La Purisima de Concepcion Cathedral

Here is a fabulous slide show of the ‘La Purisima de Concepcion’ cathedral in Alamos. This film was created by Anders Tomlinson who has been photographing Alamos for many years and arguably may have the world’s largest collection of high quality images of the village. To see more of Anders wonderful work visit his ‘Alamos-Sonora-Mexico, Multimedia In Progress’ site at alamos-sonora-mexico

The Cathedral 3:30 from anders tomlinson on Vimeo.

Frances Shultz Blog

Hacienda de los Santos – Mexico

As promised, here is the exquisite Hacienda de los Santos in Alamos, Mexico, where we visited during New Year’s. In case you missed, here is Thursday’s Mexico Part 1. We did not stay at the Hacienda but the lovely owners are friends and we ate there every night.

It does not hurt that playing at dinner is a very handsome guitarist who I am sure prays that people like me do not sing along with him to Guantanamero. But people like me sing anyway because with enough margueritas they become Beyoncé.

The welcoming entry to Hacienda de los Santos, Alamos, Mexico.

The Hacienda was glowingly featured in Architectural Digest a few years back in a piece by Patricia Leigh Brown with a passle of great photos by David O. Marlowe. See all in the January 2005 article here and read the story of Jim and Nancy Swickard, who came to Alamos 20-some years ago thinking they were retiring. Ha.

Hacienda de los Santos, Alamos, Mexico.

Instead they bought and restored a 17th-century, 12-bedroom hacienda. As happens, one casa led to another over, namely two adjoining properties and a sugar mill. The result is one of the most charmingly assembled group of buildings and gardens I’ve ever seen. And that is saying something. Many more photos are on the Hacienda de los Santos website. Do take a look.

Hacienda de los Santos, Alamos, Mexico.

There are several pools, three restaurants, many places to lounge and laze, and a wonderful spa. Oh, and two putting greens. Really no reason to leave… and always a member of the family around to make you feel welcome — three generations now, including two beautiful daughters, one of whom is married to the handsome guitarist. In case you were getting any ideas.

Hacienda de los Santos, Alamos, Mexico.

I am fascinated by the Hacienda’s famous banyon tree that obviously has a thing for palm trees, one in particular, giving new meaning to the term “growing old together.”

This tree was planted by Cortés himself.

Not really.

But it is said to have been planted in 1548, and whoever planted had definitely heardof Cortés, who died the previous year. In case you had forgotten.

It’s a wrap: banyon and palm trees together forever.

Every room and cranny is decorated with Spanish and Latin American antiques and memorabilia the Swickard family has devotedly collected over the years.

The bar features more than 400 kinds of tequila, and the walls are hung with all manner of branding irons, spurs, hats, guns and other vaquero essentials.

The bar at Hacienda de los Santos, Alamos, Mexico

I highly recommend the cheeseburger — and the margueritas of course.

A bejeweled santo inhabits a nook in the Hacienda de los Santos, Alamos, Mexico

Coming up next… the lovely, private Casa de la Plata, where we stayed, just down the street from the Hacienda.

Hasta la vista, baby.

I’ve been dying to say that.






(Español) Fiestas Patrias


 15 al 16 de Septiembre 2012

Fiestas Patrias en Álamos
Hacienda de los Santos Resort & Spa


En la madrugada del 16 de septiembre de 1810, el cura Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla tocó las campanas de su parroquia en Dolores, Guanajuato, dando el famoso llamado a sus compatriotas a levantarse en contra de la autoridad virreinal de la Nueva España. Con este Grito comenzó formalmente la Guerra de Independencia de México, la cual duró diez largos años.

Hoy en día, la celebración de esta prueba tan difícil dura el mes entero de septiembre, culminando en la noche del 15. Las calles de Álamos quedan decoradas con banderas y guirnaldas en brillantes tonos patrióticos. Al caer la noche, los ciudadanos aquí y en todo el país se reúnen en sus respectivos zócalos, engalanados con ropas típicas de charro, de china poblana, o atuendos indígenas. Mínimo, expresan su sentir con blusas, faldas o camisas que despliegan los tres colores de la bandera. En el Palacio, las parejas bailan al son de la música en vivo y los mariachis cantan de corazón a su República.

