Another “Pueblo Magico”, some 250km south of Guaymas, the enchanting colonial town of ÁLAMOS hasn’t escaped the notice of scores of North Americans – predominantly artists and retirees – who have chosen to settle here over the last forty years or so, often renovating the otherwise doomed-to-decay Spanish architecture. A ride out to this patch of green makes a very pleasant respite from the monotony of the coastal road, and it’s a great place to do nothing for a while: a tour of the town takes no longer than a couple of hours, and there’s little else to do but soak up the languid atmosphere. Everything changes in January each year, when thousands of people descend upon Álamos for the week-long Ortiz Tirado music festival, in honour of the late Dr Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, sometimes referred to as the “Mexican Pavarotti”. Accommodation is usually booked solid at this time, so reservations are a must. In the cooler winter months, Álamos is also a good base for exploring the fairly distinct ecosystem hereabouts; the meeting of Sonoran and Sinaloan deserts, at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental, has created a home for a broad range of flora and fauna. In particular, this is a bird watching mecca, boasting several hundred different species.
Coronado was the first European to pass through this area in 1540, spending most of his time trying to subjugate the Yoreme and Yaqui, unaware that below his feet lay some of the richest silver ore in Mexico. When the ore was discovered in the late 1600s, Álamos became Mexico’s northernmost silver-mining town; officially founded in 1684, within a century it was a substantial city with its own mint, and the most prosperous town north of Guadalajara. Following Mexican independence, control of the area fell into the hands of the Almada family who, despite having initially productive mines, spent most of the nineteenth century protecting their property from political wranglings and petty feuds, and watching over the region’s decline. The mint closed in 1896, and even the brief existence of a railway only served to help depopulate a dying town – the ravages of the Revolution finished off what business was left. Álamos languished until the 1940s, when an American, William Levant Alcorn, bought numerous houses here and set about selling the property to his countryfolk. A bank was built in 1958 and an airstrip opened, and a paved road from Navojoa was finished two years later. Today the population hovers around the 10,000 mark.