I had been thinking for a couple of weeks about going to climb La Peña de Bernal with some friends. I had never been and since I started climbing the rock it was on my wish list
La Peña de Bernal is a gigantic monolith that holds the third place among the largest monoliths in the world, preceded first by the '' Rock of Gibraltar '' and then by the '' Sugarloaf Mountain '' in Rio de Janeiro. It is one of the iconic sites in Mexico that receives pilgrimages of climbers from all over the world.
It was a long weekend and Sofia and I were looking forward to getting out of town to climb and camp in search of some adventure. I picked her up and on the way home we decided to go to Bernal. Neither of us had been there, wich was perfect for a new adventure. We got all the equipment together and headed towards Querétaro. On the road, Sofia was researching if we could camp at Chichidho campsite. We were told that it was a sanctuary at the back of the monolith which had excellent climbing opportunities. Sadly, access was restricted due to a pandemic and the only option for the moment was to rent one of the cabins but they were all booked out.
Without a plan B, we arrived in Bernal and were surprised by the great tourist infrastructure that the town offers. With its dozens of '' boutique '' hotels and its many handicraft shops, it is evident that Bernal's economy is based on tourism and the market of handicrafts.
In 2005 the town became part of the tourist program ' 'Pueblos Mágicos' ' developed by the Ministry of Tourism. A program that had the objective of structuring a complementary and diversified tourist offer towards the interior of the country.
In our eagerness to camp we decided to try our luck in Chichidho. This camp is part of another town called San Antonio de la Cal and is part of the municipality of Tolimán.
The contrast between San Antonio and Bernal is striking . In Bernal the streets are picturesque, cobbled, with a proliferation of small hotels while on the other side of the rock the precarious conditions make it clear that the benefits that tourism has brought to its neighboring town have not permeated the town at all.
My intention is not to glorify Bernal, much less speak of tourism as the ''optimism for progress ''. I think we should always analyze both sides of the coin objectively.
As I mentioned earlier, In 2005 Bernal was incorporated into the '' Pueblos Mágicos '' program, in 2007 Peña de Bernal was declared a Protected Natural Reserve and two years later it was certified by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for its symbolic importance of the traditions and living memories of the Otomí-Chichimeca culture.
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What we didn´t know is that the road to get to the base of the rock through San Antonio is a long way off road than a Prius can take so we gave up on our mission. On the way we noticed a very colorful little hotel called La Tortuga. We assumed that the view of the place would be unbeatable so we decided to stop to ask for information. At the reception we met Carmen who told us that the hotel-spa "La Tortuga Xaha" belongs to a cooperative made up of 14 people from the same town: artisans, traditional doctors, masseurs, Temazcal guides; All from Otomí-Chichimeca origins.
< div style = "text-align: left;"> The kindness and hospitality of the people of La Tortuga made us forget our intention to camp and reserve one of the seven rooms they offer.
More than just a hotel, La Tortuga is a traditional healing center that seeks to preserve and share the cultural elements of the local people. In addition to accommodation, they offer typical massages, the possibility of participating in Temazcal sessions, restaurant service and a small handicraft and natural products market, all made by the community itself.
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In the end we had an amazin experience; We took the route of '' la Bernalina '' reaching the top of the rock and we were happy with the luck we had to meet Carmen and other members of the cooperative of the hotel-spa.
San Antonio and Bernal are covered by the same shadow but their circumstances have been very different. Overcoming difficulties, La Tortuga is a great example of how a fully planned tourism model is a good tool to promote the local development of communities by providing new employment opportunities and contributing to the improvement of the population's quality of life.
Within our lives there are decisions and some have more repercussions than others; from the food we choose, the clothes we buy, the brands we consume, the places where we travel and stay, etc.
It is up to each of us to contribute from our trenches, aware that it is the driver of change towards a sustainable course, even when we go on vacation.
Post By: Juan Pablo Valdovinos
For more information about the hotel-spa “La Tortuga Xaha”

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