Al pasar las horas, el pueblo entero se prepara para el Grito. A las 11 de la noche a través del país entero, el Presidente de la República y cada uno de los presidentes municipales repiten el ritual comenzado por el padre Hidalgo. Se lanzan los fuegos artificiales y los tronadores, suenan las campanas, vuelve a sonar la música y miles de banderas agitan el aire: ¡Viva México! ¡Viva!

La celebración continúa el día 16 con divertidos desfiles de escolares disfrazados con vestidos de época, acompañados de charros desplegando sus destrezas de equitación por las calles empedradas. Este es el día para disfrutar de las delicias típicas mexicanas: el exquisito pozole; las enchiladas verdes, blancas y rojas hechas con deliciosa pechuga de pollo con jitomate y lechuga y una deliciosa salsa sonorense; los elotes frescos; las ricas tostadas y, por supuesto, ¡mucho tequila para celebrar!

¡Le invitamos a compartir esta emocionante celebración junto a la Hacienda de los Santos Resort & Spa y el pueblo entero de Álamos!

¡La Hacienda Celebra La

Paquetes de Fin de Semana Patrio:

Disfrute de 2 noches en Habitación Hacienda King

  • Una Comida para dos personas – Buffet Platillos Mexicanos
  • Dos Cupones de descuento de $250 cada uno para usarlo en el Spa La Dulce Vida
  • Margaritas de Bienvenida
  • Desayunos Completos para dos personas

Habitación Hacienda King: $3,200 pesos por pareja, más impuestos

Habitación Estate Suite: $4,000 pesos por pareja, más impuestos

Habitación Master Suite: $4,800 pesos por pareja, más impuestos

Una Noche Estancia: $2,200 pesos por pareja más impuestos. Solo incluye desayuno completo.

No Incluye Propinas. Valido solo los días 14, 15 y 16 Septiembre 2012.


Mexico’s Splendid Sonora

a sleepy colonial town hidden in a vast Mexican desert, conjures magic and beauty for SHARON SPENCE LIEB.

By Australian Times on 17 April, 2012


Mexico’s second largest state, takes her time in revealing her treasures. Arriving in Hermasillo, ‘The City of the Sun’, we spend an inspiring afternoon at the world class MUSAS, Museo de Arte de Sonora, happily wandering among stunning art by Picasso, Magritte, and Botero. Next day, we explore a bit of the vast ochreSonoranDesert, gazing at stately saguaro cactus, colourful Taco/Tecate snack stands and an endless horizon. A few hours later we arrive at Alamos, one of Mexico’s charming colonial “Pueblo Magicos”.

“Welcome to Alamos,” announces author/historian Juan Vidal Castillo, who joins our group on the bus. “Founded in 1691, Alamos is one of Mexico’s best preserved colonial towns. By 1790, we were one of the world’s most successful silver and copper producers. Today, Alamos is known for lively music and art festivals, bird watching, and restored haciendas with beautiful gardens. In 2001, we became a National Historic Landmark, and in 2005, Alamos was designated as one of Mexico’s 22 ‘Pueblo Magicos’.”


Our bus navigates the narrow cobblestone streets past Spanish colonial homes painted in eye popping magenta, lime, ivory, lavender and cobalt. We arrive at Hacienda de Los Santos, House of the Saints, where American owners Jim and Nancy Swickard usher us into a world of intoxicating beauty. Soft guitar jazz wafts across courtyards ablaze with tangerine and lipstick pink bouganvillea.
Fountains bubble next to inviting swimming pools. Centuries old guanacaste trees offer cool shade over inviting hand carved chairs sporting pink and turquoise pillows. A horse grazes quietly below a terracotta balcony. Who knew the Sonoran desert was home to such magnificent serenity?

