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Chihuahua,state & capital
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
 
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This region is named the central gate

This region is demarcated by two roads starting from the northern border and going to the heart of Mexico. At the west, the road 45 starts in Ciudad Juárez and ends in Aguascalientes, 1, 350 km (839mi) further south via Zacatecas; the road 57 covers 890 km (553 mi) from Piedras Negras, at the north-east to San Luis Potosi. The road 70 links the 170km (106 mi) that once separated the two cities.
The state of Chihuahua occupies a good part of this region. You arrive there when you cross the border from El Paso, Texas, to Ciudad Juárez. The scenery is varied with bush areas as in western Texas and the majestic mountains of the Sierras with ponderosa pines.

There is an interesting archaeological site between Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua. It is located 7 km (4 mi) south west of Nuevo Casas Grandes, on a secondary road starting from Road 45. The ruins of Casas Grandes remind of the inhabitants of the pueblos of Arizona and New Mexico. They probably were inhabited until the sixteenth century.
The Paquimé culture, which reached its apogee in the 14th and 15th centuries, palyed a key role in trade and cultural contacts between the Pueblo culture of the south-western United States and northern Mexico and the more advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica. The archaeological site of Paquimé extends over a surface of 36 ha (89acres). Only one fifth is already excavated. According to the estimates, this place would contain the remnants of at least 2 000 rooms, including dining rooms, workshops and stores with patios. The more often used material is raw clay but there is also stone used to cover pits according to a technique probably imported from central Mexico. The House of the Ovens is characteristic of this type of construction. This building is part of a big ensemble consisting of nine rooms and two small plazas. It is comprised of one room and four pits covered with stones. Nearby, there is a terra cotta mound. One thinks that these pits were used to cook agaves on hot stones.

View of the archaeological site of Paquimé
The House of the Serpent initially contained two plazas, three corridors and twenty-four rooms on one level as well as four other rooms set on two stories; this house was later enlarged. It looks like it was set, since the origin, as a macaw and turkey farm. The same layout is found in the House of the Aras, so named after the discovery of 122 skeletons of parrots found in the basement.
A little bit further than the House of the Ovens, there is the Mound of the Cross. It consists in five low mounds, covered with stone and filled with soil. The central mound has the shape of an irregular cross. The arms of the cross show the four cardinal points. It is the reason why this mound might have played a role during the celebrations of the equinoxes and solstices.


   Left picture : View of the archaeological site of Paquimé

The role of the Mound of the Offerings is more obscure. This several level structure is made of packed rubble, a surrounding wall made of clay and a ramp leading to a tank. The central part houses seven rooms with altars, statues and sepultures.
The Mound of the Bird is named after its silhouette looking like a bird without a head. No structure has been found inside.
The agglomeration of Paquimé had a sophisticate system of control, distribution and conservation of water. Several tanks were linked to canals that brought water to each group of rooms. At the entrance of each tank, the water was clarified in sedimentation basins. The House of the Wells is so named because of the huge tank located in one of the patios and supplied by the net of common canals.
Two long Ball game courts, such as many others in Meso-America, were excavated. One of them is almost intact. On three of its sides, there are structures characteristic of the civilizations of central Mexico dating from the end of the classical period and the beginning of the post-classical period.
On the premises, visit the Museum of the Northern Cultures ($55 including the site) that recounts the life of the old populations of this region. It also displays nice ceramics, with geometrical red and black designs on a crème background. It is characteristic of Paquimé. This archaeological zone has been inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1998.

Map of the site :

Click HERE to log onto the website of UNESCO.


View of Chihuahua and its area while taking off The state of Chihuahua has a western border with the state of Sonora and a northern border with the states of New Mexico and Texas. Its 375 km (234 miles) long desert plain is covered with cactus and mesquite. It is crossed by a highway that ends at the foothills of the mountains close to Chihuahua and the Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre).

     Right picture : View of Chihuahua and its area while taking off

The state of Chihuahua could have been an arid and burnt land if it didn’t have the mountainous western side that makes it the biggest supplier of wood in Mexico with many mines, ranches, hot springs and lakes full of black perch.

The Chihuahua-Pacific-Railway crosses the Sierras to reach the Sea of Cortès, on the Pacific Coast. This is an Indian country. Some of the Tarahumara still live in caves, dressed with wool colorful shirts. They belong to Mexico but they don’t yet belong to our time. At the south of Chihuahua, the state of Durango, almost completely mountainous, is rich in sceneries. Eleven rivers rise in the heights and run down to the Pacific except two of them which take opposite directions and flow into the Gulf of Mexico.




