Bernal de la Pena, Queretaro State, Mexico

Magical, Mystical Bernal de la Pena, Mexico

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As I sat at the foot of La Pena, waiting for the light and sound show to begin, I concentrated on what I felt. Exceeded in height only by Gibraltar and Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil, this third tallest monolithic rock in the world is believed to have mystical powers. Some say it exudes a magnetic force, others say its energy comes from giant Amethyst crystals buried deep within its core. Legend insists there is a hidden cave within la Pena where a giant snake sleeps; anyone who can get past the snake and into its secret lair will discover riches and learn the origin and destiny of the human race. What we do know for sure that this eroded volcanic plug was formed in the Jurassic period 180 million years ago, but a giant thumb of cooled magma does not explain the strange and mysterious things that regularly occur in the tiny town of Bernal.

The Pena - third tallest monolithic rock in the world - towers over tiny Bernal

Although I could never confirm the rumors, Bernal de la Pena is reputed to be home to more centenarians than any other town in Mexico. I read one claim that the average life expectancy in Bernal is 94.5 years, and indeed many elderly residents still work every day in the artisan shops that surround Bernal’s lovely town square. At the edge of town is the Capilla de las Animas – literally the Chapel of the Lost Souls of Purgatory. Legend tells that a merchant who was being chased by robbers hid in the bushes at the site of the present day chapel and entrusted his safety to the souls of purgatory. When the robbers did not see him, the merchant built a church to honor the lost souls, who are today still seen wandering by night, their faces lit up by candles. Even more mysterious are the sightings of flying saucers in the area; if La Pena looks strangely familiar it may be because it strongly resembles the rock in Wyoming that was the sight of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which drew speculation that these formations are pointers to extraterrestrial travelers.

Wedding at the Temple of San Sebastian Martir in the central square of Bernal

Moorish influenced Castillo is the City Hall

Typical street in Bernal, one of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos

Plaza de San Sebastian in Bernal, Mexico

I’d had my own mystical experience in Bernal. Earlier in the week, upon arriving in Queretaro, I was sitting up in bed writing, when I was struck with a heavy chest pain in the center of my breast bone. When it didn’t go away, I closed my laptop and laid down to rest, which seemed to help. Because I’d been carrying a heavy pack I assumed it was muscular, but the idea of a heart attack did cross my mind. And I was exhausted. I’d been traveling for about two months, flitting from place to place, moving every few days. It’s not an easy way to travel, especially when trying to manage a writing career simultaneously. By the next morning the pain was gone so I never gave it a second thought, but upon arriving in Bernal a dull throbbing ache had resumed and I felt completely drained of energy.

About the same time I learned that Bernal is home to an inordinate number of Shamans, curanderos and healers. Curious, I started asking around. Again and again, locals referred me to Veronica – “Vero” – a local curandera who worked with crystals. No one knew her last name or where she lived, but everyone was adamant about her ability to heal. I turned the process over to the Universe – if I was meant to find Vero it would happen – and within two hours she was delivered to me by a woman who worked in the kitchen of a restaurant where I’d had dinner. An hour later, Vero was working her magic on me, and I have felt marvelous ever since.

Can’t see the above slide show of Bernal, Mexico? Click here.

Now, sitting beneath la Pena, I speculated whether it has some mystical power to heal. Mexicans believe it does; they flock to Bernal every weekend, hoping to absorb some of its healing energy. Indeed, Bernal is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, or Magic Towns, a designation awarded to villages with symbolism, legends, history, or important events – in other words, “magic” – in its social and cultural tapestry.

Weekend Light and Sound show at Pena de Bernal

As the evening light dwindled I looked up at the massive rock and gave a start; a glow seemed to emanate from within, outlining the jagged edges in gold. Splotches of pink and light blue danced beyond the yellow aura and hundreds of hawks circled the massif, crossing in and out of the bands of color. Suddenly the fountain in the courtyard began to spout and dance to music, reflecting rainbow colors from spotlights. When the last rays of daylight had faded, powerful lights illuminated la Pena in shades of green, purple, blue, and red on the sky’s black palette. My hands, held palms up in my lap with thumb to forefinger, grew hot. Energy swirled and throbbed like two miniature suns, radiating from my palms outward until my entire body was completely enveloped in a calming warmth. An hour later I departed, filled with the most incredible sense of well-being. I don’t know about extraterrestrials or giant Amethyst crystals, but I can say with certainty that something special is going on in Bernal.

14 Comments on “Magical, Mystical Bernal de la Pena, Mexico

    • Hi Michael: Yes, I did learn about the Otomi-Chichimec chapels when I was in Queretaro, however did not have time or a car, which would have been necessary to visit them. I would love to return and visit this area more thoroughly someday. Thanks for sharing the videos;; they were really well done.

  1. if you think peña de bernal is magical try keep heading the same road to la sierra gorda. now thats something you wont belive and if you dare to go further than te average gringo tourist keep heading to ” la huasteca potosina ” in sanluis potosi :)

    • Hi Inigo – Just added them to my list for future travel. SLP is definitely a place I wish I’d had time to see this trip.

  2. I am so glad that you feel better! Reading your wonderful account about your healing experience brought memories to my mind when a similar thing happened to me in a different power place.

    You bring magic to my screen! In words and photos. Bernal is an other place to fall in love with. No wonder, Mexicans are always homesick :)

  3. First of all – I’m glad you are feeling better – but take care of yourself! Slowly, slowly…that’s what my Kilimangaro guide always said and it applies to everything.

    Second – I have no idea how you are going to come back to the US and be back to dull colors of buildings! All of the towns you go to in Mexibo are so colorful!

  4. What a journey! So packed with surprise & wonder. Wishing you more of the same.

  5. This was one of the most enjoyable blog entries that I have read on ANY site in quite awhile. Thank you for sharing your very special time in this wondrous place. Your photos are so colour-drenched that they too are magical!

    • Thank you, everyone, for your compliments and kind comments. Bernal was definitely a special place in Mexico, and I understand there are now 35 Pueblos Magicos in the country! The ones I have seen so far are stunning.

  6. I keep an open mind about most things and I totally believe in the energy within. I would love to experience what you did. The light show was beautiful. Thanks.

  7. Just because we can’t explain it doesn’t mean there isn’t some reason or cause for these phenomena and the extended longevity. Maybe it is simply the power of positive belief and thinking and the fact that the people keep working at something they probably enjoy. What a fantastic sounding place.

  8. Fascinating. I like to think I am a practical person, but I have a very open mind about things which we cannot, at this stage in human development, explain……”There (being) more things in heaven and earth than (are) dreamed of in (our) philosophy.”

    Your photos are absolutely stunning. The colors so rich and vibrant.

  9. I will go here one day, if for only the off chance of seeing a UFO. My travels are often motivated by some weirdness and it’s as good of a reason as I can think of to head to Bernal :)

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