Aguascalientes is the capital of the state of Aguascalientes and is its most populous city, with a metropolitan population of 1,000,000. The Aguascalientes metropolitan area includes the municipality of Jesus María and San Francisco de Los Romo.
Aguascalientes has repeatedly been recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life in Latin America. Nowadays, Aguascalientes is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalization process.
It was a Chichimeca Indian territory. It later blossomed as a strategic link between Mexico City and the mines of Zacatecas, while prosperous agriculture and ranching helped feed Spain’s emerging New World cities.
OECD has recognized Aguascalientes as having the best business climate standards in the world. It is a strong business and economic center in the Bajío region. Its strategic location and excellent infrastructure have made it a regional hub and a popular location for international headquarters.
Aguascalientes City is located in North-Central Mexico. It is part of the macroregion of Bajío, which is among the safest and most prosperous regions in Mexico.
It stands on the banks of the Aguascalientes river, 1880 meters above sea level. It is the municipal seat for the Aguascalientes Municipality.
Aguascalientes has a semi-arid climate.
Most of the precipitation is concentrated from June to September.
As of 2010, the city of Aguascalientes proper had a population of 797,010. The two other municipalities considered parts of the Aguascalientes metropolitan area are Jesús María and San Francisco de Los Romo; they had populations of 99,590 and 35,769, respectively. As such, the Aguascalientes metropolitan area had a total population of 932,369.
According to the latest census by the National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Data Processing (INEGI), Aguascalientes City was the 13th largest metropolitan area by population in the country. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico.
The name originates from the Spanish words “aguas calientes”, meaning “hot waters” although a more accurate translation is “hot springs”, part of the original name of Villa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de las Aguas Calientes (Village of our Lady of Assumption of the Hot Springs).
When the city was first settled by Juan de Montoro and twelve families, it was given this name for its abundance of hot springs. These thermal features are still in demand in the city’s numerous spas and even exploited for domestic use.
People from Aguascalientes (both the city and the state) are known by the whimsical Spanish demonym hidrocálidos or “hydrothermal” people.
The city of Aguascalientes was founded on October 22, 1575, by Juan de Montoro as a postal service rest stop between the cities of Zacatecas and Mexico City, though it is known that the site already featured a small population by the time it was granted official status.
Although its founders did not envision it becoming a major city, it became the capital of the newly formed state of the same name when its territory separated from the adjacent state of Zacatecas in 1835.
In 1857 Aguascalientes became the capital of Aguascalientes state.
When the state separated from Zacatecas, Aguascalientes raced ahead in its development, while the state of Zacatecas remained behind in comparison.
The historical center of Aguascalientes was born out of four distinct neighborhoods. The oldest of these is the Barrio del Encino, which is technically older than Aguascalientes proper.
Founded in 1565 by the Andalusian Hernán González Berrocal, the neighborhood was originally named Triana after the neighborhood in Seville, Spain.
The Barrio del Encino is home to the baroque-style Templo del Señor del Encino, a Catholic temple built between 1773 and 1796. The Cristo Negro del Encino (“Black Christ of the live oak”), is a widely venerated religious icon symbolic of this neighborhood. The colonial square and the José Guadalupe Posada Museum, adjacent to the temple, are one of the main attractions in the city.
The second neighborhood is the Barrio de San Marcos, which has its roots in the early 17th century as an indigenous settlement on the outskirts of the then-village of Aguascalientes.
Between 1628 and 1688, some communal land was allocated to the community, but the indigenous people still worked on Spanish-owned farms and produced goods to sell in Aguascalientes. Meanwhile, they organized the construction of a simple hospital and a chapel. This original chapel was replaced by the current Templo de San Marcos completed on December 15, 1763; this church is the spiritual headquarters of the Feria Nacional de San Marcos that makes the neighborhood famous today.
The third neighborhood is the Barrio de Guadalupe, which began its development as a string of shops and trading posts alongside the road leading from Aguascalientes to Jalpa and Zacatecas during the latter half of the 18th century.
The neighborhood’s iconic Templo de Guadalupe was built between 1767 and 1789; it’s recognized for its Spanish Baroque façade and its dome lined with Talavera tiles. Especially after the founding of the Fundición Central Mexicana (“Mexican Central Foundry”), the neighborhood developed quickly; by the early 20th century its roadside inns had mostly been converted into homes and its boundaries had blurred with those of the Barrio de San Marcos.
The final neighborhood is the Barrio de la Salud, which has its roots in a small chapel and a cemetery developed towards the end of the 18th century to deal with a number of disease epidemics that had struck the area. Gravediggers established homes near the cemetery, and others took advantage of the open land to establish orchards. Though the orchards began to disappear during the early 20th century, clues as to the neighborhood’s roots still remain. First of all, the fact that property lines generally followed irrigation ditches can still be seen in the neighborhood’s haphazard street grids today. Second, the neighborhood’s working-class character is visible in its primarily single-story homes featuring simple façades.
