Boring Toll Roads or Picturesque Villages: Which Do You Choose?

August 30, 2008

Boring Toll Roads Picturesque Villages:

Which Do You Choose ?


Most North Americas who are brave enough to drive form the USA to Lake Chapala prefer the toll road route.


But, I don’t. My preferred route from Zacatecas South is anything but boring.


I’m not sure the mileage via the tolls roads but from Nuevo Laredo to the outskirts of Guadalajara via my preferred route it’s just 618 miles with the most interesting part after your pick up Highway 23 not far South of Zacatecas off Highway 54.


The first town of any size you come to after exiting to Highway 23 is Jerez.


Driving time from Jerez to Outskirts of Guadalajara = 4 hours 10 min.


Here’s some driving observations made in June 2007


New hot top road along much of the road between Jerez and Guadalajara


Cotolan – One of the mountain towns is a leather marketing center for Mexico and the world. Nice hotel and small marketing center.


There’s a restaurant at the big hotel (sorry the name escapes me) where a really nice a buffet lunch was under $5 USD


In Tepetongo we saw real cowboys herding cattle along the side of the highway.


We also saw a man plowing a field with a team of mules and an old fashioned donkey cart pulled by what else, a donkey.


If we decide to spend the night in Jerez we almost always stay at the Hotel Leo. You do not want to drive the rest of the way to Guadalajara unless you’re sure you can get there BEFORE dark-thirty.


The Hotel Leo cost on my last trip just $ 31.82 USD. A super bargain since an equivalent hotel in Texas would have been $75 plus tax.


On the main road just about a block past the Hotel Leo is the turn off to by pass downtown part of Jerez.


Look for a sign indicating a left turn which will simply say Tepetongo. Turn left at this intersection and follow the twists and turns as the signs indicate and you will also begin to see for Guadalajara.


Taking the by pass will save some time but it will still take about  20 minutes to get from Hotel Leo to the outskirts of Jerez.


If you have the time and don’t mind getting lost a time or two go ahead and drive into the downtown area of Jerez. It’s a pretty town.


Soon you will be entering my favorite part of this route to Lake Chapala – Ajijic. One very interesting area is the municipality of Tepetongo.

The municipality of Tepetongo is located in the southwestern portion of the Mexicanstate of Zacatecas.

The  population varies around 20,000 including those of surrounding villages and ranches. While the area itself once had a large native American population it is now mostly composed of mixed Spanish and native stock.

The area’s industry is ranching, cattle raising, and animal husbandry in general (pigs, beef, chickens) as well as the agricultural practices and many of its traditions like the jaripeo (like a rodeo).


I’ve seen cowboys herding cattle along the side of the highway, old men plowing fields with teams of oxen or mules and a number of mounted cowboys in this area. So keep your eyes peeled and your camera at the ready.

Tepetongo proper is nestled in a valley surrounded by hills, villages, and numerous ranches. The town, much like the state has its economy grounded in agriculture.

Nearby villages include El Salitral, El Salitre, San Antonio, El Salitrillo, Juanchorrey, La Troje, El Capulin, Susticacan, La Joya, Santa Rosa, and La Tinaja among many others as well as former haciendas such as Viboras.

The town and its surroundings were frequent routes and stopovers for the various revolutionary groups during the Mexican Revolution, and left much of an imprint on its history.

Nearly every village has at least one well kept chapel, and the town itself has a large Gothic church in which ceremonies are held year round, but the largest festivities take place around the holiday of San Juan Bautista(St. John the Baptist) on June 24th.

The festival draws in people from surrounding villages and towns like Huejucar and Jerez, and more recently from former residents who have immigrated to the USA, but Europe as well, and their children and grandchildren who return for a sort of homecoming event.

The town’s population swells to several times its size around during the festival season.

The festivals are marked by a mass, reenactments, religious processions during the day, rodeo events, a fair, and a general party atmosphere later in the night climaxed by a large tower of fireworks.

As mentioned earlier many Mexicans born in Tepetongo have moved to the USA, but come back for the big festivals when they can. I found a cute video of one of the shows put on at such a festival influenced by North American culture.

Most of the shows feature some form of Banda Mexican music, but not this one. This one is a parody straight out of the late 1950’s of “The King of Rock and Roll” performed by Mexican teenagers. I hope you like it as much as I do.

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