Mascota is a charismatic small town now easily accessible by an improved road that winds through the mountains from Puerto Vallarta. This and other former mining and supply towns in the pine-oak mountains behind the Pacific Coast were first abandoned in significant numbers when the silver mines played out around the time of the Mexican Revolution. Today many younger residents leave for larger, more prosperous cities in search of work. The difficult access has kept these towns and villages seductively provincial.
Mascota is the municipal seat and a supply center for surrounding farms and villages. Its streets are lined with one- and two-story homes and shops, some spruced up and dignified, others showing their original adobe brick. Trash receptacles and signs exhorting the inhabitants to Keep It Clean are everywhere. The welcoming plaza attracts people young and old: the former roaming in groups, texting any friends not fortunate enough to be hanging out at the time, the latter maybe reminiscing about simpler times.
Several small museums were being restored during our last visit, including the archaeological museum; a cultural center, with photography and other rotating exhibits, and the Museo Pedregal, presumably with a multitude of objects made of rock. More interesting is a visit to Templo de la Preciosa Sangre (Church of the Holy Blood), a short walk from town center. Construction began in the 19th century, but the quarry stone church was never finished. The entrance is framed in a Roman arch; inside, the neoclassic altarpiece is the perfect place to say an al fresco prayer.
Right in town across from the plaza, the town’s main church is in pristine condition. Outside is a large statue dedicated to the 20th-century martyr and local hero, priest José María Roble, who was killed by Mexican soldiers during the Cristero Revolt.
For a more active visit, head to Laguna de Juanacatlan, formed in a volcanic crater. The lake is ideal for canoeing and sport fishing (carp, large mouth bass and mojarra, a bass-like fish). Admire the pines of the surrounding forest as you walk or bicycle around the lake. Another place for kayaking, canoeing and boating is Presa Corrinchis, a man-made dam where many small restaurants serve regional dishes and snacks.
Mascota is a good base for visiting nearby towns such as San Sebastian, Yerbabuena and Navidad. There’s not much to do except wander the streets, check out their pretty churches, have a bite to eat or sip a cold drink and try to imagine things during busier times. The new road connecting Vallarta to Mascota is sure to restore a measure of prosperity, as coast-dwellers take advantage of the pleasant mountain climate and locals open businesses to serve them.
For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our Mascota Travel Guide.