At the east of the state of Durango, the state of Zacatecas is another mountain region with several summits over 3, 000 m. Somewhere in the depth of the earth, there is the ring of fire of Mexico – The underground volcanic activity maintains the heat of the hot springs. South and south-west of the state of Zacatecas, some water cities are mainly neglected by the inhabitants of Guadalajara and Mexico City.

They also neglect one of the smallest states in Mexico : The state of Aguascalientes, at the north-west of Guanajuato, on the main road from El Paso (Road 45). This state is though famous for orchards, vineyards, ranches specialized in fight bull breeding. Aguascalientes is the capital and the only city of the state. It was an outpost of the Spanish civilization in an Indian territory; it is today a sleepy agglomeration that wakes up twice a year for the two liveliest fiestas in Mexico.

San Luis Potosi, at the north-east, offers the most noticeable contrast with the precedent city. The city is the capital of the state with the same name, one of the largest in Mexico. It is an active industrial center; in the past, the Spanish controlled from there, the vast territories that extended from Texas to the French Louisiana. This “oasis” is a good place for resting. There are many nice hotels. The surrounding of the capital is a desert but luxuriant vegetation can be found in other places such as the Falls of El Salto, a very busy recreation area.



A little bit of history

The country of Pancho Villa

During the Mexican Revolution at the beginning of the century, the Northern provinces were the territory of Pancho Villa. Today, his name remains linked to the name of the state of Chihuahua, with his souvenir still present in diverse places. Pancho Villa is one of these heroes whose double personality inspires as much pride as reserve to his compatriots. He was recognized as one of the great general of the Revolution. His army – the Division of the North – was an instrument of huge strength. As commander of this army, he ovethrew any opposition from the American border to Mexico City, contributing in eradicating the dictatorship of Mexico. Part of the financing of this army has been made (with regret) by an American bank of the border, the guns of Pancho having won every reluctance. So, Pancho Villa acquired the reputation of bandit.

He probably needed this money for military operations but Mexico is still ashamed of this. General Villa has his place in the history of his country but there is not one street with his name in Mexico City. The authorities finally reached a compromise to pay tribute to this hero in a diverted way : they named Division del Norte one of the large avenues crossing the south of Mexico City. They also had an equestrian statue of Pancho Villa erected at the crossing of this avenue and avenida Universidad.

The construction of the city of Chihuahua started in 1709, one century before the War of Independence terminated the Spanish domination. It is an active and living center in a large mining, farming and forestry district, bordered, at the west, by the imposing Sierra Madre, refuge of the Tarahumara Indians. The cathedral of Chihuahua is a good example of colonial architecture. The construction started in 1724 but the continuing raids of the Indians delayed the completion to 1826. Chihuahua is where Father Miguel Hidalgo, the initiator of the War of Independence, fell into the hands of the Spanish forces and was killed in 1811. The building where he was jailed is nowadays used as offices of the federal government (Palacio Federal). The building where he died became the State Capitol (Palacio de Gobernio). San Francisco Church is the work of Franciscan monks; the construction started in 1721 and was briskly dealt during twenty years. Underground passageways linked the church and the cathedral.



  Above picture : a Tarahumara family by the cathedral


A little bit of geography

The state extends over a surface of 247,087 km2 (95,401 square miles), about half Texas. The lowest and highest temperatures are respectively -4°C and +39°C (24°F and 102°F). The capital has an elevation of 1,440 m (4,724 ft). The distances (in kilometers and miles) from Chihuahua to the main northeastern cities are :

Mexico 1,445 / 898 Saltillo 733 / 455
Monterrey 818 / 508 Leon 1,097 / 682
Guadalajara 1,160 / 721 Guanajuato 1,143 / 710
Tijuana 1,570 / 976 Jalapa 1,854 / 1,152
Torréon 455 / 283    

This is a semi-arid region with many rivers including Chuviscar and Sacramento Rivers and the Chuviscar reservoir.



Capital : Chihuahua

Palace of GovernmentThe capital of the state has a population of 776 000 inhabitants.

Allow half day in Chihuahua.

The best is to arrive in town on one evening (You can either ride a train or a bus from Creel) and depart by air the following evening. We advise you to make reservation with a low cost flight to Toluca instead of Mexico City in order to save a lot.

