Founded in the year 1313, Xico’s original name was Xico-Chimalco in the Náhuatl (Aztec) language meaning “where there are bee hives of yellow wax.” Located only 20 minutes from Xalapa, Veracruz, it’s a village bound to charms one’s total senses. To get there, you travel southwest through the town of Coatepec, past the ex-hacienda of Zimpizahua, curving through San Marcos de León, then straight ahead with coffee fields on both sides until you reach Xico. It’s main street ends at a mosaic-tiled cathedral which glitters when spotlighted by the sun. Sometimes, dark rain clouds and the high mountain of El Cofre de Perote(Naucamapantéptl in Náuhatl) serve as a spectacular background.
This July 19 to 25 is the festival of Xico’s patron saint Santa María Magdalena, known as the Fiesta de la Magdalena. The whole village is alive for the celebration, Wednesday being the Alfombra de Acerrín (sawdust drawings made by gifted artisans from the neighboring state of Tlaxcala). Brightly colored sawdust covers several blocks of the main street and depict scenes about the Patron Saint. The rest of the festivities depend on weather conditions, the 22nd usually being the running of the bulls and bull fights.
I vividly remember July 22, 1998, when I was on assignment to take pictures of the Running of the Bulls (similar to Pamplona, Spain) for the local Coca Cola bottling company. In my enthusiasm to “get the best shot,” I worked my way through the packed crowds into the middle of the street. Unfortunately I was hit by a bull which lifted me about eight feet into the air, flipping me head over heels, then I landed on my head.
Fortunately God decided to let me live, as I was unconscious on the cement street with the bull‘s hind feet only inches from my head. Hastily, three Xiqueños carried me away from danger, and I didn’t sustain a broken neck, which could easily have happened. However, three weeks later I had to have an operation for a deep vain thrombophlebitis, because the bull’s horn had damaged my left thigh.
DO NOT PARTICIPATE DIRECTLY IN THE RUNNING OF THE BULLS.
Get there early and stay behind the barriers. I remember those seconds in Xico everyday, thanking God I was not killed and have my left leg’s pain to prevent me from forgetting.
Xalapa has been my home for 28 years now, but Xico is definitely my favorite village filled with hard working and friendly people who share their smiles with you. The xiqueños are proud decendents of mestizo origin, celebrating their heritage and strong roots in their everyday lives. Coffee growing, agriculture and cattle raising are the main activites in the area, with the lush green vegetation predominating everything.
Xico’s main street, Hidalgo, leading to the cathedral, is where most businesses and restaurants are located.
My favorite restaurants are:
El Acamalín – Hidalgo#162 Tel. 13-04-01 Service Friday to Sunday attended by Doña Guadalupe who makes delicious homemade dishes like xonequi and chiles en nogada. This place is a must!
El Mesón Xiqueño – Hidalgo #152 Another excellent restaurant with a lovely invernadero (greenhouse) in it s patio with squaking guacamayas and parrots.
El Paraje Coyopolan – 2 blocks off the main street and on a lovely stream, you can enjoy your scrumptious meal while watching the local children frolicking in the water below. There are also 14 rooms available in the family hotel next door.
Derivados El Acamalín – Owned by María Dolores Fuentes Suárez, daughter of Doña Guadalupe, this is where you can buy some of the best mole I’ve ever tried, as well as homemade licores like verde de Xico (similar to creme de menthé) or mora (blackberry). Incredible freshly ground coffee, too.
Danubio Azul – (Blue Danube) Located one block before the cathedral, this is some of the best p an de huevo you’ll ever find.
There are many other small shops which also sell mole, coffee and artesanías made of wood from the coffee plants and painted with scenes from the area.
Come and explore Xico, where some say the brujas (witches) xiqueñas come out at night on a full moon to chase after young lovers. Or go to the nearby waterfalls of Texolo where the movie “Romancing the Stone” was filmed, going down the 365 steps to the power generating plant below.