Tierra Alta – Living Next Door to El Tuito


Baking bread in a home bakery shop, El Tuito

Tierra Alta is less than a half hour’s slow walk from the central plaza in El Tuito (or a four minute drive), Over the last four years, Xochitl and I have been assembling and preparing the seven hectare (17 acre) Tierra Alta property, working steadily on the requirements for providing clear titles for the properties – a challenging task in rural Mexico. But now, we have the titles.

The Master Plan and the topography are finally finished. Now we are ready. El Tuito is ready, too. The constraints on technology and services that would have been very irksome problems just a few years ago – are gone. It is now an easy reach from Tierra Alta to “civilization”. Cell phones, internet, TV, a medical services – it’s all there.

Of course, whenever you are in the mood for immersion in a world class tourism enclave, Puerto Vallarta is a lovely, winding one hour drive away. The bus service between Vallarta and El Tuito is remarkable: the first bus begins its way south to Vallarta, leaving at about 5:30 a.m. Then it turns around and heads back to El Tuito at 7 a.m. All day, every half hour, the buses move along the highway, with the dense mountain flora shrouding the road, at times forming a perfect tunnel of green. It is the only highway serving this Pacific Coast of Mexico.

Once you arrive in El Tuito, the Tierra Alta property is just one mile from town, first on a cobblestone road, often with a few cows wandering aimlessly about. Then you will suddenly realize that the rough cobblestone road beneath your car has now been paved. You are now on the new road to the towns of Chakala and Yelapa on the Bay of Banderas. That road makes it perhaps three-quarters of the 25 mile distance to Yelapa before the rugged landscape intervenes and in the rainy season, slows any vehicle to a slow 4 wheel drive crawl. So there is still no easy road access to Yelapa. But that day will come.

The Town of El Tuito

(El Tuito means “the beautiful place” or “the divine place” from Nahua, the language of the Aztecs.

img_feat_03El Tuito is the official seat for the Cabo Corrientes municipality which lies south of Puerto Vallarta. This area covers more than 1,500 square kilometers. of rugged mountains that meet the Pacific with 50 miles of coast line.

El Tuito is a 500 year old country town of about 3,500 people, mainly ranchers, farmers and shopkeepers This year, the town got its own Pemex gas station. Soon, the town may have its first bank. El Tuito is moving forward with technology and health services but it remains on the list of authentic Mexican towns compiled by the Mexican Federal Government in 2006. It has a central plaza which everyone uses as a meeting point: “See you on the plaza at four o’clock” is all the arrangement needed. El Tuito is both your jumping off point for the Cabo Corrientes region and it’s your home town if you live at La Tierra Alta.

Tuito residents (“Tuiteños”) have obvious affection for their plaza and their town. There is an enormous tree on the plaza named “Maria”. It shades the plaza by the municipal offices where there is also a library and a museum.

The town has its eccentricities. The buildings in the neighborhood around the central plaza get their unique ochre hue from the local clay which is used to seal and color the exterior walls.

Many any houses also still have the baked red “tejas” or roof tiles that are traditional in this area. It’s the same roofing style that was once the trademark feature of Puerto Vallarta architecture.

Women in El Tuito tend to work out of their homes. Several run small bakeries in their kitchens – you’ll know when you are near one from the wonderful aroma of fruit fillings and brown sugar wafting into the street. Some of these bakeries don’t even bother with a sign. A former mayor’s wife still sells homemade fruit popsicles from her home. Another woman has sold fresh fruit from her door on the right on the Plaza for more years than anyone can remember.

And then there are the town’s famous cheese producers (excellent “panela” cheese) and a cottage industry making raicilla, a local drink distinguished from tequila by its own unique species of cactus.