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Travel Log: Compostela

October 9, 2009

blog_author_bar_fidencio

Fidencio Enriquez is a writer and photojournalist whose work has been published in Sports Illustrated Latino and SI.com.  He is an avid traveller with a Bachelor Degree in Spanish Studies.

Picture 9

Ca-ca-ca-caaaaaaaaaw

“I definitely won’t miss the damn rooster,” I said to my sister, who’d been my roommate for the last three weeks. Since the first day we arrived in Compostela, my cousin’s prized black and white rooster had been waking us up just after 7 a.m. And though I was ready to get away from that damn bird, I wasn’t that ready to leave my parents’ hometown.

Picture 10Just 21 days prior, my parents, sister and I drove the circa 36 hours it takes to get from San Ardo, Calif. to Compostela, a small town located amid the fertile valleys and clear, blue open skies of the Mexican state of Nayarit. Though the trip was a little longer than expected – we ended up getting lost, driving through Sonora’s treacherous Sierra Puta de Madre (no joke on the title – that was the actual name of the mountain range I drove through, feeling that the car could just slip off the road and plummet a couple hundred feet) –, we arrived safely and without any major holdups.

Since our arrival the weather had been magnificent. Located just three hours north of Puerto Vallarta, Compostela has pretty much the same tropical weather pattern: Sunny and warm in the winter, rainy in the summer. That sunny weather was definitely a welcome change from the cold of California, which, though not as bad as a New York winter, can definitely hold its own.

The last day of our stay was no different. The sun shone bright and we all packed into the car and drove from my parents’ small ranch to the plaza, or town square, which is where all the activity is.

Picture 11

At the northern end of the plaza lies the church and within the church’s 400-year-old walls lie a few holy relics, many antique gold and gold-plated objects, and a variety of centuries-old paintings depicting holy scenes and saints. Every time we travel to Mexico, the church is our first and one of our last stops. The other three stops: A taquería, a snow-cone shop and the candy stand in the plaza.

The taquería is definitely one of our favorite stops for two reasons: The tacos are tasty, and the couple that own the stand are family friends and always give us a few free tacos. Taquería el Chompiras is part of the food court on the second floor of the recently remodeled market, whose first floor houses all the clothes, shoe, toy, candy, piñata, produce and meat posts.

A delicious lunch must be followed with a delicious dessert, and that’s where El Manantial comes in. Across the plaza from the Church, on the southern end, stand the bright orange walls of El Manantial, Compostela’s most famous shop. It’s product: snow cones. These aren’t just your regular run-of-the-mill, food coloring-flavored snow cones though; these treats are 100 percent fruit or nut mix. The ice, which is hand shaved with the use of a metal scraper, is mixed into a large cup with the mix or mixes of your choice (My preferred flavor: Strawberry and nut). Trust me, the first bite into this cold piece of heaven will have you hooked and before you know it you’ll be buying your own metal scraper and your favorite mix – in one quart containers – to bring back home with you.

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll be tempted by the dozens of fruit carts parked in and around the plaza. They all sell locally grown fruit ranging from mangos to pineapples to coconuts, which you can choose to be covered in lime juice and hot sauce (the two ingredients that any Mexican will tell you automatically make anything taste better). Even better, most of these stands also sell sugar cane, or caña, which you chew until you get all the sweet juice, then spit out when all that is left is the fibers.

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And no day-before-departure trip to the plaza…actually, NO trip to the plaza would be complete without a stop at the hand-made candy post in front of the church. In a place with weather like Compostela’s, coconut grows abundantly, and the candy at this post reflects it. There are literally dozens of different types of coconut candy, and they’re all delicious.

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But besides the food and the weather, what really makes Compostela a pleasure to be in is the relaxed and friendly environment. It seems like no one is ever in a hurry and they always have time to say hi and talk for a few minutes. It’s as if impatience just doesn’t exist and the only thing that riles up the townspeople are the big soccer game between Chivas de Guadalajara and Águilas del América (Mexico’s most popular teams), and the winter league semi-pro baseball games held uptown in town’s ball stadium. And the fact that there’s only one medium-sized supermarket and a Coppel (Mexico’s version of Sears) helps keep the feeling of small town-ness.

This is why, on the last full day we were there, I sat in the plaza and just took it all in. It was at this point that I was actually glad that our family trips to Mexico have always been to Compostela and not to Americanized tourist traps like Puerto Vallarta (though I have been there once), Cancún and Tijuana (Tee-hooa-na, NOT teeA-hooa-na. See how there’s no “A” after the “I”?). The reason why I’m glad we always do that is because going to Compostela is an authentic Mexican experience where everything in the town is aimed for the Mexican consumer and not for the tourists that visit year-round.

And, as I rose from that bench to make my way home for the long trip that lay in front of us, I looked at the cobblestone streets that have probably have criss-crossed the town since its founding in 1532. Unquestionably, the feeling of what must have been the Mexico of yore still permeates through the pure Compostelan air.

View more of Fidencio’s photos from this trip by clicking the links below:

“Experience Compostela”

“Baseball in Compostela”

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. jonmarcotte permalink
    October 10, 2009 10:09 AM

    Great blog! You actually got me excited enough to travel to Mexico again. We often forget that there is so much beauty and culture in Mexico, not to mention delicious food!

  2. October 10, 2009 12:37 PM

    Thanks.
    The thing is people tend to go to all the touristy spots like Puerto Vallarta or Cancún but, as beautiful as they are, the only places where you experience the real Mexico is in the smaller towns. Of course, huge cities like Mexico City or Guadalajara are still pretty rich in Mexican culture, but it’s the small towns where traditions and customs remain pretty much unchanged for very long periods of time.

  3. Vicky permalink
    October 11, 2009 10:35 PM

    Reading your blog makes me wish for two things:

    1) The day I pay a return visit to my family’s home country, I feel as connected and humbled as you do when you visit Compostela.
    2) That one day, I can write incredibly as you. I almost felt like I was there! And it was refreshing to hear how such simple activities can bear so much meaning and joy.

    It would be great visit Compostela…let me know when the rooster goes on vacay so that I can schedule my trip 😉

    • darrenbrazil permalink*
      October 11, 2009 10:52 PM

      Travelverse welcomes and encourages guest blogs from anyone and everyone, Vicky! Feel free to write something and send it in!

    • October 11, 2009 11:27 PM

      Vicky,
      If you ever go to Compostela I’ll be sure to duct-tape the rooster’s beak shut.
      And whenever you go back to Greece. I’ll be coming along with you. Can you say Pedro Stravros’s Taco and Gyro Stand?

      • Vicky permalink
        October 12, 2009 5:04 PM

        Pedro Stavros’ Taco & Gyro Stand!!! AyeOpa!

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