Taxco de Alarcón (usually referred to as simply Taxco) is a small city and administrative center of a Taxco de Alarcón Municipality located in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Taxco is located in the north-central part of the state, 36 kilometres (22 miles) from the city of Iguala, 135 kilometres (84 miles) from the state capital of Chilpancingo and 170 kilometres (106 miles) southwest of Mexico City.
The city is heavily associated with silver, both with the mining of it and other metals and for the crafting of it into jewelry, silverware and other items. Today, mining is no longer a mainstay of the city’s economy. The city’s reputation for silverwork, along with its picturesque homes and surrounding landscapes, have made tourism the main economic activity.
The city of Taxco lies on very rugged terrain and has steep, irregular streets. The streets are also narrow and generally lack sidewalks, making them picturesque but dangerous. Adding to the charm is that most streets are paved with dark stones, adorned with lines, pictures and even murals of white stone.
Some of the pictures in the street are from the Zodiac and meant to indicate certain commercial activities in times past. One example of this is the sign of Taurus near the Church of Santa Prisca, which used to indicate the area of butcher shops.
The city has been named one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magical Towns) due to the quality of the silverwork, the colonial constructions and the surrounding scenery.
The climate in Taxco is mild, with average highs around 27 °C (81 °F) and average lows around 17 °C (63 °F) year-round. The dry season lasts from October to May, with rains typically occurring from June to September.
Taxco’s population as of 2010 was 52,217 (in 13,933 households), of whom 48% were men and 52% were women. Taxco’s population grew rapidly from 1950 (10,023) to 2000 (50,488).
The name Taxco is most likely derived from the Nahuatl place name Tlachco, which means “place of the ballgame.” However, one interpretation has the name coming from the word tatzco which means “where the father of the water is,” due to the high waterfall near the town center on Atatzin Mountain. “De Alarcón” is in honor of writer Juan Ruiz de Alarcón who was a native of the town. Like many municipalities in central Mexico, the municipality’s coat-of-arms is an Aztec glyph. This glyph is in the shape of a Mesoamerican ballcourt with rings, players and skulls, derived from the most likely source of Taxco’s name.
Before the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, the indigenous community known as “Taxco” was not located where the modern city is now. The name referred to a village about ten kilometers to the south, which is now referred to as Taxco El Viejo (Old Taxco). In pre-Hispanic times, this village was the most important in the area as it was the seat of the Aztec governor who presided over tribute collection in the surrounding seven districts. The modern Spanish town of Taxco was founded by Hernán Cortés in an area previously known as Tetelcingo, because of the abundance of silver here.
Mining here began in the pre-Hispanic period with natives extracting a number of stones for decorative and ritual purposes. The Spanish discovered silver lodes here in around 1532, which started commercial silver mining in the area. Mining operations in the area during the early colonial period was carried out mostly by mining haciendas such as the Hacienda del Chorrillo and the Hacienda San Juan Bautista, established by Cortés or soldiers of Cortés. In the mid 18th century, José de la Borda arrived to Taxco and started more modern operations in mines called Pedregal, El Coyote, San Ignacio and Cerro Perdido.
For most of the colonial period, the area was sparsely populated, including the town of Taxco itself. For this reason, it was governed as a dependency of Mexico City. When the modern state of Guerrero was created in 1850, Taxco was chosen to be the seat of the municipality of the same name. Since it was the only town of any size in the area, the town was taken a number of times during a number of different conflicts. During the Mexican War of Independence, it was taken by Hermenegildo Galeana in 1815. During the Reform Wars, it was taken by Porfirio Diaz in 1865. During the Mexican Revolution, it was taken by Jesus Moran and Margarito Giles in 1911, and occupied by Carranza’s forces in 1916.
Silversmithing was reinvigorated in Taxco by American William Spratling, who moved to the town in the 1920s, creating silver design workshops and exported items, mostly to the United States. With its fame for silversmithing, tourism became a major economic force in Taxco.
Taxco is a town famed not just for its silver jewelry production but also for Spanish colonial architecture.
Buildings in the city typically have Spanish-style, red-tile roofs. Taxco was recently declared as a Magic Town, full of historic monuments, and fantastic museums considered in Mexico as national heritage sites. Many of the main attractions in this picturesque town are wonderfully preserved colonial buildings, just waiting to be explored.
On a walking tour of Taxco, or while enjoying an extreme sport, you may run across a badger, an armadillo, a lizard, an ocelot, or even a wildcat wandering around. In the surrounding areas of Taxco there are also lots of birds, reptiles and mammals coexisting due to the good climate, the plentiful water supply and the dense vegetation, typical of the north of Guerrero State.