“Please join us for lunch at our Agave Café,” the Swickards offer. Over fresh guacamole, hearty taco soup. spicy fish tacos, and piquant margaritas, we admire Nancy’s elegant decor: bright lavender walls are adorned with historic photos and colorful paintings. Whimsical piñatas hang over our tables-flirtatious angels, silly chickens, beaming suns, even Frieda Kahlo.

“Americans began moving to Alamos in 1946,” Jim tells us. “Folks wanted to restore the many Spanish colonial mansions here. We started work on Hacienda de Los Santos in 1989 and in 1998, opened as a boutique luxury hotel.”

We later learn that in 2005, Governor Napolitano of Arizona, and Sonora’s Governor Bours, honored the Swickards for their humanitarian work in Alamos with the ‘Alvaro Obregon Award’ (an award in honour of the famous revolutionary Mexican
president). Now lucky travelers from around the world come to Hacienda de Los Santos to enjoy the luxurious antique filled guestrooms, swimming pools, gardens, fabulous cuisine, and exquisite Spanish Colonial Architecture. Take a cooking or silver smithing class, relax at La Dulce Vida Spa, or just listen to the birds singing in the trees.


Throughout the year, Alamos hosts lively music and art festivals. Every January, the town bursts into song and dance with the ‘Festival Cultural Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado’, presenting world-class opera, orchestral, jazz, and Latin music.

Strolling into the warm starry evening, we meet a merry band of street performers. Called “the Estudiantina”, the musicians wear dramatic black capes and purple scarves in the style of 11th century Spanish students. Strumming guitars and cellos, they croon romantic ballads. We follow along, singing and sipping wine from a basket atop a saddle worn by a sweet grey donkey, a “burrito” trudging happily along. I tussle his mane and he nods at me, as if to say, “join in Senora, and enjoy the magic…”

Alamos is romantic and majestic at night, adorned in a tiara of sparkling lights. We veer down an alley to a huge stage near the Cathedral, which glows like a spaceship just landed from a distant galaxy. Families salsa in the street. In this “Pueblo Magico” called Alamos, magic is indeed around every corner.

Sweet Sonora Surprises

By Laura van Hoff

In San Carlos the dramatic setting of volcanic peaks crashing into clear blue sea drew me in to explore by boat and what I discovered was simply stunning. Once again, I was surprised and delighted. And who would have guessed that in the modest town of Hermosillo would be an art museum so wonderful I’d want to go back just to see what its passionate director has up his sleeve next? Again, wow, wow, wow.

Surprising places are just so darn much fun when you had no idea they would hold so many treasures to discover. I don’t want to ruin the surprises for you, but, really…you must know, Sonora offers some very enticing treats and is eager to welcome you with warm Sonoran “abrazos” (hugs).






The Warmth of Alamos and the People

Often described as a smaller and quieter version of San Miguel de Allende before it got crowded, Alamos is a Colonial gem of a Mexican pueblo. Snuggled into the southernmost corner of the state of Sonora in the foothills of the Western Sierra Madre, Alamos exudes a certain grace that can only come from a history of wealth and culture somewhere down the line. Silver and copper mines were big business in Alamos back in the day which left their mark in terms of money flowing through its history. The village was designed by conquering Spaniards to resemble Andalusia and has the classic feel of a storybook Mexico village. The pueblo itself is a Mexican Historical Monument and is up for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coming into town via narrow streets of cobblestones sets the stage for what lies ahead. The town square has a small park at its center with a classic cathedral beside it. The small and very walkable village holds exactly what you would hope…iron gates stuck improbably into adobe walled compounds to peer through which reveal private gardens and worlds of seductive charm within, street vendors selling yummy treats, happy kids bopping around, super friendly people at every turn, a few special restaurants to linger in and a hotel you never want to leave and feel lucky to have found.

Alamos seems to be blessed with happy people. Warm welcomes everywhere you go, happy kids of all ages running around, a certain joie de vivre that is simply unmistakable.

Hacienda de los Santos

Hacienda de Los Santos offers a stunning retreat to tuck into. Behind its authentic adobe walls you’ll find flowing fountains, mosaic tiled pools with statues gazing peacefully at their reflections in the water, colorful and lush exploding gardens, a sumptuous spa, putting greens and more. Outdoor fireplaces with cozy seating areas are scattered around the upscale enclave offering a private spot to snuggle, read or simply absorb the tranquility.

Several living rooms with fireplaces are thoughtfully stocked with games and books, making it feel like a good friend’s house. One could spend days discovering the impressive collection of art and historical artifacts which are absolutely everywhere throughout the property. An angel flying over the fireplace here, a horseback soldier supervising your shower there. Surprising delights abound throughout the property.

American owners Jim and Nancy Swickard have created an oasis in the heart of friendly, laid back (and very safe) Alamos. For 24 years they’ve offered their warm welcome to locals, dignitaries from around the world, pilots (they have a private hangar and cool club for pilots) and travelers from the US and farther flung parts. It’s one of those places you instantly fall helplessly, madly in love with and want to return again and again.

Each of the 9 Hacienda guest rooms and 14 suites are decorated personally by Nancy with her eagle eye for special pieces. Every room has at least one fireplace and the suites have two or three fireplaces. All in all there are 60 fireplaces on the property, many of which are set into cozy alcoves for anyone to enjoy or in the shared living rooms. There are traditional vibrant Mexican colors popping here and there in all the right places, amidst uber comfortable furniture in rich, earthy tones. All have adobe walls and charming architectural details such as wood beams, stone floors, tiled bathrooms, massive wooden doors and more.

They’ve used local artists and craftsmen to restore and create every inch of this truly magnificent property. At every turn as you make your way around something delightful surprises you. Two arched tunnels connect different parts of the property making it feel like an adventure just to get to your inviting room. The brick tunnel is lined with accolades and articles about the property to remind you that the love affair you’ve just developed with the place is shared by some pretty impressive folks similarly struck by the love bug.

The warm ochre toned tunnel is lit by inset cubes of light and is such fun to be in it’s almost a bonus when you realize you’ve forgotten something in your room and get to slink through it a few more times. It feels a bit like a clandestine version of Alice and Wonderland…a wildly surprising delight to pop out the other side in either direction. A graceful bridge draped in eye-candy magenta bougainvillea connects the main part of the property to the restaurants, cantina and theater.

The cozy spa has a full menu of traditional spa treatments in an adobe walled tranquil space tucked at the back of the property. Prices are reasonable and the treatment rooms are really sweet.

Most evenings there is live solo romantic guitar music for the guests. For special events and groups they can arrange a performance by Ballet Folklorico (a 40 person group from the University of Sonora), La Estudiantina (a 15 person group of young men who are dressed in 18th century Spanish costumes and sing and dance) or a guitar trio who sing Spanish songs.

Hacienda de los Santos has received a long list of well deserved awards, including feature stories in Architectural Digest and AOPA Pilot (350,000 pilot readership for it’s private plane access and pilot club), Trip Advisor Awards 2012 Top 25 Traveler Award Hotels of Mexico (#12) and Top 25 Traveler Relaxation/Spa Hotels of Mexico (#4) and is a stand-out member of the prestigious Mexico Boutique Hotels collection.

The property is clearly a labor of love for the Swickards who purchased the 300 year old hacienda in 1989 and then combined additional parcels to create the sprawling compound which exists today. They are so passionate about Alamos they both received awards from the then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Sonora’s Governor Eduardo Bours for their humanitarian work in Sonora. They received the annual Alvaro Obregon Award which was the first time it had been presented to foreigners in Mexico. You can feel it on the property that these vibrant owners have invested heart and soul into the community and the property.

For group events there is an off-property facility at the airport which can accommodate up to 100 guests in an indoor-outdoor space. Entertainment can be arranged and up to 20 people can travel the short distance by horseback. A fun and funky bus accommodates guests who would prefer to skip the horseback fun.

Private dinners can be arranged around the property on your private patio, in a Colonial dining room, in a covered, cozy outdoor area by the cantina, in a fireside alcove or in the warmer seasons at the Treetop Grill, a private rooftop dining space with bar.

