February 10, 2011
We had already decided to go there when we met Hector, a young man whose family owns twenty-two western wear shops, selling shirts, boots, belts – and fabulous belt buckles, displayed to best effect on waists made large by cerveza and much time spent sitting in the sun.
We had gone into Hector's shop to look for western shirts. We didn't find what we wanted, but talking about shirts lead to other things, and we soon found out that Hector was part of an old, and very large, family from Jerez. He told us they had several more shops there, and encouraged us to go to the Sunday market, and to make sure we spent some time in the town.
A few days later we came across another western wear shop, and were hardly through the door when a young man greeted us, in English, with “Hi! You were in my brother's shop yesterday. I saw you there.” Abraham, known to friends and family as A.B., said he and Hector would be in Jerez on Sunday, and invited us to stop by their main shop.
We were immediately taken with three things: first, the market was almost entirely for locals – we were the only 'extranjeros' (strangers, or non-Mexican tourists) there; second, every second male was wearing a cowboy hat or sombrero and western boots; and third, everyone was extremely friendly – we were given warm welcome everywhere, even though we weren't buying.
We stopped to eat at a busy gordita stand where a couple of women were busy making special tortillas with 'pockets' and stuffing them with beef, pork, chile rellenos, beans, cheese, eggs – whatever you wanted. Declicioso!
After we'd done with the market we wandered into the centre of town – just a few blocks away. The central plaza is aptly called 'El Jardin' – it's a very well treed square with four fountains at the corners and dozens of white wrought-iron benches. In the centre there's a lovely wooden bandstand with a distinctly Moorish style. The benches were mostly occupied, by old men half-dozing in the sun, young couples crooning, and families watching their kidlets run in circles around the maze of paths.
As promised, several cowboys came by on horseback. Their horses' shoes made a delightful clatter on the cobble-stone streets. We were enchanted – Jerez seemed like such a great little town, just like the Mexico one sees in an old western movie.
We spied a hotel on the square and went in to enquire. The owner was very hospitable, and showed us a room at the front, with a set of doors and some large windows overlooking the square. We told him we'd be back, and set off for another wander through town.
We weren't sure what to expect – so many of the old haciendas in Mexico are either in ruins or fast approaching that state. As usual, from the street one can see nothing of the house inside. A solid plastered adobe wall punctuated with several big windows, a pair of wide gates for horses and carriages and a smaller door for visitors on foot.
Beyond the first courtyard and through the old kitchen, fitted out with beautiful ceramic tiles, and both old and new fixtures, we came upon a very large inner courtyard and garden, with a pool, an outdoor bar and barbeque area. Off of this courtyard was a massive entertaining room with an equally massive wooden banquet table and elegant wooden chairs. It was all still decorated for Christmas. There was also a separate small guest house, perhaps once used as a servants' quarters.
The place is so grand and has so much character, it would make a fantastic boutique hotel. An old wooden cart near the gate was used in a movie – one could imagine the whole place as a set.
On our way out we stopped in a room just off the front door. This is the 'receiving room' – the room where visitors would first be seated. This was one of the most ornate and beautifully furnished of all of the rooms – truly spectacular.
'Progress' leaves no place unchanged, not even sleepy little Jerez. But fortunately, at least for us, Jerez is not a place where many Western tourists go – there are no beaches, no zip-lines, no hip night-club scene. So it's likely to stay a quiet, laid-back, quintessentially Mexican cowboy town for some time to come.