Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer 2007 Car Trip - 17

Taxco de Alarcon. What a city! A city not for the feint of energy, that's for sure. Before we start our tour, a little history of this unique city.

First and foremost, Taxco is (was) a major mining city. The very first silver mine in Mexico was established here in 1531. By the Spanish, of course! Nowadays the mines are all but exhausted but the silver jewelry industry, founded in 1929 by William Spratling, lives on and thrives. I read somewhere that there are over 300 silver stores in Taxco, and I believe it. Yet I only bought one bracelet and a pair of earrings as gifts.

Taxco is built on a very steep hillside and the houses are crammed together. At times even overlapping one another. Finding your way around this city is difficult, to say the least. Just look at this city map!

Thankfully, having been here countless times before, L knew exactly where we were going and expertly guided me through this maze of streets to our hotel, Los Arcos (27). It was a beautiful old building and, like most of the buildings in Taxco, encompassed several different layers. Not floors, but layers. Here I am looking down into the beautiful central courtyard. Our room was actually one floor above me. The stairs were not directly in line, like a stairwell either. First they were on one side of the building, then the other. Sometimes there were only five steps, sometimes 25, from level to level.

It was worth it though to have ended up with such a beautiful room. Three! beds, great view. I loved the knotty pine furniture. So unlike anything I had seen in Mexico up to this point.

The city planners of Taxco had done one thing right when constructing their interwoven, maze of streets. As in most towns, the zocolo, or town square, is where everything happens. Realizing this, each major road was encoded so as to lead you to the square. All you had to do was get on one of these streets and follow it and you would arrive at the square. For instance, this artery had a solid striped line down the center.

Here you get a vague idea of the steepness in the streets. It rained one day and I vividly remember having to shift down to first gear to get up the street. The scary part was that my tires lost their grip on the slippery cobblestones and we started to slide backwards. Hitting the brakes did no good. I only saved us by some fancy clutch work. My heart was racing at this experience.

Another road, another route. Another way to distinguish it.

Did I mention that the streets are narrow also? And notice how all of the names start with a red letter and the rest of the wording is in black. I'm not sure why they do this, but it was the same when we got to Patzcuaro also.

The town square, where everyone eventually winds up.

This is the view from our rooftop terrace, looking up towards the town square and the amazing church, Parroquia de Santa Prisca.

This is one grand church. It fronts onto the town square and was built during the seven year period of 1751 to 1758. It is done in the Churriqueresque style with lots of ornate bas-relief covering it. Interestingly, it was not built by the Spanish, as were most cathedrals of this time. Although the architects were Spanish, it was financed by Jose de la Borda, a private citizen who had made his fortune from the local silver mines.

We toured the inside but I have no pictures. Everything is done in gold leaf, including the altars. I'm sure it was stupendous once upon a time. Now it is dark, dirty and depressing. All it needs is a good scrubbing to bring back the luster of its' golden day. I wonder why they don't make any attempt to clean it?

After touring the church, we tried to catch one of the numerous combis (as seen in the picture of the town square above) to visit the Spratling Museum and school that trains local artisans in the art of working with silver. We soon discovered that they were packing sixteen people into combis made for ten people. No thanks. It would have been hot, sweaty and uncomfortable to say the least. We could do without seeing this museum. Instead, we made our way back to the square and sat on one of the lovely terraces and drank coffee and watched the people and traffic ebb and flow out of the square. Much nicer!

After coffee, we were on to our next adventure. The cable car ride to the top of a neighboring mountain.

1 comment:

Steve Cotton said...

I don't get over here as often as I should. This is a great resource to help me build my places-to-visit list. Thanks for sharing, Wayne.