Thursday, January 21, 2016

MINERAL DE POZOS, MEXICO: AN EXCURSION BACK IN TIME



On the outskirts of town are sprawling old mines to explore. One of them, Mina Santa Brigida, has a trio of 50-foot-high smelting ovens dating back to the late 1500’s!

             WELCOME TO MINERAL DE POZOS! 




Mineral de Pozos (which translates to "Mineral Wells" and which is commonly referred to as "Pozos") is located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.  Although less than an hour's drive from either the large colonial city of Queretaro or the smaller charming town of San Miguel de Allende, it is a world away in appearance, atmosphere, and history. A visitor approaches "Pozos" through a dry chaparral desert landscape surrounded by the Sierra Gorda Mountains. With an altitude of 7,500 feet and vistas which run to the hundreds of miles it is truly awe-inspiring. There is a sense of magic about this formerly great mining area which was all but abandoned with the closing of its mines.



Some of the descriptions of Mineral de Pozos I have seen include the following which I find very telling and captivating about this unique town:  

"More than a ghost town in Guanajuato....." 

"Magical abandoned mining town in the high chaparral deserts of  Mexico.... an art and artisans community of tranquility and uncommon  beauty" 

"Mineral Wells ... a journey through time......

 "A ghost town comes alive as an artist colony"

Let's start our excursion with the following introduction to the history of Pozos.  I am a firmer believer that a little history will help us understand and appreciate the past glory of Pozos and its current charm.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards this region in Mexico was populated by nomadic indigenous tribes such as the Pames, Jonas, and others which were collectively known as the Chichimeca. In modern times only one ethnic group is customarily referred to as Chichimecs;  namely the Chichimeca Jonaz of whom a few thousand live in the state of Guanajuato.



The Chichimeca Jonaz are a group of indigenous people living in the nearby municipality of San Luis de la Paz in the state of Guanajuato.

In the middle of the Sixteenth Century after the discovery of silver in the state of Zacatecas, a leg of the Camino Real (the royal road)  passed through the valley below and to the north through the present day city of San Luis de la Paz. To protect the wagon trains moving north and south, the army established an outpost called Palmar de Vega, the first settlement of Pozos.



Old colonial ruins are a big part of the charm of Pozos as is the local way of life.


 Crumbling adobe walls and desert cactus are iconic images of Mineral de Pozos.



If only these remains could tell their story! 

Pozos was consequently born in 1576 as a mining town. It grew haphazardly alongside half a dozen other boom towns in the high, rugged central region that Mexicans call the Bajío. Around the same time, Jesuits arrived in the area to evangelize the local population. Legend has it that the indigenous people brought the priests silver that they mined in an area known today as Santa Brígida. The Jesuits then began to mine the area using European techniques which continued until approximately 1767 when they were expelled. 


The Catholic tradition is very much alive as evident by this lovely altar in Pozos. 


 Wandering through a cemetery I find fascinating and the in Pozos dates back hundreds of years.

With discoveries of silver and other mineral lodes just to the west of town, Pozos began to grow in importance as a mining district.   Within a few years Pozos began a boom period. By the last years of the 19th century the number of working mines had reached 300 and the population in Pozos had reached close to 70,000.


I find ruins intriguing and romantic regardless of their location or their culture. 


Art imitating the local scenery by local artist Sandra Mooring at her Pozos home studio.














The President of Mexico during this time, Presidente Porfiro Diaz, was one of the town's most important promoters. He elevated the town to the status of municipality and renamed it Cuidad Porfirio Diaz in his own honor (no big surprise there). Pozos achieved its height of prosperity during his presidency.  In the collapse of The Diaz government the second period of decline began in Pozos from which it would never recover. 



The quiet main plaza, Jardin Juarez, in San Mineral Pozos is a great place to relax and have an ice cream cone with a homemade flavor such as nuez de pino (pine nut)!


What a contrast!  A colonial bell and a modern microwave tower in the background! 

The metals mined in Pozos during it's boom years included gold, silver, mercury, copper and several others. Immigrants from France, Spain, Italy, England, and the United States and workers from the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Mexico State, and Hidalgo all came to Pozos to seek their fortunes. The Mexican stock exchange, called the Bolsa de Valor, was founded to promote shares in Pozos mines.


It's obvious to me that this tree came before the old stone wall!


A cactus landscape and a cactus garden are both native to Mineral de Pozos.

The beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, however, marked the beginning of the end for Pozos. The closing of mining operations during the fighting and the subsequent flooding of the mines combined with a dramatic fall in the world price of silver caused the mines to begin closing. The mines were gradually abandoned with the last mine closing in 1927.

Tumbleweeds began rolling in, residents left, and Pozos turned into a virtual ghost town.  By the 1950's there were perhaps only 200, or less, people living in Pozos. Not until 1982 was the significance of Pozos officially recognized when the Mexican government under President Jose Lopez-Portillo decreed Pozos a National Historical Treasure.



Mina of Five Lords
I think the stone arches of the colonial ruins make these buildings look as if they could fly away.

                                                                                                                     








 According to a recent census, the population of Pozos has grown to approximately 2,500 which includes 
farmers, herders, and people who commute to nearby towns and factories. It is also once again being inhabited by people from many parts of Mexico as well as a small, but energetic group of foreign expatriates, who are rescuing the old houses, plazas, and streets of Pozos. The surrounding area has centuries-old mines and nearby haciendas which evoke the riches of now-exhausted silver and gold deposits.  Que romantico!  


