Monday, August 23, 2010
Ghost Town Getaway: Posada de las Minas in Mineral de Pozos, Mexico
With its humble whitewashed buildings and nearly deserted cobblestone streets, Mineral de Pozos (or simply “Pozos”) is hardly a place where you would expect to find a luxury boutique hotel. However, that is exactly what has taken root in the heart of this sleepy Mexican town less than an hour’s drive from San Miguel de Allende.
During the late 1800’s, Pozos was a bustling mining community with as many as 70,000 inhabitants. But silver prices tanked and then the 1910 Mexican Revolution came along. The mines were gradually abandoned, tumbleweeds began rolling in, and Pozos turned into a virtual ghost town. Not until 1982 was Pozos’ significance officially recognized when the Mexican government made it a National Historical Treasure.
These days, Pozos is coming back to life as an artists' colony and budding tourist destination. Scattered around town are a number of art galleries (most open only on weekends) and handicrafts stores specializing in replicas of pre-Hispanic musical instruments and jewelry made from semi-precious stones. There are also sprawling old mines, haunting symbols of bygone prosperity, to explore on the outskirts of town. One of them, Mina Santa Brigida, has a trio of 50-foot-high smelting ovens dating back to the late 1500's.
Posada de las Minas is the labor of love of David and Julie Winslow, two enterprising Texans who fell for Pozos’ quiet charm and decided to settle there. In 2002, the Winslows bought a 19th-century building with the intention of turning it into a hotel. Three years of painstaking effort were required to transform the crumbling ruin into the work of art that now stands proudly on a street corner in downtown Pozos.
Rooms at the Posada de las Minas have just about everything guests could possibly wish for, down to nightlights and gold-colored toothbrush holders. Walls and alcoves are lovingly decorated with Mexican folk art thanks to the tasteful eye of Julie Winslow, who also runs a nearby clothing and handicrafts store called Sorpresas. Plants, birds, and flowers abound throughout the posada, and its spacious central courtyard has a tranquil outdoor dining area with a splashing fountain and a century-old tree. Next to the restaurant is a cozy Mexican cantina, which David Winslow claims is the “warmest place in town’’ on chilly winter evenings due to the hotel's radiant heating system.
The Winslows’ latest project is a new spa that is being constructed in another old building located two blocks from their hotel. It will boast a workout room, lap pool, health food restaurant, saunas, and massage facilities. Part of the spa's energy needs will be met by rooftop solar panels. During my recent visit, the dusty main courtyard was a beehive of activity with workers busy mixing concrete and plastering walls. David sounded confident that the spa will be welcoming health-conscious guests and serving smoothies by November 2010.
Perhaps the best news about the Posada de las Minas is its affordability. Room rates start as low as 1,120 Mexican pesos (about $88.00 US) for two people, and there are often discounts for Monday to Thursday stays. A hearty breakfast is included for all guests. The hotel's restaurant serves both Mexican and international dishes as well as delicious cakes, all of which are very reasonably priced.
Getting to Mineral de Pozos from San Miguel de Allende is easy. Most taxi drivers in San Miguel will drive you to Pozos for about 500 Mexican pesos ($41 US). The trip takes around 50 minutes along good roads. Return taxi service from Pozos is readily available for the same price.
For more information, visit the Posada de las Minas website: www.posadadelasminas.com (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Posada de las Minas is a member of Mexico Boutique Hotels.
The Mineral de Pozos website also has a lot of useful information for visitors.
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Mineral de Pozos, Mexico - Images by John Mitchell