A fifth neighborhood, the Barrio de la Estación, is often grouped in with the city’s original neighborhoods. However, this neighborhood is considerably more modern, with much of its development dating from the final decades of the 19th century or later. Therefore, despite its important role in the history of Aguascalientes, it’s not strictly accurate to consider the Barrio de la Estación one of the city’s original historical neighborhoods.
Aguascalientes today identifies itself as at the confluence of tradition and industry. Its preserved colonial center testifies to its rich architectural heritage and cultural vision.
On the other hand, the precisely planned peripheral expressways, as well as its first-class avenues and lanes, are surrounded by industrial parks that employ thousands of people.
The state reports a high index of migrants, especially from other states, seeking to acquire a better quality of life.
Aguascalientes is a strategically planned city, having been pioneers in urban development regulation since 1936. The city is planned around three beltway loops, which is unique in Mexico. The third beltway loop will be fully operational in 2022.
The old part of the city revolves around downtown and the four original neighborhoods from which the city expanded. The most notable building here is the Baroque Government Palace, dating from 1664 and constructed out of red volcanic stone; it is known for its one hundred archers. The prominent Baroque Cathedral, begun in 1575, is the oldest building in the city. The tall column in the center of the main square dates from colonial times; it held a statue of Spain’s viceroy, which was toppled when the country gained independence; the current sculpture on its summit commemorates Mexican independence.
The city of Aguascalientes is made up of four traditional neighborhoods, all of which grew up around the central Plaza de la Patria:
- San Marcos
- El Encino (La Triana)
- La Estación
The neighborhood of Guadalupe, a traditional producer of pottery, centers around its local temple. At the heart of Guadalupe, you’ll recognize this religious sanctuary – the second most important in the city and dating back to the late 18th century – by its baroque façade. Look up and you won’t miss the temple’s enormous dome covered in traditional talavera tiles. Venture inside and you’ll be surrounded by the temple’s many flower and angel motifs – a true baroque paradise.
The next is San Marcos, founded in 1604 and once home to natives of Tlaxcala state who fled persecution. Today, the area hosts the traditional San Marcos Fair in springtime. There is San Marcos Gardens, a charming green spot where paths and trees are abundant. The gardens are traditionally frequented by poets, artists, and lovers on lazy afternoons. Directly in front of the gardens, you’ll see the baroque San Marcos Temple, its tiled dome glinting in the sun.
In El Encino or La Triana, the head for the Encino gardens with their tile-decorated central fountain is full of tranquility. While in the area, the Jose Guadalupe Posada Museum – showcasing the work of an extraordinary cartoonist and engraver born in Aguascalientes – is well worth a visit. The museum houses two permanent exhibition rooms and another for temporary exhibitions.
Last but not least, the neighborhood of La Estacion takes its name from the old railway station, inaugurated in 1911, and one of Aguascalientes’ architectural and historical treasures.
Other designs by Refugio Reyes include the Paris Hotel, the Francia Hotel, and his masterpiece, the superb Church of San Antonio, considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Mexico.
The Church of our Lady of Guadalupe possesses an extraordinarily exuberant Baroque facade designed by José de Alcibar, a renowned architect of the period considered to be one of the most famous artists in Mexico in the 1770s.
The Camarin of the Immaculate in the church of San Diego is considered by historians to be the last Baroque building in the world. It links the Baroque and Neoclassical styles; it is the largest of the fewer than ten of these types of structures built in the whole continent.
La Estacion Historic Area (The Old Train Station Complex) contains the Old Train Station and Railway Museum historic complex, which at some point in 1884 formed the largest rail hub and warehouses in all Latin America. The complex is adorned with dancing fountains, a railway plaza, and original locomotives and monuments. It was in this complex that the first locomotive completely manufactured in Mexico was made. It symbolizes the progress of the city and its transformation from the rural to an emergent industrial economy.
The rail factories supplied with railways and locomotives to the whole of Mexico and Central America.
The Train Station is also historic due to its unusual (for Mexico) English architectural style.
The Alameda avenue, the railway hangars, the factory complexes, and its surrounding housing have been proposed to be placed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Ojocaliente is an original bathhouse still in use today and fed with thermal springs.
Aguascalientes historic downtown is home to several outstanding museums:
- Aguascalientes Museum (Museo de Aguascalientes), the city’s art museum, housed in a Classical-style building designed by the beloved self-trained architect Refugio Reyes.
