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Do-It-Yourself Deportation

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Published: February 1, 2012

ONE of my happiest childhood memories is of my parents at my First Communion. But that’s because most of my memories from that time are of their being absent. They weren’t there for my elementary school graduation, or for parent-teacher conferences.

Chris Silas Neal

From the time I was just a baby in Mexico, I lived with my grandparents while my parents traveled to other Mexican states to find work. I was 6 in 2000 when they left for the United States. And it took five years before they had steady jobs and were able to send for me. We’ve been together in this country ever since, working to build a life. Now I am 17 and a senior in high school in New York City. But my parents have left again, this time to return to Mexico.

Last week, when asked in a debate what America should do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here, Mitt Romney said he favored “self-deportation.” He presented the strategy as a kinder alternative to just arresting people. Instead, he said, immigrants will “decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here.”

But really this goes along with a larger movement in states like Arizona and Alabama to pass very tough laws against immigrants in an attempt to make their lives so unbearable that they have no choice but to leave. People have called for denying work, education and even medical treatment to immigrants without documentation; many immigrants have grown afraid of even going to the store or to church.

The United States is supposed to be a great country that welcomes all kinds of people. Does Mr. Romney really think that this should be America’s solution for immigration reform?

You could say that my parents have self-deported, and that it was partly a result of their working conditions. It’s not that they couldn’t find work, but that they couldn’t find decent work. My dad collected scrap metal from all over the city, gathering copper and steel from construction sites, garbage dumps and old houses. He earned $90 a day, but there was only enough work for him to do it once or twice a week. My mom worked at a laundromat six days a week, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., for $70 a day.

But the main reason they had to leave was personal. I have a brother, 16, a year younger than me, still living in Mexico. He was too little to cross the border with me when I came to the United States, and as the government has cracked down on immigration in the years since, the crossing has become more expensive and much more dangerous. And there was no hope of his getting a green card, as none of us have one either. So he stayed with my grandparents, but last year my grandmother died and two weeks ago my grandfather also died. My parents were confronted with a dilemma: Leave one child alone in New York City, or leave the other alone in Mexico. They decided they had to go back to Mexico.

Now once again I am missing my parents. I know it was very difficult for them to leave me here, worrying about how I will survive because I’m studying instead of earning money working. I’m living with my uncles, but it is hard for my mother to know that I’m coming home to a table with no dinner on it, where there had been dinner before. And it’s hard for me not having my parents to talk to, not being able to ask for advice that as a teenager you need. Now that they are in Mexico, I wonder who will be at my graduation, my volleyball games or my birthday? With whom will I share my joy or my sad moments?

I know a girl named Guadalupe, whose parents have also decided to return to Mexico, because they can’t find work here and rent in New York City is very expensive. She is very smart and wants to be the first in her family to attend college, and she wants to study psychology. But even though she has lived here for years and finished high school with a 90 percent average, she, like me, does not have immigration papers, and so does not qualify for financial aid and can’t get a scholarship.

People like Guadalupe and me are staying in this country because we have faith that America will live up to its promise as a fair and just country. We hope that there will be comprehensive immigration reform, with a path to citizenship for people who have spent years living and working here. When reform happens, our families may be able to come back, and if not, at least we will be able to visit them without the risk of never being able to return to our lives here. We hope that the Dream Act — which would let undocumented immigrants who came here as children go to college and become citizens and which has stalled in Congress — will pass so that we can get an education and show that even though we are immigrants we can succeed in this country.

If, instead, the political climate gets more and more anti-immigrant, eventually some immigrants will give up hope for America and return to their home countries, like my parents did. But I don’t think this is something that our presidential candidates should encourage or be proud of.

Immigrants have made this country great. We are not looking for a free ride, but instead we are willing to work as hard as we can to show that we deserve to be here and to be treated like first-class citizens. Deportation, and “self-deportation,” will result only in dividing families and driving them into the shadows. In America, teenagers shouldn’t have to go through what I’m going through.

