This chapter covers
the tourist part of San Luis Potosí State with its capital,
its surroundings and the magic village "REAL de CATORCE".
little bit of history and geography
San Luis Potosí was first founded by the
Huachichilis and was then occupied by the Spanish and later by the
Franciscan monks in 1585. Mining extraction was at the core of the
economic activity of New
Spain and had the approval of the territories. In 1592, huge
amounts of gold and silver were discovered and the city was called
Real de Minas de San Luis Potosi. Potosi refers to a Bolivian silver
city; it means "place of wealth". San Luis is named after
French King Saint Louis (Louis IX). It is located on Saint Peter
Hill (Cerro de San Pedro). Many Spaniards migrated there
and San Luis Potosi became a mining village. The growth of the region
was helped by the mining richness when the miners took up residency
picture : Access to the city of San Luis through 2.3km (1.5miles)
long Ogarrio tunnel
The mining activity, at the core of the New Spain economy developed
a system based on distinct units of production. The mines and the
haciendas (farms at this time) combined extractive activities
as well as activities of production. This required the support of
country kilns, ceniceras, cattle and men.
When the mines sold out, the state converted back to the livestock
farming and business. The capital, San Luis Potosi, used to be the
most important city in North Mexico but was preempted
by Monterrey which is now the industrial leader of North Mexico.
San Luis keeps a lot of charm and remains prosper and dynamic.
During the French intervention, it was the headquarters of the government
of Benito Juárez,
after him being chased away from Mexico
City from 1863 to 1867. In 1854, Gonzales Bocanegra composed
the Mexican national anthem there.
The "Plan of San Luis", written by Francisco
Madero, marked the beginning of the
Revolution of 1910 and was issued there.
Right picture : Trail in the Sierra Madre
In this dynamic capital, each of the seven neighborhoods (barrios),
demarcated by an orthogonal plan, had its own church and plaza.
Since, they merged because of necessary urban modifications engendered
by any big industrial metropolis.
The territory occupied by the state is located
between two Sierras, the Occidental one in the west and the Oriental
one in the east, in a vast semi-arid region favorable to agriculture
and livestock farming due to the presence of different rivers. It
is surrounded by the states of Zacatecas,
Nuevo León, Taumaulipas, Querétaro,
Hidalgo, Veracruz, Jalisco
and Guanajuato. The climate
is hot and arid on the eastern part with steppes of cactus (in particular
the peyotl), dry in the central plains. The ranges of the Sierra
Madre at the west are inaccessible.
The state of San Luis Potosi has an area of 58, 092 km² (24,350.7
The state has 2,410, 000 inhabitants and the city of San Luis Potosi
1, 075,000 inhabitants (metropolitan area) at the last census.
The Indians Coras
and huichols who live in the mountains make a pilgrimage to
San Luis Potosi during the dry season. They walk 800 km (500 miles)
to pick up the peyotl, cactus with hallucinogens powers linked to
The Capital of San Luis Potosí is located 417 km (260 miles)
from the Mexican capital, 351 km (220 miles) from Guadalajara.
It is at 1887 m (6070 feet) of altitude. The climate is dry and
warm with an average yearly temperature of 20° C (70°F).
Luis Potosí, Capital
Allow two days to visit San Luis Potosí a well as two extra
days for fun and relaxation, depending on your availability, in
the national Parks, Real de Catorce and the resorts.
The structure of the historic center is based around
four nice easily walking plazas. If you don’t want to walk,
take the Tranvía (tramway), in service from Tuesday
to Sunday (10 AM/11:30 AM/1:30 PM/4:30 PM/6 PM/8 PM, fee: $60, 90min
ride through the historic center).
Start at the Plaza of the Founders (Plaza de los Fundadores)
On this plaza, the first building called "Puesto de San Luis"
was built in 1588. The Jesuits also built there the first temple,
the actual Church of the Company, around 1675. This church communicates
with the Chapel of Loreto built in 1700. At the north of the Plaza
of the Founders, the Jesuit College was built in the early eighteenth
century. On the west, there is the Ipiña, a neoclassical
building housing nice boutiques under its archways. The construction
is the faithful reflect of a new form of expression of the architectonic
spaces that gradually modified the urban environment in the early
picture : Dome of the cathedral
Visit the Loreto Chapel (Capilla de Loreto), a truly stone
lace with animal and floral designs. Notice the baroque gate, elaborate
with care. Inside, there is one of the rare Jesuit altar pieces
known in Mexico. Admire the elliptic cupola and the altar.
