health spa are offered. Another interesting stop was at the 200-year-old train station, now a museum, at the end of Francisco I-Madero Ave.
Meeting friends with a car, we took a 30
kl drive to the Exhacienda de San luis de
Letras hoy Capilla de Fatima, a
combination dairy farm, retreat for nuns
and Bodegas Dinastia Winery.
Aguascalientes fertile soils produce fine
wines and brandies but vintners have
scaled down to hobby farms due to high
taxes on Mexican wines & foreign
imports. I made sure I tried, along with
crusty bread and local cheese, all 4 kinds
of wine the owner, Luis Carlos Hernandez
Chacon produces: Merlot
Sauvignon,Cabernet, Chardonnay and the
sweet Christine de Dinastia.
Article and pictures by Lenora Hayman
If You Go:
You can travel by Bus: Omnibus de Mexico from Mexico City to Aguascalientes.
Or by air: Aeromexico
Accommodation: Fiesta American Hotel: 4 star or Hotel San Jose on Hidalgo 27: budget.
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