Silverwork and tourism related to Taxco’s status as a silver town is the mainstay of the economy.
Mining is no longer a major employer in the city; the last major mining operation on the outskirts of town, Industrial Minera México S.A., phased out operations beginning in 2007 due to the depletion of reserves and labor problems.
Most commercial activity related to silver is the production and sale of silver jewelry, silverware and other goods. Commerce in silver here is both regional and international. Streets in the town are filled with silvershops selling jewelry, silverware and other goods.
Plaza Borda, the main square
The town’s main plaza, officially called Plaza Borda after José de la Borda, is commonly referred to as the Zócalo. On the north side of this plaza is the Casa Borda (Borda House), the most important non-religious construction in the city. The front facing the Zócalo has two stories, but the back, facing the Plaza de Bernal, has five. This is due to the uneven ground on which the house was built. Much of the house is now dedicated to the Casa de Cultura (Cultural Center) where classes in languages, fine arts and sports such as judo are taught. The rest of the main plaza is surrounded by silver shops, restaurants and bars.
Santa Prisca Parish Church
The icon of Taxco, Parish of Santa Prisca y San Sebastían, commonly referred to as the Santa Prisca Church, is located on the east side of the main plaza of Taxco, and is one of the few Baroque buildings in the state of Guerrero.
Santa Prisca was a labor of love for town hero José de la Borda (ca. 1700–1778). Despite his wealth, however, the opulence of the church nearly bankrupted him, but the risk produced an extraordinary legacy.
The local Catholic hierarchy allowed the silver magnate to donate this church to Taxco on the condition that he mortgage his mansion and other assets to guarantee its completion. It was designed by Spanish architects Juan Caballero and Diego Durán, and was constructed between 1751 and 1758.
It is built with pink stone, flanked by two towers which are plain in the lower half but highly decorated in the upper bell portions. The cupola is covered in colored tile. Inside, there are a number of floor-to-ceiling altarpieces, all covered in gold.
This church, dedicated to Saint Prisca and Saint Sebastian, is an excellent example of New Spanish baroque art, apparent in the ‘churrigueresque’ (extremely decorated) style used on its facade and the use of talavera tiles in one of its chapels, as well as in its eye-catching dome.
Due to its great importance, the construction of this parish church involved several artists who gave this unique building its shape and added their own distinctive touches. On its lavish facade there are diverse sculptural forms made of pink quarry stone. Its two tall towers are embellished with images of saints, and in the center there is the image of the Immaculate Conception, to whom the people of Taxco are devoted followers.
Inside the church there are a total of 12 altars, each one adorned with extraordinary paintings, wood and gold leaf. Here, different saints, especially St. Sebastian and St. Prisca, are faithfully worshipped by the local people.
Nearby, the Casa Borda cultural center displays works by local artists, and hosts music and theater events.
Built by José de la Borda in 1759, the Casa Borda serves as a cultural center hosting experimental theater and exhibiting contemporary sculpture, painting and photography by Guerrero artists. The building, however, is the main attraction. Due to the unevenness of the terrain, the rear window looks out on a precipitous four-story drop, even though the entrance is on the ground floor.
This colonial mansion exhibits monograms of the Holy Family, as well as magnificent sacred and secular works of art distributed throughout the 14 halls. Even the hallways are adorned with pieces depicting the rich religious history of Guerrero. This museum was built in honor of Mr. Jose de la Borda, a European businessman who ordered the Santa Prisca Parish Church to be built as sign of the great love that he had for this picturesque town.
La Casa de la Cultura (Taxco House of Culture)
La Casa de la Cultura (Taxco House of Culture) is situated inside Casa Borda where a variety of social and cultural events take place.
Museo William (Guillermo) Spratling
This very well laid-out three-story history and archaeology museum is off an alley behind Templo de Santa Prisca. It contains a small but excellent collection of pre-Hispanic jewelry, art, pottery and sculpture from US silversmith William Spratling’s private collection. The phallic cult pieces are a particular eye-opener.
On the basement floor there are examples of Spratling’s designs using pre-Hispanic motifs. The top floor hosts occasional temporary exhibits.
Museo William Spratling is named for the man credited with establishing Taxco’s silver-artisan community in the 1930s, and it displays archaeological and art objects from his collection.
This museum shows us, through photographs and street plans, how the town of Taxco has evolved.
