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San Sebastian de Oeste chosen to be ‘magic’ tourist town

The picturesque town of San Sebastian de Oeste is set to become Jalisco’s fourth Pueblo Magico (Magic Town), joining the ranks of Mazamitla, Tapalpa and Tequila.

This designation will allow the small town, located in a pine forest 40 miles inland from Puerto Vallarta en route to Mascota, access to federal funds for tourism infrastructure improvements.

Developed by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism (SECTUR), the Pueblo Magico designation aims to promote towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural riches or historical relevance.

The program was launched in 2001 and so far 45 towns have been baptized as Pueblos Magicos.  The first two to receive the  designation were Real de Catorce in the state of San Luis Potosi and Huasca de Ocampo in Hidalgo.

{/reg}To be considered, a town must first have strong local support, which is the basis for success.  Next it has to demonstrate that it’s a typical Mexican community, yet offers visitors a wide range of attractions that set it apart from other places: historical buildings or monuments, noteworthy architecture, one-of-a-kind festivals, special traditions, local crafts, culinary specialties, etc.  It also must have adequate infrastructure, basic security measures, hotels and restaurants in or near the town, as well as tourist information and signs.  In addition to promoting its cultural heritage, the town is also encouraged to develop and market outdoor activities such as fishing and extreme sports to give tourists more options.

San Sebastian is an obvious choice to enter the elite Pueblo Magico club.

Spanish adventurers founded San Sebastian as a gold and silver mining town in 1605. At its peak in the early 1900s, more than 25 mines and a number of foundries were operating and the town’s population had mushroomed to around 20,000.

When the mines closed and the Revolution of 1910 took its toll on the population, the town’s economy declined, albeit without loosing its essential character.

The current population of the small municipality (it bears the same name as the town) is just over 5,000 - making it one of the smallest in the state of Jalisco. Nonetheless, the town’s unspoiled character – characterized by pretty cobblestone streets and adobe buildings – has made it a magnet for visitors from Puerto Vallarta, now just 90 minutes away thanks to an improved highway.  Some of the old haciendas have been restored and there are at least a dozen small but well-appointed and reasonably priced hotels and guest houses to choose from. Although the number of hotel and B&B; rooms is only around 110, the Pueblo Magico designation looks set to change that.   The town also boasts a good number of restaurants for its size.

Attractions in San Sebastian include its impressive 17th century church, Doña Conchita’s Museum, a mine tour, the Hacienda Jalisco Museum and Tour, the Bufa lookout point, as well as several stores selling local handcrafts, sweets, jewelry, silver and souvenirs.  There are also horses and ATVs for rent.

The town’s main annual festival tales place January 19-21, when tribute is paid to San Sebastian the Martyr.

For more information in English on San Sebastain de Oeste, visit the well-presented website www.sansebastianmexico.com. To see the other pueblos magicos in Mexico visit www.pueblosmexico.com.mx.{/reg}

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