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
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.
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.
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 :
to log onto the website of UNESCO.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 :
||1,445 / 898
||733 / 455
||818 / 508
||1,097 / 682
||1,160 / 721
||1,143 / 710
||1,570 / 976
||1,854 / 1,152
||455 / 283
This is a semi-arid region with many rivers including
Chuviscar and Sacramento Rivers and the Chuviscar reservoir.
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.
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).
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"
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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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