Also on exhibit are about 300 pieces of pre-Hispanic art, such as vessels and statuettes, typical of the cultural diversity of ancient Mexico.
Inside the exhibition halls, you’ll feel nostalgia for ancient Taxco upon seeing the furniture and other original items while at the same time, in contrast, you can enjoy the modern conveniences of computers available for researching any museum topic.
Viceroyal Art Museum of Taxco (Casa Humboldt)
Near the main plaza are two museums: the William Spratling Museum, which contains silver and archeological pieces from Spratling’s personal collection, and the Museum of Viceregal Art.
This is an amazing museum, located in a beautiful 17th century building, known as Casa Humboldt (Humboldt House), named after the explorer Alexander Von Humboldt, who stayed in this house when he visited Taxco in 1803.
This museum features a baroque style facade and 14 exhibition halls with many objects that recount the history of the city and its mining growth, as well as important information about St. Prisca Parish Church, the main construction in Taxco. Here, you can admire religious objects, a wide variety of baroque art, ornaments from the 17th and 18th centuries, and temporary art exhibitions.
This house was restored in 1991 to become the Museum of Viceregal Art and contains colonial period art and artifacts, some of which belonged to José de la Borda.
San Bernardino de Siena Ex-convent
The Church of the Ex-monastery of San Bernardino de Siena is the oldest in the area, constructed at the end of the 16th century and restored in the 19th after a fire. This convent’s orchard is now the garden of the Posada San Javier Hotel.
This old building, featuring a beautiful neoclassic facade, is one of the oldest convents on the American Continent. The original construction was made with adobe, under the watchful eye of the Franciscan monk, Francisco de Torantos, in 1592. Once, during its long history, a fire destroyed part of this temple only to be reconstructed again, in 1804. Since then, thanks to the extreme care that the population of Taxco has given this building, it remains in an excellent condition.
Church of Veracruz
The Church of Veracruz is located on the Plazuela de la Veracruz on Juan Ruiz de Alarcón. Its principal attraction is an image of Christ which is nicknamed “The General”. This plaza is one of three that house monuments to the playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, who was born in a house near here.
Holy Trinity Temple
Taxco SightseeingThis is one of the most ancient monuments in the city, dating back to the 16th Century. Despite the passing of time and the fact that this temple has been remodeled several times, it still has its original structure thanks to the extreme care taken by the local people, who consider this place as the representative symbol of faith in Taxco.
Former City Hall
This incredible edifice, built at the end of the 18th century, features a mural that recounts the history of Mexico. In addition, it is furnished with period pieces that harken back to the days of powerful landowners, when horse-drawn carts rolled down the cobblestone streets. Nowadays, this building houses the City Council.
Cristo Monumental (Monumental Christ)
In 2002, a monumental statue of Christ was constructed and located on the Cerro del Atachi (Hill of Atachi), overlooking the city of Taxco. This statue can easily be visited by car or by walking up the hill. If you are in the area, then definitely visit this monument because the panoramic view, of the quaint town of Taxco, is simply amazing.
Juan O’Gorman’s Mural
This magnificent mural was created by Juan O’Gorman, creator of the famous murals that adorn the Central Library of the UNAM (Mexico’s main University). These murals have given this university campus, in southern Mexico City, international fame and recognition. O’Gorman, along with his close friends Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, loved visiting Taxco. The plastic artist used the colorful local stones in this particular mural, taking advantage of their natural reds, greens and yellows to put together an impressive tribute to Cuauhtemoc, the last Aztec emperor, and beloved son of the nearby area of Ixcateopan.
Twentieth Century Social History Museum of Taxco
One of the greatest examples of 18th century colonial architecture, this museum teaches us all about the culture and evolution of the people of Guerrero. You’ll feel as if you have stepped back in time when you see the sculptures, paintings, pictures, and different ornaments, strategically placed and well-lit, to highlight their beauty and the importance of the events that have led to what is now the gorgeous village of Taxco de Alarcon.
“Antonio Pineda” Silversmith Museum
In this museum, also known as “Patio de las Artesanias” (Craft Patio), you’ll be able to see Mr. Antonio Pineda’s collection of silver items from many artisans and designers. He managed to amass a magnificent collection, representative of silversmiths throughout the country. Moreover, the museum also displays the works with which Mr. Pineda won national and international awards thanks to his unique designs. On the museum walls there are magnificent murals, by David Castaneda, a local artist, that tell, in a very interesting way, the recent and ancient history of Mexico.