The old Jesuit monastery, dating from the eighteenth century, houses
the Autonomous University. You find it on the right after the Church
of the Company. Note the neoclassical altar surmounted with a Christ
dating from the eighteenth century.
On the east side of the Plaza of the Founders, there is the Palacio
de Gobierno (open 9 AM-2 PM, Mon-Fri). The interest is more
historic than esthetic. It is where Benito
Juárez rejected the mercy to defeated Emperor Maximilian.
The Palace of Government is a nice example of the civilian architecture
of New Spain dating from
the eighteenth century. And so is the Municipal Palace (open 9 AM-2
PM, Mon-Fri) : this neoclassical monument is a former Episcopal
residence. Visit the reception salon and the Juárez room
in the Palace of Government and admire the stain glass window representing
the coats of arms of the city in the Municipal Palace. The stairs
vault is decorated with Italian style mosaics.
The Plaza of Armas, also called Hidalgo Garden, surrounds the Palace
of Government and the Municipal Palace. At the center, the elegant
octagonal pink stone (cantera) kiosk displays names of
famous musicians. You can regularly attend music practices. On Friday
and Saturday evenings, you will enjoy strolling while listening
to popular arias.
At the north of Plaza of armas, you can go to the Casa de la
Virreina (Vice-Queen’s House). It is one of the oldest
houses in the city, built in 1736. The facade is plain, the balconies
and the gate are made of carved wood. It was the residence of Dona
Francisca de la Gándara, one of the two vice-queens in Mexico.
This edifice is a nice example of the architecture of the eighteenth
century. Nowadays, it has been converted into a restaurant.
picture : different domes in the city
The Cathedral is perfectly integrated in the Plaza de Armas.
It was built in pink stone from 1690 to 1737. It is one of the nicest
Baroque churches in the region. Its hexagonal porch has niches housing
the statues of the twelve apostles. The interior is a rag-bag of
decorations of mixed styles. The Cathedral (open daily, 8 AM-2 PM
& 4-8 PM) offers an eclectic mix of baroque, byzantine, Doric
and gothic styles. Look at the nice cupola above the chancel and
the paintings of the sacristy by Nicolás Rodriguez and Patricio
below : cathedral of San Luis Potosi
At the east of the Cathedral, Nuestra Señora del Carmen (1749-1764)
- (open daily 8 AM-2 PM & 4-8 PM) - is on a small plaza with
the same name. The church has a magnificent Churrigueresque style
façade and domes covered with blue, yellow, green and white
tiles. At the bottom of the façade, two salomonique columns,
adorned with pendentives evoking scapulars, frame the central row
and its gate. Between the columns, you can see the prophets Saint
Elias and Saint Elijah, legendary founders of the Carmelite Order.
The interior contains a very interesting altar, a carved pulpit
and paintings by Vallejo. The architect Eduardo Tresguerras, famous
for his work in the region of Querétaro, signed the inside
decoration of this church. Look at the wonderful Camarin de la Virgen,
a baroque chapel with a very beautiful golden altar piece crowned
with a giant scallop shell. Look also at the portico of the sacristy,
the Portada de la Madre de Dios y de las Carmelitas, carved in pink
cantera. La Plaza del Carmen, inaugurated in 1973, decorated with
a nice central fountain, is very busy on evenings with the Potosinos
strolling, talking or eating an ice-cream.
A few steps from there, on the plaza, there is the neoclassical
style Teatro de La Paz, built in the early twentieth century. Cross
"Villerias" to go to the Museo Nacional de la Máscara
(open 10 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, $11). The museum has a nice collection
of more than 2500 Mexican traditional masks (the most complete in
Mexico) dating from Pre-Hispanic
time to present time and a few ritual clothes from different
regions of the country.
