Flying High in Saltillo, Coahuila
Saltillo, capital of Coahuila state, the first mile-high city you’ll encounter driving from Texas. At 1600 meters (5,250 feet), it’s a grand summer vacation spot for anyone wishing for respite from their USA heat. In the days before air-conditioning, Texans often traveled here to elude the blistering Texas summers. In the early 1800’s, when Texas was part of Mexico, Saltillo was the capital. The “father of Texas,” revolutionary Stephen F. Austin was imprisoned in Saltillo in 1834. In many ways, Saltillo was more historically tied to Texas than Monterrey. Saltillo was the first “sister city” with Austin, TX.
The automotive industry started in Saltillo in the 1900’s. Today, GM and Ram trucks along with 21 auto parts makers operate in Saltillo. Ram announced in 2019 it began moving its heavy truck production back to Michigan.
Generally, Saltillenses (what people from Saltillo call themselves) have a strong work ethic and enjoy the company of Americans and Canadians. So, if you visit, you won’t feel like an oddity as you might in another town not dedicated to tourism. You’ll find that everyone you meet will be honestly interested in you and willing to go out of their way to help you.
Geography of Saltillo
Since Saltillo is only forty-five minutes on a toll road from Monterrey or 4 ½ – 5 hours from most Texas border crossings, a few more people stay here than in Monterrey. Many will push their luck to make Matehuala, 2 ½ – 3 hours, 155 miles (250 KM) south. Why? Take your time driving in Mexico, especially for the first few days.
Although Saltillo is a fair-sized city with about 710,000 souls, they are polite, even behind the wheel. Driving is not the endurance race it is in Monterrey. Hotels are also about three-quarters of the price of similar ones in Monterrey. However, just like Monterrey, they are more expensive during the week than on weekends. There is one RV park in town, the Imperial on the grounds of the same-named hotel.
Other Industries in Saltillo
Saltillo is famous for Saltillo tile. This distinctive tile, seen all over Mexico is a terra-cotta clay tile with various irregular coloring of red, dark brown, red, orange, yellow. It is still handmade in some small shops in town, but you will see much machine-made tiles farther south. You could get several boxes to finish your kitchen or bathroom when you get back, but they are heavy. If you are going right back home, it’s a good idea. If not, save the wear and tear on your vehicle and content yourself with some tile coasters. There are a few online sellers of genuine Saltillo tile.
Serapes, are brightly colored blankets, used as ponchos by cowboys (think Clint Eastwood), shawls, and fashion statements. The Aztecs wore a similar garment, the tilmatli which was sewn together at the shoulders. The Mexican sarape from Saltillo is more open and larger. One shop I particularly like, with good-quality serapes and other artisanal goods is El Serape de Saltillo Miguel Hidalgo 305, Centro. They’ve been around for many years and have a broad selection of woven goods, leather and copper goods.
Things to do in Saltillo
Two of Saltillo’s museums are close to each other in the centro. The Museo del Sarape, Ignacio Allende Sur 160, Zona Centro is open 10-6 7 days a week. The Museo de las Aves de Mexico, Calle Miguel Hidalgo 151, Zona Centro. Open 10-6, Tues-Sun. The Ave (bird) museum has birds from all over Mexico. The third is the Museo del Desierto (Desert Museum) at Blvd. Carlos Abedrop Dávila 3745, Nuevo Centro Metropolitano de Saltillo. Open 10-5 Tues-Sun. It will require a drive from the other two or a taxi. It is an amazing place with so much information about the desert flora and fauna that it will make the next leg of your trip much more enjoyable. You’ll go through hours of high desert and knowing what you’re missing will make the trip more interesting.
No visit to Saltillo would be complete without at least spending a few hours at the main square or Plaza de Armas and wandering around the old city. One sight everyone photographs is the leaning cathedral, Catedral de Santiago. It was built between 1745 and 1800. It is different than many you will see later. The façade is a good example of an ornate style called Churrigueresque. The designers were not content with that, adding some neoclassical and Baroque touches.
Eating in Saltillo
And, of course you cannot leave without tasting what I believe to be the best cabrito in Mexico. The restaurant El Mesón Principal, Blvd. Venustiano Carranza 4671, Virreyes Residencial (across from the shopping center Soriana, SW of the cloverleaf with Carranza and Ortiz). Open 8-Midnight M-Sat. 8-10PM Sun. They also have steaks and other cuts of meat and salads. PH: 844 415 0015. Don Artemio, Blvd. Venustiano Carranza 8550, Valle Hermoso, Is another choice. Open noon – midnight M-Sat. 12-6PM Sun.
“Mexico” Mike Nelson has been writing about Mexico for forty years. He currently offers roadlogs (guidebooks) for drivers and personalized trip-planning from his website, https://www.mexicomike.com
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