Silver shops with local handmade jewelry are scattered throughout the town’s cobbled streets, and workshops in the outskirts provide further insight into this craft.
The Cable Car
From the top of a steep hill, the cable car at Hotel Montetaxco offers bird’s-eye views of the town and neighboring mountains.
Taxco features a cable car that runs half a mile high for almost 200 yards; an attraction that can only be enjoyed in very few places in Mexico. Traveling all the way from Los Arcos, where the ride begins, to Monte Taxco, the cable car ride delights passengers with its incredible panoramic views of the city. Do not miss the opportunity to view Taxco from a truly unique perspective.
Ex Hacienda del Chorrillo
On the north side of town is one of the major colonial period silver haciendas, the Ex Hacienda del Chorrillo. The hacienda was constructed by soldiers of Hernán Cortés and is one of the oldest in the region. Its aqueduct, built in 1534, is partially preserved.
Northeast of town, the Parque Nacional Grutas de Cacahuamilpa caverns are filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
In the southern Sierra Madre, in a mountainous area only a few minutes from Taxco, visit the Cacahuamilpa Caverns and be amazed by the marvels that Mother Nature is able to produce. Large amounts of limestone and mineral deposits that have accumulated over thousands of years can be observed throughout the inner caverns. Helped by low lighting, shadows and rock structures, visitors’ imaginations work overtime as they admire the stalactites and stalagmites that have taken incredibly unique forms over thousands of years.
These marvelous caverns awaken the explorer in each person that enters. Moreover, they have a mysterious atmosphere enhanced by the many legends told by the locals, giving a unique touch to this visit that really is an amazing experience.
Ixcateopan Archaelogical Zone
This archaeological site is located 22 miles from Taxco, in the town of Ixcateopan. This was one of the last towns conquered by the Mexicas and still features the remains of groups of houses and ceremonial structures. Ixcateopan is also the city where Cuauhtemoc, the Aztec emperor was born. His remains were buried under the main indigenous temple where the first catholic church of the town was built.
Holy Week is the most important religious festival by far. Local people take the celebrations very seriously and make processions along the cobblestone streets where the faithful carry out different penitence rites.
We cannot fail to mention the famous “Jornadas Alarconianas,” considered the third most important cultural festival in the country, celebrated every year in honor of the famous dramatist Juan Ruiz de Alarcon, prodigal son of Taxco. During this traditional event, many exhibitions of art and culture are held, as well as entertainment and fireworks. You can be certain that, no matter what time of year you visit Taxco, you’ll always find some festivity, since holidays and feasts in Taxco never end.
Día del Jumil
The Monday after the Day of the Dead (November 2), locals celebrate the jumil – the edible beetle said to represent the giving of life and energy to Taxco residents for another year. Many families camp on the Cerro de Huixteco (above town) over the preceding weekend, and townsfolk climb the hill to collect jumiles and share food and camaraderie.
Fiestas de Santa Prisca & San Sebastián
Taxco’s patron saints are honored on January 18 (Santa Prisca) and January 20 (San Sebastián), when locals parade by the Templo de Santa Prisca for an annual blessing, with their pets and farm animals in tow.
Holy Week in Taxco involves elaborate processions and ceremonies that have gained international fame. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, there are ten major processions, six during the evening and four during the day. Most processions are about two and a half kilometers long and take about two hours to complete. These commemorations date back to at least 1622 when they were begun in the atrium of the Church of the Ex monastery of San Bernardino de Siena. Now these processions and ceremonies center of the Santa Prisca Church.
Other notable events include the San Antonio Abad Festival in January, the Jornadas Alarconianas (Alarconian Days) in May, the Jumil Festival in October, and the National Silver Fair in late November and early December.
Corn is a staple of food in Taxco. Common dishes include pozole and tacos. Dishes distinctive of Taxco include jumiles (a type of stink bug) prepared in tacos or moles, fiambre, cecina natural (a cured meat), plum and bean tamales, and a drink called berta.
Basketball is the most popular sport in Taxco Municipality. In the city of Taxco, there are basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts, as well as soccer fields.
Taxco lies along Mexican Federal Highway 95 and the toll road Mexican Federal Highway 95D. Taxco has two long-distance bus stations: the Terminal Estrella de Oro in the south and the Autobuses Estrella Blanca station in the northeast. There is no airport in Taxco. Transport within Taxco is generally on foot, by taxi, or by “burritos” or “combis” – converted Volkswagen vans that serve as minibuses.
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