- Guadalupe Posada Museum (Museo Guadalupe Posada), located in the historic nationhood of Triana, exhibits the life and work of José Guadalupe Posada.
- State History Museum, which is housed in an elegant Art Nouveau mansion typical of the Porfirian period with and ornate patio and dining room with vegetable motifs in a Mediterranean style, with a French Academism façade, and interior columns and an arcade of the pink stone characteristic of Porfirian Eclecticism.
Aguascalientes is the city that invests most in culture. The Aguascalientes Theatre is ranked as one of the largest and most comfortable in Mexico. There are some of the country’s leading provincial theaters.
- Outstanding examples are the Morelos Theater, historically important for its role during the Mexican Revolution as a convention site; architecturally, the building is notable for its facade and interior, which houses a small museum.
- The Teatro Aguascalientes is the city’s premier theatre and opera house and is equipped with the latest technology.
In addition, in the modern section of the city, the Museo Descubre astonishes as an interactive museum of science and technology aimed at providing a hands-on learning experience. It also features an IMAX screen.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is the city’s premier art museum.
The gothic structure of the Los Arquitos cultural center used to be one of the first bathhouses in the city, declared a historic monument in 1990.
San Marcos Fair
The Feria Nacional de San Marcos (San Marcos Fair) is a national fair held in the Mexican state of Aguascalientes every year for three (or sometimes four) weeks. Most of the events related to the fair, however, occur in the city of Aguascalientes, the state capital. The exact date of the fair varies every year but is set around April 25, the Feast Day of San Marcos. It attracts almost 7 million visitors to Aguascalientes every year.
The celebration was held originally in the San Marcos church, neighborhood, and its magnificent neoclassical garden; since then, it has greatly expanded to cover a huge area of exposition spaces, bullrings, nightclubs, theatres, performance stages, theme parks, hotels, convention centers, and other attractions.
Initially, the fair was tied to the vendimia (harvesting of grapes) since wine production used to be an important activity in Aguascalientes. Nowadays, it is an important tourist attraction that is heavily associated with bullfighting and cockfighting. It is estimated that seven million people visit the fair every year and as consequence hotels are usually filled to capacity, however, some locals rent out their houses to visitors and go on vacation during this time.
The San Marcos National Fair is organized by an independent foundation that oversees the governance of what happens at the fair, but is supported by the state and city governments of Aguascalientes.
The fair is host to a large range of activities, of which bullfighting and cockfighting are the most popular. Usually, a concert is given by a prominent Mexican singer after a series of cockfights; this event tends to draw more attention than the fights themselves.
Located in the main fair venue are an assortment of sponsored stands and mechanical games, as well as stages where various concerts and theater plays are performed. The livestock fair and the charreadas still remain an important part of the celebration. Parties where traditional Mexican music is played (tamboras) are also celebrated on the streets of Aguascalientes. Finally, a casino is licensed in downtown Aguascalientes just for the occasion.
Concerts, art exhibits, and other cultural events complement the fair in many locations around the state. The award ceremony of the National Award for Youth Art occurs in Aguascalientes during this time as well.
History of San Marcos Fair
The fair was celebrated for the first time around harvest time from November 5 to November 20, 1828, as a showcase of the state’s produce and livestock. During that time it was in direct competition with the fairs of Acapulco, Jalapa, and San Juan de Los Lagos.
The celebrations centered in the Parián, a market in the city of Aguascalientes, until 1848. In 1842 the outside balustrade of San Marcos Park was built in a plot of land donated by the Catholic Church. The balustrade is of Neoclassical style and is still preserved to this day. Once San Marcos Park was completed the date of celebration was changed to April to coincide with the festivities in honor the patron saint San Marcos.
Construction of the San Marcos Plaza bullring started in 1896 and was completed in only 48 days. From that date, bullfighting was included in the festivities. It was not until 1992 that the much larger Monumental Plaza de San Marcos was built, with a seating capacity of fifteen thousand people.
Since 1924 the winner of the beauty pageant has been crowned “Queen of the Fair”. In 2006, after some electoral controversy, three queens were appointed.
In 1958 the fair was elevated to the rank of “National” by President Adolfo López Mateos.
On April 26, 2009, the fair was canceled due to the pandemic flu virus that was afflicting certain areas of Mexico. This was the first time in 181 fairs that the festivities had been canceled.
Aguascalientes is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Mexico. The municipality is also developing a system of interconnected green bicycle routes, greenways, the aim being to facilitate fast, safe, and pleasant bicycle transport from one end of the city to the other.
Aguascalientes has a large network of roads connecting different municipalities of the city together and to other cities.
Lic. Jesús Terán Peredo International Airport serves the city, with four daily non-stop international flights from Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston.
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