The super attentive staff will make the fires for you and restock wood when needed. In my case I asked stellar staff member, the charming Mario, to light the fires in my suite just before I planned to arrive back in the room from dinner so I arrived to a beautifully lit heavenly abode truly fit for a president. The staff accommodates requests with a gracious warmth so typical of the people in Sonora.

Prices at Hacienda de Los Santos range from $155-$950 depending on time of year with breakfast included. A meal plan can be added on for $45 per person per day in their wonderful restaurants with an open menu choice included. All of the rooms are charming and lovely so you really can’t go wrong here in any price category. I stayed in The Presidential Suite which was my favorite of all the special rooms, with four fireplaces (bedroom, living room, bathroom and outside living space), two lovely bathrooms, wood beams, stone floors and a massive, romantic King bed.

Alamos Restaurants

Hacienda de Los Santos

There are three wonderful dining options. The casual Agave Cafe is a lot of fun with colorful art and Mexican doodads hanging everywhere. The more upscale and romantic Santiago’s Restaurant offers several fireplaces, some with tables for two facing them, small rooms with open arches facing onto the courtyard, gilt framed museum quality art and hushed, soothing tones. The outside courtyard has tables under wood-beamed eaves or a sunny open space amongst colorful blooms and the peaceful sound of a sunlit fountain.

The green chili soup is a beauty to behold and is as delicious as it is gorgeous. The sangria comes layered in a tall glass which also tastes as good as it looks. The charming cantina houses Jim’s wildly interesting and coveted tequila collection of more than 500 specimens. How about a $300 shot of tequila for something only found here? Don’t worry, there are also stunners for $3 a shot. He’ll arrange a tequila tasting and a 90 minute class on the origin, creation and tasting of tequila if you’re interested in exploring his collection and learning more.

True to the Swickards’ commitment to using local talent, all of the cooks and chefs at Hacienda de los Santos are from Alamos and schooled under professional chefs from Santa Fe, Tucson and Mexico City. A cheerful green tiled kitchen on the property holds cooking classes by prior arrangement.

Things To Do in Alamos

World class music festival, silver expo, birding and more

Alamos has an annual music festival which draws folks from all over the world because it’s that special. The Festival Cultural Alfonso Ortiz Tirado is held in January and offers everything from Opera to Salsa. The party extends out from the beautiful cathedral theater into the cobblestone streets. Musicians play on excellent stages around town and on street corners.

One of the ridiculously fun things to do is following a donkey with baskets of wine around town, in a big chain of party goers, catching up now and then to get your cup of wine refilled. It’s a remarkably tame and friendly crowd given the donkey-wine traveling fiesta that happens. The best of Mexico’s musicians converge on Alamos for the festival and the entire town comes out for the fun. Arts and crafts stalls line the streets, street food vendors come out in full force to tempt passerby with treats and everyone has a great time. Book a hotel room early if you come for the festival, it’s very popular.

There is also a highly regarded silversmith exposition held every February at Hacienda de los Santos. Accomplished silversmiths from around the world gather to display and sell their work.

If you’d like to explore the beautiful walled compounds ex-pats and residents call home, check out the home and garden tours offered on weekends. The office is on the main road into town to make arrangements.

The area is hugely popular for birders with a staggering variety of winged subjects. Arrange bird watching expeditions with El Pedregal.

Alamos for Pilots

Hacienda de Los Santos is a Pilots Heaven

Hacienda de Los Santos is very popular with pilots for good reason. They’ve got their own hangar at the Alamos airport which can house up to 12-14 aircraft. The ramp capacity is about 50 aircraft. The military has a security post literally outside the door of the hangar so it’s a very safe spot to ditch your ride.

It’s an excellent small modern airport with a 5,000′ paved runway legal for jets up to the Falcon 20 and Lear 45 in size. The operating tower uses unicom frequency for visiting aircraft. Home to “Club Pilotos” ( organized by Jim Swickard, the hotel hosts a gathering of pilots from all over the world three times a year. It’s a very popular event with the same friends coming back again and again.

Fun Night At The Hacienda!

Film Festival Fantastico