Antonio Alarcón is a high school student and a member of Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group. This essay was translated by Natalia Aristizabal-Betancur from the Spanish.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on February 2, 2012, on pageA27 of the New York edition with the headline: Do-It- Yourself Deportation.

Christmas 2010 – Start thinking about travel plans

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My boyfriend and I want to take a vacation to an international urban destination over Christmas break (late December/early January). We were thinking of Turkey, but a quick scan of airfares showed high prices (more than $850). And I read that winters in Turkey are cold. Would you suggest some places that we should consider?

Whitney Robinson, Ann Arbor, Mich.


I contacted Jennifer Conlin, who wrote “36 Hours in Istanbul” (Feb. 7, 2010), which she reported last fall. In an e-mail, she warned that it does get cold, so winter is not an ideal time to enjoy some of her favorite activities, like drinks at a rooftop bar, boat rides on the Bosporus, and walks in the gardens — but she did add that you will encounter smaller crowds. I found one-stop round-trip flights from Wayne County Airport (Detroit) to Istanbul in late December for about $900.

Destinations in the Southern Hemisphere can be ideal during our winter, as December to late March is summertime there. But flights to these destinations — like Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro — are almost certain to be well beyond your price range.

For an international urban destination with mild weather and reasonably priced flights, consider Mexico. One-stop round-trip flights from Detroit to Mexico City in late December start at around $673. December-January is the dry season, which means a temperate climate (though evenings can get chilly). Mexico offers a range of destinations, including beach resorts and mountain villages, as well as a wealth of culture.

For a historical perspective, read Jonathan Kandell’s article, “Mexico’s Freedom Trail” (Aug. 22, 2010), about the country’s bicentennial celebration of its independence from Spain. Mr. Kandell focused on the state of Guanajuato, a three- to four-hour drive northwest of Mexico City where the revolt for independence began.

In Mexico City, be sure to visit the Zócalo, the city’s main square, formally known as the Plaza de la Constitución, where you’ll find Diego Rivera’s murals inside the Palacio Nacional, and the ruins of the Aztecs’ Templo Mayor, now a museum; you might follow this by the not-to-miss National Museum of Anthropology (mna.inah.gob.mx) near Chapultepec Park. A day trip to Teotihuacán takes you to palaces and ruins, including the Pyramid of the Sun (above), which you can climb. For more articles about activities, dining and lodging suggestions, go to our Mexico guide.

Mexico’s Bicentennial Celebration

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Mexico’s Bicentennial Celebration 2010

Mexico’s Bicentennial Celebration

Mexico is getting ready for an extraordinary celebration in honor of its 200th anniversary of its Independence and 100th anniversary of its Revolution. Everything designed to commemorate these two great dates is linked to the ideal of renewing Mexico’s identity and historic continuity.

Highlighted among the many projects designed are exhibits of prehispanic, Spanish, modern and contemporary Mexican art at the most important capitals of the world, historic routes, shows, publications, seminars, the opening of 10 new archeological sites, maintenance to the country’s most important prehispanic sites and the remodeling of 30 museums that will serve as venues to the Independence’s Bicentennial and the Revolution’s Centennial in the year 2010.

This work involves a complex museography and the consolidation of historic buildings in six States to commemorate the Independence and eight States to commemorate the Revolution, with a budget of over 300 million pesos.

The venues were chosen by taking into consideration their accessibility by land, routes that go over the steps of those who fought the battles that concluded in the consummation of Mexico’s Independence and Revolution. For this great celebration, these routes combined are known as “Ruta 2010”, for which the Ministry of Communication and Transportation will destine its resources for signaling these roads and provide tourism information in print at strategic points of the highways and through its website.

The museums highlighted along the Route of Independence start with Casa del Marques at Mexico City’s Historic Center and in Acapulco with the San Diego Fort Museum, where Morelos fought his famous battle for the country’s Independence. Other venue museums in this celebration chosen for their priceless content in honor of these two unforgettable dates are Museum of the Viceroyalty, the National Anthropology Museum, the National History Museum, the Allende Museum, The Casa Morelos Museum, Alhóndiga de Granaditas and the Museum at the Home of Father Hidalgo.

