Last April, I spent a little time in Tepoztlan, Morelos, which is roughly two hours from Mexico City. It’s a lovely town, and always one of the first places people suggest when it comes to quick jaunts away from the Distrito Federal.
It has come to be defined by its market, charming stone streets, and perhaps because it has this mystical pyramide, its culture of rejuvenation and new age spirituality. You can better your mental health on every corner! I decided to hone in on that idea for a story about Tepoztlan for the Washington Post’s travel section. It came out mid December.
Here, therapy is a choose-your-own-adventure experience. In at least two places, you can get your aura photographed. A local tour guide advertises an obesity therapy. Tagline: “Lose weight with magnets, without dieting.”
“Whatever word you want to add to ‘therapy,’ ” says Larry Prater, he’s heard it. Prater moved to Tepoztlan after retiring from his medical practice in Oklahoma a few years ago and now owns a day spa called TepozSpa that caters to gay men.
“I just got an e-mail about ‘hielo,’ or ice therapy,” he says. “As a psychiatrist, I’ve never heard of ‘hielo therapy.’ Until, I guess, yesterday in the e-mail.”
The town, which empties out on the weekdays, definitely caters to its visitors. The main street is loaded with various artisan trinkets and pulque, and half the tourists walk around drinking the worst kind of micheladas there are: the humungous ones in foam cups rimmed with red chili. A michelada, for those unfamiliar, is a beer cocktail, mostly enhanced by various salty Mexican condiments. In my experience, those foam cup-carrying micheladas are just no good.
And possibly detrimental to the town. In 2009, Tepoztlan temporarily lost its “pueblo magico” status from the Secretary of Tourism. (It regained it in 2010.) I’ve read various things about why that happened, and can’t be too sure alcohol was the problem. But there have been various complaints about the town’s booziness killing its sweet, small-town Mexico vibe.