Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

From New Spain Lode to Mexican Pueblo Mágico

The Overseer Parish
solitary walk
Vaquero at the top of one of the many ramps that flank Real de Catorce.
Real 14 lights
Passersby pass by the identifying letters of Real de Catorce
Inclined Parking
Jeep parked, for security, against a secular wall of Real de Catorce.
The Pueblo de Real de Catorce
The houses of Real de Catorce with the Parroquia de la Purísima Concepción highlighted.
Gallery of Miracles
The miracle wing of the Parish of Puríisima Concepción.
Illustrated Miracles
Miracles illustrated by believers and exhibited in the Parish of the Purísima Concepción.
cowgirl shadows
Visitors at the top of a slope in Real de Catorce.
Vaquero socializing
Cowboys socializing in the bandstand square of Real de Catorce.
blessed tunnel
Chapel that blesses the long Ogarrio tunnel.
Vaqueros and Cavallos
Horse owners lead them through the alleys of Real de Catorce.
At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, it was one of the mining towns that guaranteed the most silver to the Spanish Crown. A century later, the silver had been devalued in such a way that Real de Catorce was abandoned. Its history and the peculiar scenarios filmed by Hollywood have made it one of the most precious villages in Mexico.

On the last stretch from Route 60, the van pays the price of the antiquity of the destination.

The road remains a real boardwalk, made up of stones that are not smooth or not at all smoothed, making the vehicle and passengers shake even more.

With the time spent on that route, the driver learned to defend himself. He puts the two right wheels over the ditch that drains rare torrents of water. That way, he saves the van and saves us half the wear and tear.

We ascended, in zigzags, to furrow the colony of Joshua trees (yucca brevifolia) that surrounded us since we landed in São Luís, the capital of Potosina.

We are approaching the more than 2700 m that Real de Catorce is located. With weather coming from the south, the altitude validates the late-morning heat. Soon, it would change drastically.

We have reached the zenith of the road. An arched stone portal greets visitors with a “Welcome to Real de Catorce”. Ahead, we continue to see brown slopes of thorn bushes and cacti.

No sign of a town worthy of the name.

Beyond the portal, almost in the shadow of the mountains, a line of cars grows, waiting for permission to proceed. There we noticed the imminence of the Ogarrio tunnel that we had heard so much about, the long underground passage to the town.

We expect little. The traffic coming from there to here runs out in a flash. With the green flag hoisted by a young signalman, we followed in the tail of the caravan that entered.

We traveled 2km excavated in the rock, always with the marks of pickaxes and dynamite explosions yellowed by artificial lighting. Until we return to the fulminating light, despite the dryness of the tropical settings.

After all, we had crossed the imaginary line of the Tropic of Cancer, a mere fifty-odd kilometers to the south.

Real de Catorce's Pueblo Mágico Fever

In the early afternoon of a Sunday, we came across a crowd of foreigners who crossed, here and there, on Calle Lanzagorta, in the grid of parallel streets, alleys and alleys that branched off from this central axis.

Countless stalls and shop windows outside displayed and shoved Mexican snacks of all kinds and more, handicrafts and even naturalistic remedies for a myriad of ailments.

With effort, we went through the Parish of the Purísima Concepción, towards Plaza Hidalgo, with its already expected bandstand, the urban heart of the town. From there, still, when we were surprised by the unexpected gathering, in search of the hotel where we were going to stay, we gained courage and faced one of the poorly paved slopes that emerge from the square to the west.

"We have tamales, señores! Micheladas, cheladas, tejuinos, atolls” seduced us with revered specialties from Mexico, the vendors attentive to the sweat and saturation that we were already showing.

We avoid giving in. Instead, we bow our heads, face the mob again. We towed the bags down the path to the reserved rooms. Under the jocular gaze of the many local knights.

Those who lead groups of aspirants to the top of the old mines and back. And those waiting for customers, in animated conversation, on the edge of Plaza Hidalgo.

Today, the confusion that grips Real de Catorce lasts as long as weekends and Mexican holidays last.

With each return from working days, the village is given over to its fourteen hundred inhabitants, almost all of whom are supported by the pesos left by the ephemeral incursions of outsiders.

The Argentine Origin, something chaotic by Real de Catorce

Already in its mining genesis, the town it was all a chaotic, greedy mob that resisted any semblance of order.

