Monday, March 23, 2009

Safety in Tepoztlan and La Villa Bonita

I am frustrated today. Many of our guests over the past month have been seeing very sensational reports about violence along the border. They call us up and ask how things are going, making it sound like we are under siege. I say that things are here as they have been for decades -- lots of corn, fireworks, and nice 80 degree weather.

This truly is one of the safest places in the world. In all of my travels, there is nothing that compares to the sense of family, honest hard work, and preservation of traditions as in Tepoztlan. Our guests understand this after only a few moments in our little village. Many guests apologize to us at the end of their stay for bringing up the subject (which is totally unnecessary after seeing some of the media coverage with my own eyes!). My issue is how do I express that to my potential guests and other visitors to my country.

First of all, Tepoztlan is far, far away from the U.S. border where almost all of these incidents are based (about a 15 hour drive to be exact). Tepoztlan is a tiny community made up of small scale subsistence farmers of beans, corn and squash. They appreciate tourists but don't change their traditions for anyone, which is one of the reasons we moved here! It is one of the most safe and efficiently self-policed societies I have ever seen. Even though we have our cadre of local police officers that everyone says "hello" to on the street, everyone in this town knows who you are and what your business is whether you like it or not. It truly is like stepping back to a simpler place in time.

Secondly, I am asking former guests to convey their experiences about being at La Villa Bonita and in Tepoztlan in general. If someone has never been here, how can we better express what the environment is like than through the eyes of our guests. Over the next few weeks, I will be forwarding the comments of our guests.

Thirdly, I will be starting a grass-roots movement of former guests, Mexicans, expats, journalists, business owners, and vacationers to express a balanced view of this wonderful country. As soon as we are up and running I will keep everyone informed through Twitter (, through my blog and on my newsletter.

I love my guests and their passion for my culture. I never tire of that expression of satisfaction when a guest makes chiles en nogada for the first time or when they taste that first tortilla they made with their own hands from the corn itself. It makes me very proud that people appreciate our cuisine and our culture but it saddens me to think that because of this media frenzy the perception exists that something has changed at La Villa Bonita or in this wonderful village of Tepoztlan.

As always . . .
Peace, Love, and Good Food,
Chef Ana Garcia

P.S. For a good article about the issues in Mexico take a look at this article written by a former producer of 60 Minutes who lives in Queretaro. He makes a lot of sense out of this situation.

No comments: