Mexico’s premier destination for shopping Mexican silver craft-work is also one of the country’s most attractive colonial cities. Situated in the mountains just a couple of hours’ drive south of Mexico City and waiting to be discovered by visitors in search of colonial authenticity is the picturesque city of Taxco. (Pronounced “Tass-ko.”)
While close enough to be a long day trip from the capital, the fresh air, the colonial atmosphere and the allure of Taxco’s quintessential colonial character are best enjoyed by a longer stay, which will also give you the opportunity to explore Taxco by night with its softly-lit streets and alleys and more relaxed atmosphere.
Staying for a few days also offers an opportunity to see worthwhile nearby attractions including the beautiful blue-water wells of Atazala, William Spratling’s ranch, and the limestone caverns of Cacahuamilpa. You can also take a cab ride up to the Cristo statue to experience remarkable panoramic views of the town and the surrounding natural beauty of this area.
The town itself is enormously picturesque, whether you’re on the mountaintop looking down into the city, gazing across one of the many vantage points afforded through the Taxco’s steep terrain, surreptitiously exploring the narrow streets and alleyways that break open into plazas and courtyards, or looking upwards to admire the great mountains that frame this idyllic colonial setting. The natural light in this highland mountain town is something to behold, and the sunsets can be extraordinary.
A key attraction that draws visitors to Taxco is the abundance of high quality, reasonably priced silver craft-work available throughout the town. The city is dotted with stores, stalls and markets selling a wide assortment of silver crafts. Many of the traders sell identical goods —rings, chains, bracelets, ornaments, curiosities— at remarkably variable prices, generally becoming less expensive as you move further from the center of the town, so it’s a good idea to wander off and meander down the side alleys and streets, to find merchants where you can compare the different styles and prices with those on offer in and near the center.
The famous Santa Prisca Cathedral, an impressive baroque structure that looks out onto the main plaza, is itself situated on a vantage point at Cerro del Atache mountain, making it readily visible. The church was built, and paid for, between 1751 and 1758 by Don Jose de la Borda, a Spaniard of French descent and a devout Catholic who made his fortune from the town’s silver mines. Borda himself reactivated silver mining here, as the industry had gradually diminished over the preceding two centuries when more profitable and easier to exploit deposits were discovered elsewhere in the country.
While wandering the picturesque winding streets, you are certain to come across the name of William Spratling, an architecture professor from New York whose work promoting Mexican art and artists made him popular among the country’s elite. In the 1930s, Spratling began developing Taxco as a producer of fine silver-craft, a work that reignited the local economy then, and a trade for which the city remains famous to this day. Taxco is home to the Spratling Museum, which honors the “Father of Mexican Silver,” and you can also visit his old ranch on the outskirts of town.
Taxco is arguably one of Mexico’s better-kept secrets on the colonial trail: unassuming, it offers authenticity and old-world nostalgia. Explore Taxco patiently on foot and allow it to reveal its delightfully unexpected charms.
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