Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Visit to Mineral De Pozos...If Only the Walls Could Talk!

We recently traveled to the nearby historic mining town of Mineral de Pozos, or “Pozos” as the locals call it. Located at 7500 feet and about an hour away from San Miguel by auto, we had heard good things about visiting and decided to make an overnight journey of it. I called ahead and arranged lodging with the young lady who answered the phone at the Posada de Las Minas, and although she spoke no English, I managed to muddle my way through it and was only slightly amazed when an email arrived confirming our reservation.

Pozos, has a long and fascinating history, beginning with its founding as a fort to protect shipments of precious metals to Mexico City in 1576. When the Jesuits arrived some time later in an attempt to convert the indigenous Chichimeca Indians, they soon discovered that the area was rich in mineral deposits including vast quantities of gold and silver. They began using European mining techniques to extract the riches and the town flourished. 

When the Jesuits were forcibly removed from the area around 1767, other Europeans eventually moved in and things really started to grow. By 1895 the city was booming and there were over 300 mines and nearly 80,000 residents! Eventually however, the mines started to decline. The Mexican Revolution of 1910, and the subsequent purposeful flooding of the mines by either rebels or the mine owners during the Cristero Rebellion of 1926 was the final death knell for Pozos and the last mine was shuttered in 1927. The city then began a serious decline and by the 1950’s there were only about 200 people living there. As the city fell into ruins, the buildings were looted and stripped of their roof beams for firewood and many of them eventually collapsed or became uninhabitable. 

In 1982, the city was declared a National Historic Monument, and some efforts at restoration began. The town continued to fight its way back to life, and in 2012 was declared a “Pueblo Magico”, a designation that would allow it to receive large scale restoration assistance from the government. Today the town is really starting to show the results of these efforts, and many are comparing it to the San Miguel of thirty or forty years ago. Fortunately however, some of the things that many people consider to be mistakes made in San Miguel may be avoided in Pozos. Rather than allowing Gringo money to dominate the economy, there are groups helping the local population to create businesses and jobs, and there is a focus on fostering a culture of sustainability.  Many of the tourists you will find here are Mexicans from the nearby city of Querértero or as far away as Mexico City. They come to get away from the big city and immerse themselves in the history and culture of the area. Tours of the abandoned mines are popular, and over 30 kilometers of newly constructed trails are creating a haven for mountain bikers. A number of local artisans are recreating and selling some of the pre-Hispanic musical instruments, and a small group of hotels, restaurants, and bars are springing up in the town.

We arrived around 10am, checked into our lovely hotel, and began our walking tour of the town. After a hearty lunch served by a family run Mexican restaurant, we continued our leisurely stroll and sightseeing tour. Walking the quiet streets among a curious mixture of inhabited and ruined buildings, it is sometimes hard to imagine this town as a vibrant city of 80 thousand souls, brimming with life and hundreds of colorful stone buildings. The ghosts are everywhere, but for those living here the city is coming back to life. 

Next...The Cobblestone Diaries gets a lesson!

Click on any photo to enlarge!

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