The town of El Tuito, at Km 170 (27 mi/44 km from Puerto Vallarta), looks from the highway like nothing more than a bus stop (although it has finally acquired a gas station). Most visitors pass by without even giving a second glance. This is a pity, because El Tuito (pop. 3,500) is a friendly little colonial-era town that spreads along a long main street to a pretty town square about a mile from the highway.
El Tuito enjoys at least two claims to fame: Besides being the mescal capital of western Jalisco, it’s the jumping-off spot for the seldom-visited coastal hinterland of Cabo Corrientes, the southernmost lip of the Bay of Banderas.
This is pioneer country, a land of wild beaches and sylvan forests, unpenetrated by paved roads. Wild creatures still abound: Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, hawks soar, parrots swarm, and the faraway scream of the jaguar can yet be heard in the night.
The rush for the raicilla, as local connoisseurs call El Tuito mescal, begins on Saturday when men crowd into town and begin upending bottles around noon, without even bothering to sit down. For a given individual, this cannot last too long, so the fallen are continually replaced by fresh arrivals all weekend.
Although El Tuito is famous for the raicilla, it is not the source. Raicilla comes from the sweet sap of the maguey plants, a close relative of the cactuslike century plant, which blooms once and then dies. The ejido (cooperative farm) of Cicatán (see-kah-TAHN), eight miles out along the dirt road as you head to the coast west of town, cultivates the maguey.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition