TRAVEL: Taxco, The City Of Light and Silver

By Lupita Franco Peimbert

There is a jewel of a town, in a town known for its silver, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico: Taxco de Alarcón, La Ciudad de la Luz.

Taxco is located approximately 106 miles southwest of Mexico City. It was funded in the 1500s. History tells the Spanish conquered the indígenas and established mining companies because the areas had an abundance of silver and other metals. These were centuries of labor and religious subjugation. The Spanish and other foreigners became extremely wealthy, while the locals continued economically disadvantaged. 

Meanwhile, the town grew picturesque. In our time, a number of artists, other creatives, and business men took residence, mixing with and invigorating the local culture.

In 2021, the town is coming back to life again amid social restrictions imposed by the COVID19 pandemic. Taxco remains a Pueblo Mágico with a lot to offer. Here are just a few reasons to visit this one-of-a-kind place. 

Narrow Streets And Colonial Buildings 

Cobblestone, narrow street in Taxco, Mexico. Photo by LFP. 2021.

Taxco is situated in steep terrain, and although it is a city with a population of almost 100 thousand, it still looks like a colonial town, with narrow streets and allies paved with dark stones. The white painted houses and buildings contrast with the red title roofs, making it extremely charming. 

Plenty of Bochos or Volkswagen Beetles

Nothing like seen a bocho taxi driver maneuver through the narrow streets and allies in Taxco. Photo by LFP. 2021.

There are Volkswagen Beetles (aka Bochos) everywhere, serving as taxis and navigating the complicated configuration. I had to get on one and talk to the taxi driver! 

He said that the Beetles or “Bochos,” are perfect for Taxco because their size and back traction allow them to move up and down the allies with ease. For me, it felt I was in the 1970s. 

The Church of Santa Prisca (and San Benjamin)

Church of Santa Prisca and San Sebastian, partially open and following COVID19 pandemic restrictions strictly. Only a small number of parishioners and visitors were allowed in, intermittently, in the Spring of 2021. Photo by LFP. 2021. #insta

Carlos Alarcón, a certified tourist guide, told me the story of this magnificent church built with private money. José de la Borda, a man who had made a great fortune mining silver, built the church so that his son Manuel, who was a priest, could have a parroquia. It took 15 years and lots of negotiation with the Vatican to have all the permissions and titles granted. It is magnificent and it continues to operate as a Catholic Church. 

The church was also dedicated to San Benjamin. Both figures were considered martyrs and there are plenty of tales describing their sufferings. Although the martyrs didn’t pass the requirements of the Catholic Church to become Saints, Santa Prisca and San Benjamin have a church named after them. 

Artesanías Made by Indígenas

A woman artisan dedicated to making and selling baskets and bags made of palm. Business was getting a little better this Spring 2021, she said. Photo by LFP. 2021.

I appreciated the opportunity to talk to “indigenas artesanos” meaning, the people indigenous to the land who still keep most of their culture and language, in this case, they are Nahuas from Guerrero. 

I saw them come to town to sell their crafts and walk around all day, looking for costumers and offering what they have made.

Local artisans make baskets, bags and sombreros from palm, among other things. They also make artesanías and artifacts from wood and ceramics. One can also find embroidered dresses and blouses, and I saw them displayed mostly in local stores, but these are made by indigenas.

And by the way, if you go, buy something from the indigenas. It is a way to support their economy and you’ll get a piece of culture! 

Silversmithing

A Platero or Silversmith who has been in the profession since he was a young boy. Photo by LFP. 2021.

Taxco’s mining had its golden age for two centuries and it eventually faded, because the silver was mined to the last piece. Now that silver is gone, it has to be brought in from somewhere else. Minor silversmiths are having a hard time finding the capital to buy silver and design. 

However, there still are silver designers everywhere in Taxco because the town has built a reputation as a silver town. Currently, you’ll find stores with elegant and pricey silver artifacts as well as popular silver workshops and markets selling awesome jewelry. I also found El Callejón de los Milagros, a silver “tianguis,” where I spoke with long time silversmiths or “plateros.” 

William Spratling.

And here is something you may want to know: American architect and designer William Spratling is considered the father of silver in Taxco. His love for art as well as his love for Mexico and Mexican art made him move to town and promote silversmithing. He developed a special connection with local creatives and experienced silversmiths who learn more about art and design from him, in addition to whatever knowledge or talent they have.  

Spratling moved to town in the 1920s and fostered a renewed silver-design industry. His biographers say in the 1930s he had 120 employees and his silver designes were also sold in the USA, at Neiman-Marcus, Bonwit Teller, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The restaurant and airbnb in a house once owned by William Spratling. Here is a contact number if you need it: +52 762 627 6177 Told them you saw at Lupitanews.com – Photo by LFP. 2021.

There is a museum on his honor, but it was closed when I visited. There is also a very nice restaurant and Airbnb housing at a home that was once owned by Spratling.

S’Caffecito at Casa Spratling, very close to the Zócalo. Photo by LFP. 2021.
The lobby of S’Caffecito, an Italian and Mexican restaurant (and Airbnb) in a house once owned by William Spratling. Here is a contact number if you need it. (+52 762 627 6177) Told them you saw at Lupitanews.com – Photo by LFP. 2021.

In summary, there is a lot more to this Pueblo Mágico, but I wanted to share just a few attractions. Foodies: try the local pozole, and ask for Mole Rosa. There are great hotels and vistas by the Zócalo and Santa Prisca, as well as Airbnb and other rentals. 

For days filled with culture and adventure, and nights full of bohemia and charm, Taxco is the City of Lights! 

By the way, I asked around why is it called the city of lights and got several versions. They said it is because it is painted in white which relates to light, and others said it is because of its vibrancy. If you got a better version, please don’t hesitate to comment about it at the end of this article.


About the writer:
Lupita Franco Peimbert is a former Spanish-language TV news reporter turned into a bilingual communications consultant. She writes about travel and culture, and rambles about being single. Lupita lives in California and loves the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her on Instagram @lupitasocial, youtube: Lupita Peimbert, and Facebook @Lupitanews.
For assignments or advertising please email Lupitanews@gmail.com or call (415) 531-8573.

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