Mexico Colonial cities
146 imagesAnother Spain, but with a Mexican flavour. The old silver mining cities which includes Guanajuato, San Miguel, Zacatecas, Queretaro and Real de Catorce northwest of Mexico city, are not overwhelmed with tourists and each has its own unique atmosphere, colorful and diverse as the cultures that created the country. Shoehorned into a narrow ravine the colonial gem of Guanajuato, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was for centuries the wealthiest city in Mexico. The great architecture of this city was built using the enormous wealth generated from the silver during the 17th and 18th centuries, when Guanajuato was the source for one-third of the world’s silver. Coming here is like stepping back in time, an authentic and undiscovered experience, at least for foreign tourists, of one of the most picturesque colonial backdrops of Mexico with opulent colonial buildings, charming plazas and brightly colored houses crammed onto the steep slopes of a ravine. Of all the colonial cities Queretaro is strongly steeped in Mexican history, here where the father’s of Mexico’s Independence Movement met in secret, here in 1864 Emperor Maximilian was executed by firing squad and here was written the Mexican Constitution in 1917. San Miguel de Allende for many is a bit like a Mexican Disneyland for foreign (mainly American) retirees but it is, nevertheless, a magical place crowded with old mansions, graceful churches and enchanting cobblestone streets. Almost 2500m above sea level, the old silver town of Zacatecas is overflowing with ornate colonial architecture and intriguing museums, but like other colonial gems is not well known among foreign tourists. The main highlight is the ornate cathedral, but also the old Silver mine of El Eden is a major attraction with seven levels deep into the hill. The ghost town of Real de Catorce is an extraordinary place, silver mines were founded in the surrounding hills in 1772 and in 1898 the town had forty thousand inhabitants but when the mining operations slowed the population drop to virtually zero. Today the centre has been restored, though Real de Catorce certainly retains an air of desolation, and has also become a popular location featuring in movies such The Mexican (2001).
98 imagesMichoacan is a beautiful state of Mexico pierced by the volcanic range of the Cordillera Volcanica, caracterised by colonial towns like Morelia or Patzcuaro, the center of the 130.000 Purepecha Indians. One of the largest events is Noche de Muertos or Night of the Dead celebrated around 2 November, the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations with a blending of both pre-Hispanic and Catholic beliefs and traditions. Noche de Muertos is celebrated most strongly in the towns and villages around Lake Patzcuaro which was the center of the Purhepecha Empire. As in other parts of Mexico, altars to the dead erected in homes and on graves and covered with offerings such as bread, fruit and other items. One aspect which is unique to the event here is the lighting and floating of hundreds of small candles and flowers on Lake Patzcuaro on the night between 1 and 2 November. Colonial cities of Michoacàn are like another Spain, but with a Mexican flavour. Morelia, the capital of the state, is one of the country’s most significant colonial cities with an aristocratic feel. An impressive pink stone cathedral dominates the main plaza surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings. The cathedral is said to have taken over 100 years to build and is one of the finest in all of Mexico. Patzcuaro is a charming town with a mixed colonial and indigenous feel of colonial buildings, mansions and courtyards built around the fine and elegant Plaza de Quiroga. Bishop Vasco de Quiroga promoted education and self sufficiency of the indigenous people to develop their natural skills as talented craftsmen.