GO BEHIND THE MASK
- Visit a stunning 19th-century mansion, recast as a museum
- Learn the backstory behind Mexico’s love of decorative and religious masks
If you’ve ever caught a Day of the Dead celebration, visited a Mayan ruin, or watched lucha libre (Mexico’s unique spin on professional wrestling), you know that masks have played a central role in Mexico’s folk art, religious traditions, and even sports. Museo Nacional de la Máscara, on the edge of central Plaza de Carmen, takes a colorful and probing look at this history with its collection of more than 2,500 máscara, most of them donated by private collector Víctor Moya Rubio, a wealthy engineer, in the early 1980s, and some dating back centuries. Across five galleries you’ll find indigenous pieces, representing deities worshipped for rain and harvest, that were worn by high priests. When Spanish colonists were unsuccessful at banning the use of masks, they adopted them into biblical narrative to symbolize angels and demons, many of which are also on display. Look for El Tlahualil, a massive mask and headdress made of feathers and jewels, originally from Michoacán, that’s still a parade hit during annual street festivals. The Danza del Venado might also catch your eye: fashioned out of a deer’s head, the mask is used during a centuries-old story dance about a hunt, originally choreographed by Mexico’s Sonora and Sinaloa tribes. While you wander, take note of the building itself, a mansion built by wealthy landowners in the late 19th century. Decorative frescoes by Italian painters and a small collection of original furnishings now form an elegant backdrop for the collection.
Located on the edge of the historic district’s Plaza de Carmen, this small museum is about a 15-minute drive from the Conrad.
DISCOVER A WHOLE NEW MEXICAN CUISINE
- Delve into the unexpected flavors of the Huasteca region
- Taste spicy Huastec enchiladas and succulent freshwater prawns
We’re as wild for regional Mexican cuisines as the next person, and especially the deeply nuanced, unexpected flavors of Mexico’s interior. But even we were surprised the first time we tasted the startlingly good food from the Huasteca cultural region, which bridges southeastern San Luis Potosí and surrounding states. It’s a place with deep Mesoamerican connections—tribes with pre-Columbian roots still live in La Huasteca today—and that all plays out in its cuisine, with ingredients such as cabuches (native cactus flowers), queso de guaje (a stringy cow’s milk cheese), and acamayas, or freshwater prawns. Near San Luis’s city center, the simple yet convivial Rincón Huasteco restaurant is dedicated to the Huasteca region’s lost-and-found foodways. Meals start with a trio of salsas (the chili morita, which tastes like a smoky jalapeño, is especially good) as well as pickled cauliflower and crunchy pig ears. Traditional Huastec enchiladas—thick corn tortillas filled with tomato salsa and queso fresco, or eggs topped with spicy Serrano chilies—are the most popular items on the menu. If you’re up for a big meal, add the cecina, a thin steak that’s marinated in orange juice and salt before it hits the grill.
The restaurant is located 15 minutes from the Conrad by car. If it’s busy, plan on a 90-minute outing door-to-door.
MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME
- Tour one of the most spectacular mansions in town
- Find the secret doorway to a centuries-old tunnel
- Enjoy a glass of wine on the rooftop terrace
The Palacio de San Agustín, originally built as a residence for a Spanish miner in 1675, was transformed in 2008 into a museum hotel—the first of its kind in Latin America. It’s now home to more than 500 pieces of art, mostly centuries-old paintings from Germany, Italy, and France. While the collection is impressive, what’s also of interest here are the building’s original architectural elements: an exquisite chapel (used primarily during the house’s stint as a convent for the Order of Saint Augustine), stained-glass windows and doors, parquet wood floors, and a spiral staircase. A secret entrance leads to an underground tunnel—once part of a large network of covert walkways that connected the city’s major churches and affluent residences—that now opens up to an elegant wine cellar and an old cistern, and links up to an events space across the street. Have time to linger a bit? Stay for a glass or wine or bubbly, served in a chic lobby outfitted with antique French furnishings, or on an expansive rooftop terrace with sweeping city views.
Located in the historic center, the house is 15 minutes by car from the Conrad. Schedule your tour in advance, and request an English-speaking guide.