Go south, then west on Universidad Avenue to reach Plaza de San
Francisco, or Guerrero Garden, and the Templo de San Francisco,
built in 1590 in pink stone. The baroque facade dating from the
late seventeenth century, displays the emblems and the Franciscan
Saints. The dome is recognizable to its blue and white azulejos.
In the sacristy, there are magnificent stone altar pieces guilded
with gold leaf and some paintings by Francisco Vallejo as well as
a bas-relief representing an episode of Saint Francisco’s
Three churches stand on this wonderful plaza with a nice big fountain
in the center and many trees offer shade to the beautiful colonial
Behind the church, the Franciscan ex-monastery was converted into
the Museo Regional Potosino (open 10 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sat &
10 AM-5 PM, Sun, $37). It displays archaeological collections about
the Pre-Hispanic civilizations of the region and nice craft from
the Mayas, Aztecs, Zapotecs ... Admire, on the first floor, the
superb Chapel (Capilla de Aranzazú), dating from
the seventeenth century. It is a remarkable example of the churrigueresque
architecture of New Spain. The gates are made of carved wood. This
baroque church was declared national monument in 1936.The facade
is made of carved stone. There are nice exuberant altar pieces and
a statue of the Virgin de Aranzazú above the altar. The location
is surprising !
: Chapel Aranzazú
Further south, in Juárez neighborhood, there is the Sanctuary
of the Guadelupe dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It is built on a Latin cross plan mixing baroque and neoclassical
Visit Hidalgo Market, located on Hidalgo, south of Reforma.
Not to be missed by night, the plaza del Mariachi
where you can listen to the mariachis bands. If you have time, stroll
in Hidalgo market (by Plaza de Armas) and stop for a drink
at Caja de Agua (former water reservoir built in 1832),
the meeting place for the Potosinos.
Extract of the site of UNESCO : San Luis Potosí on the silver
Route. Inscription on the Tentative List in June, 2007
(A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each
State Party intends to consider for nomination during the following
"The significance of the role played by San
Luis Potosí on the Intercontinental Mercury and Silver Route,
on which its outstanding universal value is based, was considered
in defining the specific type of site proposed for the World Heritage
List. For this reason the proposed site must be analysed as a fundamental
component of a cultural itinerary.
The Camino Real (royal road) embraces the entire
geographical network which united three continents during all of
the Middle Ages. Europe, America and part of southeast Asia were
very closely linked, comprising a structure which linked ports and
cities, towns and travel routes for the purpose of guaranteeing
the stability of the economic model based on trade monopoly and
other cultural values of a more spiritual vein under the Spanish
Monarchy. The same route regulating the flow of commodities and
products also sparked human, cultural and religious exchanges giving
rise to the concept of the "New World". Its true geographical
dimension is expressed in terms of the radius of its scope affecting
three continents, several archipelagos, two oceans, seas, rivers,
lakes, historic roads and paths with their respective sections and
Historically speaking, the Mercury and Silver Route
included the extraction sites and destination points of that material
and the roads and procedures established for its sea-land transport,
as well as the methods discovered and employed for the optimisation
of its use in the amalgamation of precious metals in America, the
resulting distribution routes and its impact on the world economy
at the time, together with other social and cultural implications.
The historical urban-mining set of San Luis Potosí
as significant element in the mercury and silver route of intercontinental
Camino Real. Present a many buildings from different periods ranging
from 16th to 20th century. In the core zone are the administrative,
religious and trade buildings and also long squares and installations
from differents periods.
San Luis Potosí is surrounded by five indian
quarter and the landscape is deserted. The principal mine, genesis
of this city is Cerro de San Pedro, located around 24 km.
The area proposed for inscription is inclusive
of the following sites :
1. The Casa Reales (the principal mayor house and administrative
house) and the Governor palace.
2. The Real Cuja (18th century) and the administrative
and domestic buildings of historical and typological value.
3. Identifiable mercury and silver royal road from
the Real Caja in San Luis Potosí city to Mexico city into
the proposed core zone.