Cathedral Start the visit at Plaza de Armas with the cathedral whose construction started in June 1725 and lasted more than one hundred years. The inside is of little interest except for the German organ, the altars and the marble floor along the chandeliers. The museum of sacred art, located on the left, could be worth the visit for the lovers of religious décor. The museum is open from 10 AM to 2 PM and from 4 PM to 6 PM on week days ($10).

  Above picture : Palace of Government; on right, Cathedral

Opposite the cathedral, the Municipal Palace houses the City Hall. Except for the façade, this building has little interest. On the left, there are many shops in this walking street. On the right, another street leads to governmental buildings.

Casa Chihuahua : This cultural center, built in 1910 under the presidency of Porfirio Diaz, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Independence in 2010. This house is set in a former Jesuit seminary and the former church Señora de Loreto. It housed the post office until 2007; it is now entirely consecrated to the heritage of the Chihuahua culture.

It is open every day except Tuesday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Its exact name became “Casa de Cultura Sebastián" in 2006.


The Palace of the Government ("Palacio de Gobernio") has a secondary entrance on the opposite side of the street. The main entrance is on Avenue V.Carranza y Aldama. This palace was built on top of a Jesuit mission and was inaugurated in 1892. It was restored after a fire in 1941 and was reopened in 1947.

paintings by Aron Piña in the palace of governmentThere are many paintings by Aron Piña (Twentieth century) in this building, especially on the first and second floors and the stairway. The paintings tell the story of the nation from the Spanish Conquest to the Mexican revolution. An altar dedicated to the country "Altar a la Patria" was erected at the very same place where Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Father of the nation, was killed (on July, 30th 1811 at 7 AM). The entrance of the museum of Hidalgo is next door.
This building is open every day from 8 AM to 8 PM. It houses the state tourist office (on your left when entering the building through the main entrance). The galleria of weapons is open form Tuesday to Sunday (10 AM- 6 PM). It displays an important collection of weapons.


Casa de Juárez called "Museo de la Lealtad Republicana" is also part of this group of buildings. It is a former residence of President Benito Juárez; it was used as the presidential office several times from 1864 to 1866.
It was converted into an elementary school from 1894 to1967 and then converted into this museum dedicated to Don Benito Juárez. There is a copy of the vehicle used by Juarez during his stay in Chihuahua (Open Tue-Sun; 9 AM-7 PM), $20.

     Above pictures and on right : paintings by Aron Piña in the palace of government

paintings by Aron Piña in the palace of government Keep walking on V.Carranza y Aldama Avenue (to the crossing of Libertad and Calle 15) to find the baroque church San Francisco de Asis looking over the plaza. It is the oldest church in the city. The construction ended in 1723 thanks to many donations. The mortal remains of Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla are there.

Going back to the Palace of Government, take Paseo Bolivar to # 401 (Paseo Bolivar y Calle 4) to find the university center called Quinta Gameros. It was named after the first owner. It is inspired from the French architecture of the seventeenth century. It was built by a Colombian architect and adorned by Italian and Spanish artists.
It was used as a residence, a government building, an office for Chihuahua University, conservatoire and regional museum. It is actually the University cultural center of the city.
Temporary expositions are held there. There is also a complete collection of Art Nouveau furniture. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday (11 AM-2 PM and 4 PM-7 PM, $20). Across the street, the park "Parque del Arte" is very in demand in Chihuahua, especially for wedding pictures.


San Francisco de Asis Church Keep going on Paseo Bolivar and turn left on Calle 10. The museum of the Mexican Revolution is located at # 1134. This place was the residence of Pancho Villa and his wife Luz Corral. It is called "Quinta Luz". After the murder of her husband, Dona Luz stayed there up to her own death in 1981. She donated the building to the "Museo División del Norte".
Many personal objects are displayed and the whole controversial story of Pancho Villa is told there. There is also the car in which he was murdered in 1923. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday (9 AM-7 PM) and on Sunday (10 AM- 4 PM). It is the most interesting museum in the city ($10).



Left picture : San Francisco de Asis Church




tranvia of El Tarahumara The lovers of churches can pursuit the visit to admire the churches: "Templo de la Sagrada Familia", avenue Carranza # 1810; "Santuario de Guadalupe", Matamoros # 2253; "Santa Rita de Casia", Calle 1° de Mayo # 1601; "Templo del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús", av. 20 de Noviembre y Ocampo.

   
    Right picture : tranvia of El Tarahumara

 

You can do the tourist tour riding a “tranvia" from Tuesday to Sunday (9 AM-12 noon and 3 PM-6 PM; $30 per person).
Duration : one hour.

Map of the capital :

     

Map of the state :

 

 

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