Cuitzeo is a small village that we likely would have overlooked. San Juan del Lago is even smaller. These two cute little places could have been missed, and in fact often are. The cuota (toll) road goes right past them and most people do not exit. We had researched a place that would break up the long drive and offered RV parking. We planned to spend a night or two there. The report we read stated that it included thermal baths and adventure opportunities. It sounded great.
We worked our way carefully through San Juan del Lago. This tiny pueblo had recently been hit hard by a rainstorm. The already narrow streets were muddy, as they had become channels for the water and farm dirt. There was even a traffic jam (see movie) But we found the RV park and met Arturo. What a character!
Arturo was in the USA illegally for many years. He worked his way up the through various jobs – from sweeping and cleaning to helping rent apartments and condos. When he earned legal status he became a property manager for several locations. Later he purchased a rental property and also an investment property. Ironically his investment property was in the area of Bouse, Arizona (where I was the superintendent of a tiny school district). When he sold the investment land, he bought the land for this RV Park in Mexico. He continues to manage a rental unit in California as he works on his dreams at this RV Park. And WOW does Arturo have dreams. He plans to bring in caravans of RVs and offer year-round rentals. He hopes to offer guided trips to nearby cities. He wants to offer cook-outs, adventure trips and entertainment from nearby cities. And he wants to call it a retirement destination with folks leaving their RV’s there all year long. But there are issues with his property, such as an extremely steep, dirt road which gets rutted in the rains. There is no easy exit off the highway to locate his place, which means RV’s must negotiate the tiny village (it would be tough in anything larger than our truck camper). And the appealing hot baths in the area recently lost their thermal water source when someone’s well drilling struck the vein of water, so they closed down. But none of this will stop Arturo. He still works there daily, adding to his facilities and caring for the 6 horses and 10 dogs that he has rescued. Oh yes, he is also working to start a local dog rescue group! He has many more ideas, plans and developments than I have listed here. After a 3 hour morning with him, I started to feel some of his unique enthusiasm.
Arturo has a burning desire and a terrific presence. We had a great time riding around town with him as he greeted everyone and took care of business. Arturo is an inspiration to anyone who wants to follow a dream and do something to help himself and his community. I am not sure that all of his ideas will develop into what he envisions, but I am sure he will make a diligent effort to make his RV park a terrific place for visitors. And in the meantime those who pass through will make a tiny dent in the local economy, just like we did.
The town adjoining San Juan del Lago is called Cuitzeo. It is a Pueblo Magico. That means it met some government requirements to make the list and try to attract tourists. When we rode along with Arturo on his morning rounds we became interested in the town so we asked him to drop us off. We would find a collectivo (small van or old school bus which runs local routes) to take us back.
We headed for the former convent in the center of town. It has been 90% restored and now houses an art museum and a glimpse into convent life in a different century. Two hours passed as we wandered through the cool hallways, looking at painted frescos on walls and ceilings
and amazing architecture. The facility is fantastic and during our wandering we were given access to the choir balcony with a HUGE organ. The view from up there, into the church was breathtaking.
We proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets of Cuitzeo and stocking up on supplies for the camper. Then we jumped on to a hot, sweaty collectivo and rode back to San Juan del Lago. In the little village, we waited for Arturo to come pick us up and checked out the small mercado that sets up on Fridays.
Back at camp we enjoyed the lovely bathrooms. Arturo has excellent construction skills, great attention to detail and has used terrific materials. Mike and the dogs hiked to the hilltops each morning and we relaxed in the empty campground.
When we finally got around to leaving, there was another traffic jam getting out of town (see movie). But we negotiated through and headed down the highway for more explorations!