4. The Cathedral (1718); the San Francisco church
and remains of the franciscan monastery (17th c.); the San Agustín
church and remains of the agustinian monastery (17th c.); the Compañía
jesuit college (17th c.); the Beaterio (18th c.); the San Juan de
Dios church (18th c.) and the Carmen church and remains of the monastery
Left picture : San Agustin church and
remains of the agustinian monastery
5. The historical urban-mining set of San Luis
Potosí, contains six squares : the Plaza de Armas;
Plaza de los Fundadores; Plaza de San Juan de Dios;
Plaza de San Francisco; Plaza de Aranzazú
and Plaza del Carmen.
6. Near the Plaza de Armas are some trade
buildings (19th and 20th centuries) by eclectic style.
San Luis Potosí is considered one of the most important cities
in New Spain, for the
population, dynamic trade development, industry, comunications and
cultural influences from the United States and Europe was the pincipal
reason for to continued economic and architectural development across
the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century."
End of the extract.
Map of the city :
surroundings and Beyond
The beautiful village of Santa Maria del Rio, located 45 km (28
miles) south of San Luis Potosi (road to Querétaro)
, is known for its typical "rebozos", the best ones in
the state. The rebozo is a traditional shawl worn by Mexican women
like a stole or on the head.
Visit the rebozo school (during the week). Nowadays,
the rebozo is made in silk from China.
The resorts of Gogorrón, Balneario de Lourdes and Ojo Caliente
are close by. If you have children, you can bring them to Tangamanga
Park, at the south-west of the city. There are lakes, playgrounds,
swimming pools, a planetarium, a library, an open theater and the
Museum of the Popular Culture (open10 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, $22). This
museum displays local folklore art, ceremony masks, music instruments
and the famous rebozos (shawls made in silk) typical of the region.
Left picture : weaving loom
We advise you to visit the National Park El Gogorrón (south
of SLP), where you can enjoy hiking and mountain biking.
You also can go to the north-east valley of "Sierra Madre-East",
one of the mountain ranges in Mexico. It is called
"Huasteca Potosina". You can observe the fauna
and flora in El Potosi National Park (road 70, Rio Verde), go rafting
and kayaking into the turquoise waters of the beautiful rivers,
go camping, go to the swallows’ cave (el sótano
de las golondrinas y las guaguas) and observe beautiful parrots
: At dawn, the birds nesting inside the cave fly in spiral, offering
a wonderful show. At dusk, the swallows go back into their nests.
The humid tropical forest is predominant in the Biosphere Reserve
Abra-Tanchipa at the north of Ciudad Valles (the second city in
the state of SLP). The abundant rains give very nice forests and
supply nice waterfalls such as Tamul, El Salto and Tamasopa. Small
cities such as Tancahuitz and Tamuzunchale are worth the visit on
market day (Sunday). You can approach the Huaxtec Indians and listen
to the local music played on jarana, violins, flutes, harp and rhythmic
of the City Ciudad Valles :
Contact the Tourist Office in San Luis Potosí (444) 812 6769,
812 9906 for this visit.
There is cattle-breeding in this region.
picture : Church in the small village of San Elias (north-east of
Real de Catorce (257 km or 155 miles north of San Luis)
It is a city or more exactly, a ghost town of 1,500 inhabitants,
located at 2756 m (9041 feet) of altitude, which, from the late
eighteenth to the late twentieth century, enjoyed many hours of
glory during the height of the mining exploitation. At that time
it had 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. Founded in 1778, Real de Catorce
was one of the most productive mining towns in New Spain because
of the many silver and gold ore deposits. However, at the beginning
of the twentieth century, the politic instability and the fall in
the value of silver put an end to the bright days of Real de Catorce.
The village was quickly deserted. The place has been forgotten for
hundred years and became a ghost town.
Since the last decade, Real de Catorce, with about 1,500 inhabitants,
has been beginning to attract the tourists fascinated by the vestiges.
The tourist guides advise not to go on weekends because the place
is really crowded.
addition, the charm of the small hotels rapidly seduces the visitors.
The restaurants offer diverse menus that allow discovering several
Mexican specialties. There are also small Internet cafes.
You can pace the streets to admire the Church of the "Purisima
Concepción" and the Zócalo and you also
can visit another small ghost town located on a hill 30 minutes
walking from Real de Catorce. It is also possible to ride horses.
The inhabitants of the village approach the tourists to propose
And if you want more exercise, you can hike El Quemado Mountain.
The summit, where the Huichols go for their sacred rituals, offers
a guaranteed unobstructed view on the desert.
Left picture : view on Real de Catorce
The few monuments to visit are : La Parroquía de la Purisima Concepción, an
imposing church with a unique bell tower and a dome covered with
talaveras. Every year, on October, 4th, which is Saint François
de Asis’ Day, thousands pilgrims come to celebrate the founder
of the Order of the Franciscans. Chichimec Dances and processions
The Palenque de gallos, an arena for cockfights.
And La Casa de la Moneda, a former hotel of Money. It fell
into ruin for lack of maintenance. It is now restored and converted
into the Cultural Center of Real de Catorce in order to make it
a cultural and artistic space.
The tunnel of Ogarrio, which is more than two kilometers (1.5 mile)
long, was the last important work realized in Real before its decline.
The tunnel is named after the native province of its builder, Vicente
On Saturdays and Sundays, there is a market on the main plaza. You
can buy local craft, including accessories made of chaquiras by
interesting site is the Wirikuta, the sacred place of the Huichols.
It is a natural Reserve in the lower part of the cordillera, inhabited
by autochthones communities.
The Indians pick the peyote here. They use it for the sacred rituals
on the Quemado Mountain. From there, the view is wonderful.
picture : Parroquía de la Purisima Concepción
You can practice many eco-tourist activities in
this region : Photo safaris, horse rides, paragliding, bike rides
and jeep tours. Information at the Tourist Office in San Luis or
Real de Catorce has been part of the magic villages ("pueblo
mágico") since 2001, date when a new politic of
promotion of small towns and villages called "magic villages"
has been put in place by the Mexican Tourist Department.
City map :
A little bit of history :
Video on Real de Catorce
Many movies were shot
in Real de Catorce and the efforts made by the city contribute
to attract tourists. The city is in the middle of nowhere
between arid mountains and the high desert of the Oriental
Sierra Madre. The access to the city is through the 2.3km
(1.5 mile) long, pierced in the rock "Tunel de Ogarrio".
Trough extraordinary and clever work, this tunnel (which is
lighted by yellow lights) has exits that allow you to reach
the former wells. From San Luis, follow the direction Matehuala
(road # 57) and take the detour to Cedral. A few kilometers
after Cedral, take the dirt road to Real. You will cross desert
villages and you will see thousands cacti along the road.
Map of the state of SLP
Celebrations & Traditions
January, 20th – Saint Sebastian’s Day joyfully celebrated
in San Luis Potosí (every year).
Holy Friday : Silent Procession : Highlight of the week before Easter,
with thousands figurants wearing long macabre black robes (See Taxco
about the same kind of event). In 2014, Easter is April, 20th.
August, 25th : Feria Nacional Potosina (FENAPO) - Saint
Louis’s Day - Procesión Festival (procession
of giant puppets) –It starts around August, 15th and lasts
for three weeks (every year).
September, 29th : San Miguel Archangel’ day in San Luis Potosí
Beginning of october (each year) - XXVIIIème Lila Lopez International
Contemporary dance in San Luis Potosí (SLP) - Contact : email@example.com
October, 4th : processions and Chichimec dances in Real de Catorce
to pay tribute to Saint François de Asis.
October, 31st - November, 4th : Celebration of Day of the Dead (every
November, 3rd-9th, 2012 : Festival of baroque music in San Luis
Potosí (it always starts the day of the foundation of SLP
: November, 3rd 1592).
Este es un video de la
semana santa en la ciudad de San luis potosi mexico, es acerca
de la procesion del silencio que se realiza cada viernes santo
a las 8 de la noche en el centro de la ciudad.
Wonderful pictures about the silent procession in San Luis
Potosí (photos taken on Good Friday by night).