Taxco – The magical city where silver smiles at you
Mexico has 36 Magical towns; it has roughly one in each State. Executive Traveller presents the Magical City of Taxco in the Guerrero State of Mexico.
The ancient mining town of Taxco is characterized by its cobbled and winding lanes, traditional plazas and antique houses with elegant colonial facades.
At a three-hour drive South West of Mexico City, Taxco de Alarcón, is a mountainous city in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Taxco, and its 150,000 residents, snuggle up to the side of a mountain at almost 6,000 feet above sea level. The city sits just north of the State of Guerrero and is a popular tourist destination in Mexico. This beautiful town is embedded in a region sheltered by rolling hills and mountains, but it is Taxco’s historical past that makes it a major draw for tourists and visitors. Silver makes Taxco very popular.
As one of the most important mining areas in the empire of New Spain, Taxco today, has locally-produced silver jewellery sold in almost every corner of the city. Beautiful, high-quality earrings, necklaces, cufflinks and other creations make the perfect gift to take home with you when you leave Taxco. Taxco streets are paved with distinctive cobbles which are distinguished by their slopes. However, silver flows all over the city centre. Everywhere you turn silver is sold. Even dormant mines still glitter with silver. The natives of Taxco, sons of previous miners guide tourists through dormant mines still glittering with silver in their walls. The city’s name comes from “Tlachco”, which means “place of the ball game” in the Aztec language, Nahuatl. Following the conquest, Taxco acquired the name Taxco de Alarcon in honour of the famous colonial playwright, Juan Ruiz de Alarcon y Mendoza, who was born in the town in 1581. At the centre of the city lies the Santa Prisca cathedral, built during the 1700s. There is a statue of Jesus at the very top of the town, called “Cristo”.
The view from up there is amazing. There is a silver “museum” in a beautiful building called Casa Borda which also serves as a cultural centre. Located on the main plaza itself. In 2010, much of the building was being renovated, but there was a nice exhibit of silver jewellery.
One week out of the year, Borda’s beloved Santa Prisca becomes the focus of Taxco’s own unique celebration of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ – Easter Holy Week or Semana Santa. During this week, Taxco’s silver takes a second place to the saints processing from the churches and the sinners showing their penitence through self-inflicted suffering.
You start to feel the anticipation for the week on the Saturday before Palm Sunday as palm vendors, most from the small, outlying village of Tlamacazapa, stake out every available space around the Santa Prisca, weaving palm leaves into complicated designs often representing Christ on the cross and sometimes decorated with delicate, colourful blossoms. A few pesos will buy you an intricate palm weaving – the wonderful smiles are free!
Pozas Azulas de Atzala or Blue Pozas of Atzala
Drive 16 km southwest of Taxco to Atzala to discover one of nature’s small wonders. This beautiful mesmerising natural blue waterfalls, spring and pool is a must see. It makes a perfect picnic location where you can swim and hike. There is an entry fee of about $10 or 20 pesos.
There is also the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park, comprising of 2700 hectares of woodland and some mysterious caves (after which the park is named). The caves are “live” with groundwater still filtering down into it, and formations still growing inside it. They have spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations. Theses are one of the largest cave systems in the world and also home to the Grutas of Carlos Pacheco, a smaller system, as well as two subterranean rivers which have carved out tunnels in the rock. The park has extreme sports attractions such as rappelling, and rock climbing in Limontitla Canyon as well as the two underground rivers to explore. It also has a small botanical garden, a pool and places to camp.
Inside the cavern system are ninety large “salons” separated by large natural rock walls and connected to one another via a central gallery. However, only about twenty of these are fully explored and open to the public. Most of these salons are located under the Cerro de la Corona, a limestone mountain ridge with borehole openings. These salons average about forty meters wide, and vary in height from twenty to 81 meters. Most have names which reflect the major formations found in them such as the Goat Salon, the Throne Salon and the Cathedral Salon. All the openings have numerous rock formations growing from both the ceiling and the floor. One of the drier salons has been dubbed the “Auditorium”. It has a large flat floor and has been outfitted with seats. It is rented out for events, and has been the site for a number of concerts including one in 2007 by Miguel Bosé and one by the Acapulco Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009.
Tours of the open cave system run every hour and last about two hours. On the walkway to the entrance there are a couple of amate trees with their roots wound around the rocky walls of Limontitla Canyon. The entrance is a large arch about forty meters wide and twelve meters tall. From the entrance, one descends about twenty meters to the level of the caverns. The path has a mostly level cement walkway, and there is artificial illumination on both the path and parts of the salons. However, since it is a live cave, the high humidity can make the trek uncomfortable for some people.