How a petite straw figure can bring hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to lovely but remote little Talpa (pop. about 7,000, officially Talpa de Allende) is a mystery to those who’ve never heard the tale of the Virgin of Talpa.
Back in the 1600s, the little image, believed by many to be miraculous, attracted a considerable local following. The bishop of Mascota, annoyed by those in his flock who constantly trooped to Talpa to pray to the Virgin, decided to have her transported to his Mascota church—and “jailed,” some people said. But the Virgin would have none of it: The next morning she was gone, having returned to Talpa.
A few local folks brought the bishop to the outskirts of town, where they showed him small footprints in the road, heading toward Talpa. “Nonsense!” said the bishop. “The Virgin doesn’t even have feet, so how could she make such footprints?” So the bishop again had the Virgin brought back to Mascota.
Determined not to be tricked again, the bishop ordered a young campesino to guard the Virgin at night. The Virgin, however, foiled the bishop once more. The young man dozed off, only to wake to the sound of footsteps leaving the church. The frightened young man looked up and saw that the Virgin was indeed gone; later, people found a new set of small footprints heading back toward Talpa.
The flabbergasted bishop finally relented. He left the Virgin in Talpa, where she, now known as the Walking Virgin, has remained ever since.
By Bus: Road and weather conditions permitting, a sturdy red ATM (Autotransportes Guadalajara Talpa Mascota, www.talpamascota.com) bus connects [node;33066 link Puerto Vallarta] with the San Sebastián crossroad at La Estancia, continuing to Mascota and Talpa. Check the departure schedule and buy your reserved ticket ahead of time at the little store (tel. 322/222-4816, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–9 p.m. daily) at the corner of Argentina and Guadalupe Sánchez.
Under good conditions, the morning bus arrives at Talpa at 2 p.m. Take drinks and food; little or nothing is available en route.
The competing Autobuses Mascota Talpa Guadalajara (known as the Autobus Azul, or Blue Bus) also connects Talpa with Guadalajara, Mascota, and Puerto Vallarta. Tickets and departure information are available at the small Mascota streetside station (corner of Cotilla and Zaragoza, tel. 388/386-1006), two blocks north of Corona.
By Car: Access to Talpa from Puerto Vallarta is via Mascota. From the Mascota plaza east side, follow Calle Constitución north two blocks. Turn right on Calle Justo Sierra, and, a few blocks later, at the country edge of town, bear right at the signed fork to Talpa and Guadalajara. Continue about six miles (9 km) to the Talpa junction. Turn right for Talpa and continue along the good paved road another eight miles. Unleaded gasoline is customarily available in Talpa at the Pemex gasolinera about a quarter mile into town, before you arrive at the town plaza.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition