Back to the Future in Mineral de Pozos, Mexico

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Mineral de Pozos. Photo by Flickr/Alejandro Correa
Mineral de Pozos. Photo by Flickr/Alejandro Correa

Our hasty review uncovered basic facts from the www.MineraldePozos.com website. Pozos originally settled by the Chichimec people, served as a wagon train trading post after silver was discovered in Zacatecas in 1567. The Jesuits, always one step ahead of the Spanish founders, settled there in hopes of converting the indigenous population. Jesuit priests organized workers and mined trace amounts of silver there. They built a smelting foundry in 1597 to process the ore. Later in 1657, they founded the beautiful, still functioning Church of San Pedro, bestowing the name San Pedro de Pozos on the town.

After the Spanish displaced the Jesuits, replacement miners unearthed huge gold and silver reserves west of town. By 1895, Mineral de Pozos supported over 300 operating mines that created wealth for a population of 70,000. It earned a reputation throughout colonial Mexico for its opulent life style and haciendas oozing with grandeur. Mexican President, Porfirio Diaz, promoted its thriving mining industry and boomtown appeal. It was temporarily renamed Ciudad Porfirio Diaz, in honor of the adoring President.

The mines of Mineral de Pozos proved so lucrative, so important to the economic growth of Mexico, that the Mexican Stock Exchange, La Bolsa, was founded to promote shares.

With the Mexican Revolution unrest brewing in 1910, mining ceased when the fighting began. After the mines were intentionally flooded, the global price of silver plummeted. The last mine closed in 1927 and the town died without its source of revenue.  By 1950, only 200 people remained in Pozos, making it a virtual ghost town. The grand mansions, left uninhabited and unmaintained fell to decay in the dust.

Noting its historical significance, President Lopez Portillo named it a National Historic Zone in 1982, with little effect. For the last 10 years, the community has attempted to resurrect the town, trying to encourage artists and musicians to abandon expensive San Miguel and set up shop in undiscovered Pozos. Today, around 2,000 people struggle to update the necessary infrastructure.

With this background on hand, we drove 45 minutes from San Miguel through beautiful high desert country, at an elevation or 7500 feet. Bucolic landscapes unfolded as goats, sheep and donkeys lined the deserted road. On the outskirts of town, ruin after ruin draped with overgrown vines and nopal cacti engulfed crumbling, century old mansions and mining operations. These reminders of a glorious past lured us on, eager to unearth the secrets of a town that went from boom to bust, a town resisting permanent death, trying to recover some of its long gone splendor and fame.

As we drove through the main, cobblestoned drag, the drab adobe brick buildings looked deserted. We turned toward the central plaza, following the hand made wooden arrow pointing the way. The zocalo teemed with people. All 2,000 inhabitants had congregated there for the ‘secret’ festivities. Eureka – we had found it!

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