17 Nov Mineral de Pozos
Mineral de Pozos, located about 45 minutes from San Miguel de Allende, is a recently revived but still sleepy relic of Mexico’s colonial past. Pozos is best known for its silver-mining heyday and the 100 years of abandonment that followed the collapse of the silver industry. Today, it has a population of only a few thousand people with just a handful of businesses, but it is gradually opening to tourism. Its wide-open desertscapes call to those who love to wander, encountering grand ruins of centuries past hidden between mesquite trees and winding dusty paths. It’s beautiful and strange, magical and spooky.
Arriving in Pozos, you feel the stillness, the quiet of the dry open surrounds, of the narrow cobblestone streets with abandoned buildings, mainly white or stone, and desert plants springing up in unexpected nooks, sometimes cactus or mesquite. There are a couple of active squares in town, but overall, it’s quiet. There’s a sense of years of history, and all of the activity that once happened here, but nowadays you’re just breathing in the sky and the sound of the wind.
Pozos was originally a Chichimeca Indian settlement. When Spanish Jesuits arrived in the 1500s, they discovered the veins of gold, silver and zinc running beneath their feet and began to excavate. This changed the fate of Pozos forever. They introduced European extraction methods, and the town prospered from the mineral wealth. By around 1890, it reached 70,000 people. By that time, Pozos was heralded as the most important mining town in the state of Guanajuato.
By 1910 – the year of Mexico’s revolution – boom had turned to bust, and Pozos slowly slipped into ruin. Old mines and the town itself were left to crumble for almost a century before Pozos’ most recent revival began – now there are a few hotels, art galleries, a luxurious spa, and a few delicious places to eat. PizzanChelas is my favorite eatery in Pozos and I always stop in for delicious pizza and mango micheladas (a beer-based cocktail with hot sauce, chamoy, clamato juice, and, in this case mango juice). I performed a few shows there with the Belly Stringers, which was always a blast.
Outside of town, ruins abound. Some of the most popular ones include the largest, most productive of Pozos’ mines – Cinco Señores – as well as the San Rafael mine, the ex-hacienda El Triángulo, and the oldest mine in Pozos – Santa Brígida.
The Jesuits built Santa Brígida’s furnaces, known as chacuacos, and their three chimneys in 1595, along with the rest of the mining operation. The furnaces were used to melt silver using quicksilver and mercury. On our last visit, we learned that this long corridor at the Santa Brígida mine served to funnel air into the mine below – cooling it and guiding it down into the tunnels.
Mining equipment was primitive and the miners would rappel in and out carrying heavy payloads in hopes of extracting small amounts of precious metals; many lost their lives working in these mines. Back in the day, the San Rafael mine experienced a tunnel collapse after heavy rains that claimed the lives of fifty men. Tragic stories like this one, coupled with a native population susceptible to superstition, have given rise to many a ghost tale – their souls are thought to haunt the mines to this day.
Driving, hiking, exploring and camping in these areas is what we most enjoy. The desolate wide open spaces, abandoned buildings and empty, surreal feeling makes an incredible backdrop for photos, film and art. It’s also an ideal space to disconnect (there is no signal in Pozos!) and take some quiet time to be with yourself in nature, simply walking or sitting, liteing to bir calls and watching the breezes blow over the empty landscape.
Pozos makes a great day trip from San Miguel de Allende. It’s a quick drive, cab or bus ride to check out the ruins and to hike Pozos’ rugged landscapes and have bite or a sip along the way. Want to know more about San Miguel and the best things to do there? Read this article.