A family of ranchers protects this natural utopia—and it offers them nourishment. Meet Tomas and his family and learn the ways of Rancho Xotolar. There’s cattle milking, bull riding, and, of course, a traditional feast.
A Paradise and Its Resilient Residents
When we arrive at Rancho Xotolar, Tomas and his ranch hands greet us on horseback. From their saddles, they watch over this vivid green plateau that’s untouched by modernization. You’d never guess that we’re just over 11 miles from San Miguel de Allende’s center. Tomas is part of a long line of guardians who have protected this place. It’s hard work, but the land always gives back.
“Growing up here taught us so much: to be resilient, to be good to people, to be in touch with nature,” Tomas says.
“Growing up here taught us so much: to be resilient, to be good to people, to be in touch with nature,” Tomas says. His grandfather started the ranch with his 13 sons, and Tomas’ father was the youngest. Today, many of his family members live and work on the ranch. They tend to the animals, grow corn, and maintain the lands.
A herd of cattle comes running after the ranchers. Our eye is drawn to a wandering, hungry calf. Possibly rejected by its mother, the calf requires daily bottle feeding to grow and thrive. We jump at the opportunity to help and are immediately impressed by the myriad daily tasks required of a busy cattle rancher.
Suddenly, a commotion in a nearby corral signals the bull riding is about to begin. Three horsemen surround a bull and lasso it with ease. A rider mounts it in one nimble leap and the beast is released. The bull kicks and stomps, but the rider’s hold is strong, making a complete circle before dismounting and vaulting a fence to safety. Now it’s our turn. A brave volunteer steps forward as another bull is readied for the ride. One, two, three jumps, and he’s off. This ride isn’t quite as graceful as the last, but the amateur caballero manages to hang on.
As the adrenaline from the festivities wanes, we return to the ranch house for merienda—a light lunch. On our way we discover an enormous cooking pot simmering on the stove, filling the room with the mouth-watering aroma of carnitas. We sip agua de jamaica, horchata, and limonada, and munch on cactus salad, gorditas, queso, and black corn tortillas. On a working ranch, even the snacks stick to your ribs!
The day concludes with a scenic horseback ride. We’re a bit shaky when we mount our horses, but quickly learn to trust their strength and speed as we strike out across the grasslands. We pass steep ledges and zigzag through forests, gallop along dry riverbeds, and linger in green pastures. Beneath the clear blue sky, our hearts fill with unbridled joy. Later, back at the ranch, we feast on a traditional dinner as Tomas reflects on life at Rancho Xotolar. “Everything we do, everything we eat, we know that it is 100% natural and nurtures us,” he explains. “Most people don’t have that anymore.”