Each of Mexico’s magic towns (“pueblos mágicos”) has its own personality, its own kind of magic, and Amealco, in the central state of Queretaro, is no exception.

After visiting two nearby “magic towns” where the popular Queretaro dolls were visible everywhere, I was delighted to visit a town that is even closer to its origins: Amealco. In Nahuatl, Amealco means “place where water springs forth”, and creativity also springs forth in local crafts and culture.

“Breathe, relax, enjoy”… was the message this place brought me. After visiting nearby Peña de Bernal, with streets lined with shops and street stands catering to crowds of tourists (with a lot of junk as well as local or Mexican crafts), it was a relief to find fewer tourists and considerably less commercialism. The other relief was the climate, perhaps in the low 70’s F (low 20’s Celsius), after the sweltering dry heat of the lower valleys. My visit coincided with the long Easter break, so certainly there were more tourists than on your normal weekday, but there was an obvious difference from the previous spots.

Amealco, compared to Peña de Bernal (with its characteristic rock monolith) and Tequisquiapan (both in the “Wine and Cheese Route”) is unique in that it is more specifically enriched by its indigenous surroundings. Although one can identify Otomi women in the other towns and in the state capital, often selling their ware, they are more ubiquitous here, as their native communities are nearby.

Santiago Mexquititlán and Santiago Ildefonso are in the municipality of Amealco. Each boasts its own traditional costume for women. Narrow pleats and ruffled necklines are especially distinctive.

In the town square of Amealco, besides the church and the large letters for photo-ops that are now the fashion all over Mexico, there are bronze-colored statues of “the Otomi doll”or “the Maria doll” and her male companion. The handmade cloth doll with looped ribbons in her braids became famous worldwide this year as a larger-than-life version of her travelled around the world.

One drawing card here is the Museo de la Muñeca (Doll Museum), which includes a considerable variety of artisanal dolls from around the country, many made of cloth, some of palm leaf, and so on. In recent years the National Indigenous Doll Festival has created another opportunity for tourists to come in greater numbers.

Nearby, on the same side of the town square, are the Tourist Office and also a cooperative store where Otomí women offer a variety of crafts from the area: exquisitely embroidered items, clothing, dolls (of course), furniture, woven palm items, and even natural remedies.

For those who wish to stay longer, there are a good number of hotels and restaurants; one can take advantage of side trips to the Otomí towns, to a waterfall, and so on. Outside town is the impressive theme hotel “Misión la Muralla”, which offers Mexican-Revolution-based décor and activities.

Just as “la muñeca” has been taken from this region around the world, Amealco would like to take you into its heart. It’s all dolled up and waiting!