Jardin Juarez (named in honor of one of the most popular presidents to rule Mexico, Benito Pablo Juárez García) is the main plaza in Mineral de Pozos.




 Mineral de Pozos with its cobbled and hilly streets can be a real workout!



     San Pedro (Saint Peter) Parish Church in Mineral de Pozos.

Whether your passion is art, archaeology, painting, photography, sculpting, writing, hiking, biking, reading, or relaxing, Pozos offers a full range of options. Daytime can be filled with any number of interesting excursions into the surrounding countryside. Exploring ancient ruins, old haciendas, and churches are popular pastimes in Pozos. Visits to resident artists and sculptors provide an interesting glimpse into the creative talent that resides here.


POSADA DE LOS MINAS


  Out of the colonial remains of Pozos flowers bloom and a renaissance is taking place in this charming town.


  I am very fond of the aesthetics of rustic furniture although its comfort factor is definitely a challenge.

Scattered around town in Pozos are a number of art galleries, studios, and handicrafts stores to entice a visitor.  A number of these stores specialize in replicas of Pre-Hispanic musical instruments and jewelry made from semi-precious stones.  It is noteworthy that many of its present inhabitants are dedicated to the manufacture of pre-Hispanic instruments.



BEVERLY SKYa fiber (fabric) artist and paper-maker from Boston, spends part of the year in Pozos. She is quoted as saying:  "for the price of a parking space on Beacon Hill," she bought an artist's home with 150-year-old walls and a triangular courtyard.  "This is classic Pozos," she said. "A little bit cold and chilly and then the sun." I simply adore the contrast of her art with the original rustic walls at her gallery.



Vibrant fabric art by Beverly Sky as seen at her wonderful GALERIA CASA DEL CIELO


A local hand crafts tienda in Pozos with all sorts of interesting offerings!

                                          crafts
Pozos is known for its artisans who produce and play musical instruments based on ancient pre-Hispanic designs. Each piece is handmade by the very artisans who you will often find personally selling their creations around the Plaza Zaragosa.


venado azul pozos 3
Handmade traditional instruments, including drums, can be found at LA CASA DEL VENADO AZUL as can accommodations.




At the iron sculpture foundry and gallery of Arturo Cabrera architectural items are crafted in addition to whimsical iron creations. Also on display were ALEBRIJE style fantasy creatures similar to those found in Oaxaca.

                           Fabulous ALEBRIJE pieces are entirely handmade and hand painted - wow!


  The lovely courtyard of EL SECRETO B&B




Sculpture of an indigenous woman in garden of artist Sandra Mooring on the outskirts of Pozos.


Another studio and gallery belongs to DANIEL RUEFFERT, an artist who after spending three decades in nearby San Miguel de Allende, bought a home in Mineral de Pozos and invested in a restaurant.



   I am a great fan of the work of Daniel Rueffert now residing and creating in Pozos.              


I love cactus and this cactus garden at Galeria 6 and El Secreto B&B make me happy!  

After your fill of art and galleries it is possible to enjoy a rich selection of annual cultural events offered in Pozos. Each year during the month of July the feast of the Toltequity where musicians from different regions of Mexico gather in a Pre-Hispanic music festival. The festival celebrates Toltequity ethnic richness and diversity by promoting cultural and artistic exchanges between the peoples of the Chichimeca nation. The festival includes exhibitions, craft workshops, music, and other entertainment.  See list of other events held in Pozos near the end of this blog.



Mineral de Pozos, once known throughout colonial Mexico for its opulence and its thriving mining industry, has been a virtual ghost town for almost a century. It is experiencing a resurgence of interest on the part of visitors looking for an unique adventure.

On February 16, 2012 Mineral de Pozos was declared a  PUEBLO MAGICO in Mexico as part of the federal program that recognizes places and people with great cultural, culinary and artistic value.  Bravo!  

See the following for images of the celebration:  PUEBLO MAGICO: MINERAL DE POZOS





I hope you have enjoyed this excursion "back in time" and "now in time" at the charming town of Mineral de Pozos!  And if you need more of an excuse or reason to visit Pozos here is a schedule of events for the calendar year 2015 which will give you an idea of what may be expected in 2016. Please be sure to verify events and exact dates. Remember: In Mexico events and schedules can change without much notice so it's always a good idea to check ahead!     


January: Mines and Music Festival
February: Art Walk
March: Home and Garden Tour
April: Easter and Passion Play
May: Mariachi Festival
City’s Anniversary Porfirio Diaz Day
Mineral de Pozos’s Sound
Lord of the Works Festival
July: Toltequity Festival
Blues Festival
Art Walk
August: Mines and Music Festival
Home and Garden Tour
November: Day of the Dead
December: Christmas Fair



 I remember hearing many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Those words definitely contributed to and inspired me in the creation of MEXICO AND BEYOND: LAURA'S PHOTO JOURNEY. Below you will find my WEB ALBUM WITH ITS SLIDE SHOW which has additional photos for this posting.

I sincerely appreciate hearing from my readers with their questions, comments, and suggestions. Until then, gracias and safe travels! Laura


                                                   Memories are just a click away!

                                               


CLICK ON PHOTO FOR SLIDE SHOW 





DISCLAIMER: Images taken from the Internet are assumed to be in the public domain. In the event that there is a problem or error with copyrighted material, the break of the copyright is unintentional and the material will be removed immediately upon request. 



No comments:

Post a Comment