Since, at least the beginning of the XNUMXth century, there was a hamlet in the region. At a certain point in colonial history, fourteen soldiers of the Spanish Crown were ambushed and killed there by Chichimeca warriors, an indigenous ethnic group that the Spaniards had long sought to subdue.

We go forward to 1773. Two miners, Sebastián Coronado and Manuel Martinéz are believed to have discovered silver on the slopes of the current Sierra de Catorce. Vast veins would be tested, as wide as those found in the neighboring areas of Zacatecas and Guanajuato.

just as it had happened elsewhere in Mexico, thousands of prospectors, miners and only adventurers flock to the place, eager to make a fortune.

For several years, newcomers settled in and accumulated. They subsisted due to the greed of silver, in what was becoming, before all eyes, a domain without law or king, of the Mexican Altiplano.

That was the case until the colonial government appointed Silvestre López Portillo, commissioner in charge of evaluating the mining potential of the Sierra de Catorce and, years later, also of the foundation of Real de Minas de la Purísima Concepción de los Catorce.

The State Authority and Colonial Order by López Portillo

It was López Portillo who outlined the current structure of the village, who distributed the property titles among the many claimants.

And who, out of his own pocket, for some time, paid for successive urbanization works, until, finally, mining began to guarantee profits that covered whatever the expense.

It is known, moreover, that in 1784 and following years, the annual production of silver from Real de Catorce was 8.6 tons, one of the most abundant in the Hispanic New World.

Under the supervision of the Virreinato's central authorities, López Portillo transformed the rowdy encampment into the discerning village that we continued to discover.

The Cold Peace that Comes to Real de Catorce, with the End of the Weekend

Gradually, until the end of Sunday, almost all the findesemaneros stampede. Business owners tear down stalls and shop windows. Real de Catorce enters a mode of rest, more faithful to how, before the advent of tourism, the History had left her.

The dawn is accompanied by a cold front that, during the winter, descends from the Arctic, crosses the United States and, frequently, covers with snow and freezes the north of Mexico.

The fact that the sun stopped smiling at Real de Catorce, little or nothing discourages us. Instead, we dedicated ourselves to exploring some of its intriguing interiors.

Starting with the large and sumptuous Parróquia de la Purísima Concepción, with its golden-coloured nave, built on wooden floors.

The Catholic monument hides a troubled past. That of the collapse of its dome in 1800, which killed a believer, the fire of 1817 and the ban on worship during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Saint Francis of Assisi and the Art of his Miraculous Worship

It also hides a kind of popular exhibition, always growing, in a side wing dedicated to the alleged achievements of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Strange as it may seem, despite the condominium with Jesus Christ and the Our Lady of Guadalupe, Panchito ou Charrito, as the faithful treat him, has long been the most venerated religious figure in Real de Catorce and its surroundings.

We entered the miracle-working space of the church.

There we find hundreds of paintings made by the believers, most of them with a childish or thanks to , illustrations of the same number of interventions considered divine in which God, through the Saint, interceded and saved the lives of Mexican faithful of all ages.

There we can appreciate paintings that portray from the tragedy of the child who, during a break in a car trip, was lost in the rainforest and was found days later, alive, the worker of PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos) spared in an accident in which, were it not for the Divinity, would have perished.

At the base of one of the huge panels, at earthly height, accessible to believers, we notice another sub-exhibition, in which dozens of statuettes of Saint Francis of Assisi, Christ, the Virgin of Guadalupe and other miracle-working sanctities are lined up. .

About closing time, the employees at the church store counter make us leave through the central door of the nave.

When we do so, we leave the spiritual dimension, returning to the materialist dimension in the genesis of Real de Catorce, the one that, we must remember, financed the magnanimous parish.

From Real da Nueva España to the Pueblo Mágico Mexicano

Opposite the main façade of the church, facing the height where the mines expanded, we find the Casa da Moeda do Pueblo.

It was built in 1863 with the aim of, on the verge of so much silver, officializing the production of coins and medals that had already taken place since the beginning of the century and which intensified with the outbreak of the War of Independence (1810-21), conflict in which the insurgents needed to finance the fight of the all-powerful Spanish Crown.

Real de Catorze changed from Spanish to Mexican in August 1821. With the XNUMXth century coming to an end, the village had around fifteen thousand inhabitants, ten times more than the current population.

It had its own bullring and several of its stores sold luxury goods imported from Europe.

A few years later, silver betrayed her.

We will see how, in the 2nd part of this article dedicated to Real de Catorce.


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