The Independence road includes the Freedom Route, traveling on the footsteps of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla from Corralejo in Guanajuato to Chihuahua, passing by Queretaro and Michoacán.

The Nation’s Feelings Route explains the military campaign lead by José María Morelos y Pavón through the States of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Morelos, Mexico, Puebla, Veracruz and Chiapas. Places through which Morelos’ troops were commanded by Matamoros, the Galeana brothers, the Bravo family, Guadalupe Victoria and Vicente Guerrero, among other illustrious heroes.

The Trigarante Route traces the road followed by Agustin de Iturbide in his fight for the Consummation of the Independence, from Iguala in Guerrero to Mexico City, in 1821.

The Revolution’s Routes include the Democracy Route, outlining the road taken by Francisco I. Madero from Ciudad Juarez in order to triumphantly enter Mexico City after being elected president in 1911. This route starts in Parras, Coahuila, his hometown, and passes by San Luis Potosi, Ciudad Juarez, Piedras Negras, Torreon, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Leon.

The Zapatista Route refers to the operations of the Southern Liberation Army along the States of Morelos, Puebla and Mexico. The Constitutionalist Revolution Route was traced according to the military actions carried out by four key characters in the revolutionary battle. The route in honor of Venustiano Carranza starts at Cuatro Cienegas and passes by Saltillo, Monclova and the Guadalupe Estate in Coahuila, to continue through Hermosillo, Chihuahua, Mexico City, Veracruz, Queretaro and Puebla.

The section of the Constitutionalist Revolution Route in honor of the Northwestern Division, guided by Alvaro Obregon, goes through Nogales, Cananea, Guaymas, Culiacan, Naco, Topolobampo and Mazatlan in the States of Sonora and Sinaloa, all the way to San Angel in Mexico City, passing by Tepic in Nayarit and Guadalajara in Jalisco. The Route’s itinerary traced in honor of the Northern Division commanded by Francisco Villa starts at San Juan del Río in Durango to conclude in Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua. It also covers the Loma Estate, Ciudad Juarez, Torreon, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Mexico City and Canutillo.

This Route’s fourth section corresponds to the battles fought by the Northeastern Division, guided by Pablo Gonzalez, starting at Lampazos in Nuevo Leon and going through Monclova, Ciudad Victoria, Monterrey, Tampico, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro and Mexico City, concluding in Aguascalientes.

Video: Paseo de la Reforma, an open book of art and history

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Paseo de la Reforma (English: “Reform Promenade”) is a 12 kilometer long boulevard in Mexico City, Mexico, built during the Second Mexican Empire on the orders of Maximilian I of Mexico. When it was inaugurated, the avenue was given the name Paseo de la Emperatriz (“The Empress’s Promenade”) in honor of his consort, Empress Carlota of Mexico. Nowadays, the name commemorates the liberal reforms of 19th century president Benito Juárez.

This wide avenue runs in a straight line, cutting diagonally across the city. It was designed by Ferdinand von Rosenzweig in the 1860s and modeled after the great boulevards of Europe, such as Vienna’s Ringstrasse or the Champs-Élysées in Paris. It was Emperor Maximilians wish to directly link his Imperial residence, Chapultepec Castle, with the National Palace in the city center. It runs from Chapultepec Park, passes alongside the Torre Mayor (currently Latin America’s tallest building), and continues through the Zona Rosa and then to the Zócalo by Juárez Avenue and Francisco I. Madero Street.

More modern extensions continue the avenue at an angle to the old Paseo. To the northeast it continues towards Tlatelolco then it is divided into Calzada de Guadalupe and Calzada de los Misterios and reaches La Villa. To the east, it crosses Chapultepec park and passes south of Polanco on its way through the exclusive neighborhood of Las Lomas and then into Cuajimalpa and Santa Fe on the outskirts of the city, although when it reaches this point it is more a highway than a promenade.

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Hotel Casa González

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