El Quelite, a quaint town 25 miles northeast of Mazatlán is the perfect day trip for anyone interested in exploring an authentic Mexico experience.
The small town sits on the bank of the river El Quelite and is known locally for practicing the pre-Hispanic game Ulama, which has important ritual aspects for the town and its native population.
The main street in the village is lined with buildings of Spanish classical influence with red tile roofs and many covered by colorful bougainvillea. You just may think you’re in a different century as you walk down the cobblestone streets where you are more likely to see the locals on horse rather than in a car.
The entire town is picturesque and if you like taking photos, you won’t be able to stop snapping. As you wander down the main street, be sure to look for the plaques on many of the historical buildings to learn (en Espanol) about the town’s rich history.
There are a few shops including a shoe store that also seems to double as a sundry shop as well as a tortilleria and cheese shop that are a must visit.
The town has three major landmarks; the statuesque Catholic church, a town square and the restaurant El Meson de los Laureanos. All three are located on the main street and worth a visit. The church, was built in the 19th-century and is known as the Lady of Guadalupe’s church. There is a beautiful courtyard also worth a visit.
EL QUELITE was the scene of major historical events during the Mexican revolution when several rebel groups where formed and the most recognized was “Los Laureanos”, who were known to steal the gold that was carried thru the roads in stagecoaches, heading from the Sierra Madre mountains towards the coast.
El Meson de los Laureanos; the only true restaurant in town took its name from this piece of history and is much more than a dining experience.
El Meson Laureanos is owned Dr. Marcos Osuna, who has made it his mission to re-frame how tourists experience Mazatlán and it’s nearby towns.
The restaurant is the childhood home of Dr. Osuna. The front of the building is a large porch with handmade leather chairs which leads to an entry that opens onto an outdoor dining room. From this patio, there are several other dining rooms all showcasing art depicting Sinaloan history, photographs and other local artwork.
The Mexican themed restaurant serving traditional dishes opened in 1998 and is a big part of the tourism draw to the tiny town. The food is traditional and Osuna describes is as rural food from the pueblo. During my visit we were served entrees include tamales, quesadillas, machaca, carnitas, flank steak as well as delicacies such as tongue and pork knuckles. While I enjoyed every bit of the meal, it was the fresh horchata that stole the culinary show.
The restaurant also offers live entertainment. During my visit there was an extravagant show including local musicians, dancers and reenactments of the Ulama game with actors dressed up as Mayan warriors. While the show verged on outlandish, it was a glimpse into their customs and I couldn’t help but think of how much my 13 year old son would have loved the fireplay between the warriors.
The highlight of the visit was Dr. Osuna taking time to chat with us during our meal. He explained that when he grew in the town there was no running water and they used a well for all their fresh water. He also explained that when he went to school, there were no chairs or walls in the classroom. As he told us stories, he would periodically head to the wall of photographs and take down a picture to illustrate his story.
He shared that he opened the restaurant because he wanted to bring tourists to the town he loves and grew up in. Learning about Dr. Osuna and his passion for El Quelite was a perfect way to end a wonderful day trip to this quant and colorful village.
If you’d prefer to visit El Quelite with a tour, I suggest Pronatours and I highly recommend requesting Rodolfo Osuna as your guide.
Here is a link to my other post about the foods of Mazatlán: Mazatlán Food Culture: Beyond Shrimp & Pacifico Beer