Magical Town of Tepoztlan
Tepoztlán is a very popular destination near Mexico City, designated a “Pueblo Mágico”, a program that recognizes special towns and villages in Mexico that offer visitors a “magical” experience – natural beauty, cultural riches or historical relevance. The towns must have a population of at least 20 thousand to be considered a Pueblo Mágico and be located no more than 2 hours away from a larger tourist destination. The program has been developed to also recognize the labor of its residents who work to preserve the cultural and historical riches of their hometowns.
The town of Tepoztlán is famous for the remains of El Tepozteco pyramid temple built on top of the nearby Tepozteco Mountain, as well as for the exotic ice cream flavors prepared by the townspeople. It is located about 60 to 90 minutes away from the Mexico City airport. There are a number of reasons why this town is unique. According to myth it is the birthplace of Quetzalcóatl, the feathered serpent god widely worshipped in ancient Mexico. The town and market are full of quaint restaurants, stores and art galleries and there is never a shortage of delicious food available so just walking around town is quite the experience. You will have the unique opportunity to learn about Mexico through its food. A renowned Mexican chef who is a resident of Tepoztlán will oversee your meals and this is a cultural experience in itself, and you will have the opportunity to take an optional excursion to the market with her and then a cooking class with your fresh market purchases. Other optional activities in the area include an excursion to El Tepozteco temple pyramid and mountain, a visit to the World Heritage Site of the Ex Convento de Tepoztlán, the archeological museum, local ice cream tastings and yoga classes.
While the residents of Tepoztlán do not live in abject poverty, there are still many needy communities and neighborhoods. The needs vary greatly and projects are chosen based on the most immediate priorities. While there are schools in the area, they are poorly funded, so our efforts focus primarily on supporting local schools and neighborhoods with improvements to infrastructure and school and neighborhood playgrounds. We also provide assistance to impoverished families to be able to have protein sources with chicken coops, as well as improve their living conditions and support local environmental efforts.
Tepoztlán is organized into 5 different “barrios” or neighborhoods. The town is unique in the sense that the residents from each barrio work together to improve their living conditions and those of their neighbors, and they work with other barrios to improve the entire town. The “faena” system – community volunteering - is led entirely by members of the community who work together for common goals. The community comes together and volunteers alongside us as equals in projects that will benefit their own – the level of community involvement is extremely high and they are well organized, they are well accustomed to working on their own projects for the improvement of their own community. This is an effort made purely and solely by members of the community.
Some of the possibilities of projects include:
- Building chicken coops to provide protein sources for local families
- Building and installing water tanks and water collection systems for local families
- Reforestation and cleaning efforts
- School maintenance, improvements and support
- Installing concrete floors for impoverished families in nearby towns
- Playground refurbishments
- Special Needs school maintenance and improvements
Starting October 1st, 2017, our regular work project will include reconstruction effort after the devastating earthquake that rocked the region on September 19th, 2017. We are building homes one family at a time, one house at a time, one community at a time. We recognize that there is not a one size fits all solution as each family has different needs, and we believe in the importance of preserving and respecting the local culture. We will incorporate sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions such as water collection systems, ecostoves and solar powered LED lighting into each family’s individual project. We have already identified many potential recipients and are prioritizing building homes for families with single mothers and young children, as well as the elderly.
Food and Lodging
Volunteers will be lodged in a unique boutique hostel in which each individual bedroom is constructed inside a concrete tube. Each tube has a queen bed, a desk light, fan and under-bed storage. There are two very clean and comfortable bathroom houses with hot water, private showers and toilets. This has been named as one of the most unique places to stay in the world. It is located close to the town center and provides an easy access to the town, and has been built in an organic vegetable garden. There is an infinity pool right in front of your tube to relax in your off time, as well as a picnic area. Free Wi-fi is available. If you prefer a private bathroom there are upgrade options available, please contact the Globe Aware office.
Food is an incredible part of your program, and a cultural experience in itself. Breakfast will be taken at your hotel. Your lunch and dinner will be overseen by local celebrity chef Ana Garcia. Some of the lunches will be at the project site and you may have one or two meals at a local home. Your dinners will be either at your hotel or you will be invited to experience the chef’s home outdoor kitchen.
Leisure and Activities
Ample time has been included in the project itinerary for leisure activities. Volunteers will have the opportunity to hike to the Tepozteco, the Aztec pyramid situated on top of the mountain overlooking Tepoztlán. Also included in your itinerary is a visit to the Museo Ex Convento de Tepoztlán, or Museo de la Natividad, which was constructed by indigenous people under the Dominican rule between 1555 and 1580. In 1993, the building was restored and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Adjacent to the museum is the functioning church which is another cultural and architectural gem. You will also have time to sample the local Tepoznieves, more than 200 flavors of unique locally made traditional ice cream, the origins of which date back to pre-colonial times. Yes, you read right. Pre-colonial ice-cream! Walking around the town you will find many unique shops, art galleries, as well as the fantastic local market. Optional activities include a visit to the market accompanied by your chef Ana Garcia, followed by a cooking class. Other optional activities include getting a massage at a local spa, rappelling in nearby canyons or visiting a local unique outdoor movie theater.
Note : The visit to the Museo Ex Convento de Tepoztlan has been temporarily cancelled as the historical buildings were severely damaged in the September 19th 2017 earthquake. We have incorporated other leisure activities at the communities that you will visit, so you will still have a lot of immersive cultural time, while the historical sites are evaluated and repaired.
Arranging Your Airfare
Volunteers will be picked up at the Mexico City International airport at 3 pm on the Sunday your program starts. Detailed instructions on a meet up spot will be sent to you 3-4 weeks before the program. If you plan to extend your visit we recommend you do so at the end of your program. The program will officially end at 11 am on the Sunday your program ends, so please do not book flights until after 3 pm on the day the program ends.
Safety and Security
Your volunteer vacation will take place in rural Mexico, where incidences of crime and violence are very rare. Travelers should be vigilant when in major cities or tourist areas.