Good work Katie C.! You are the only one who came close to figuring out last week’s mystery snapshot, which is of a street in the beautiful town of Taxco, Mexico. I wrote about Taxco (it was considered a “side-trip” in my Acapulco chapter) for a Frommer’s guidebook, MTV Best of Mexico, published by Wiley Publishing in 2007. Geordie picked up on my clue: the word “plateria” appears in the photograph, which — in Spanish — means silver shop. I was hoping more of you would make the connection, but perhaps not many people know about Taxco… Actually, I think this is for the best.
Nevertheless, I want to tell you about it. Here is a little article I wrote when I returned from my short trip to Taxco a few years ago. [If you want to see the photos in higher resolution, look at the Photos page, towards the bottom.]
Taxco: The Silver City
Through the bus window, I found myself winding deeper and deeper into the hills of the Mexican countryside. I was en route to Taxco, the “Silver City,” on a bus that was larger than many of the homes we passed. The roads were becoming narrower and the hills, increasingly steep. I waited eagerly for my first glimpse of Taxco, but saw no sign of the quaint colonial town.
Eventually, the hairpin turns and steep incline began to make me nauseous. I clutched my seat anxiously as the bus maneuvered its way through the unforgiving contours of the mountains, huffing and puffing up each hill as if to mark its final lap. Just as I was about to close my eyes and pray for the best, we made one final turn. Suddenly, unraveling before my eyes like a spool of Mexican history, was Taxco. I was immediately lost in observation.
Buried within the State of Guerrero, Taxco is a place that seems to exist outside of time and reality. Sitting at an altitude of about 5,000 feet and located 3.5 hrs from Acapulco and 2.5 hours from Mexico City, Taxco is considered a perfect weekend getaway due to its manageable size and accessible isolation. While it might not be the typical Mexican escape, it offers travelers the opportunity to visit a lesser-known side of Mexico that is completely different from the more popular resort towns, and much more authentic.
Taxco earned its name as the “Silver City” for being a silver-mining capital. Evidence of its silver mining glory days persists throughout the excess of silver shops that line every sidewalk. Its reputation as a silver capital has been preserved – as has its beautiful history – by the many families who have been living as silversmiths in Taxco for hundreds of years. Luckily, many of the old monasteries in this highly spiritual location have been converted into hotels without compromising their architectural beauty and without losing their eerie effect. One can experience and see the layers of Mexican history at every turn. Indications of the past have been vigilantly preserved, but Taxco is by no means creaky and old; it is still full of life and buzzing with activity, with a small burgeoning nightlife (that, admittedly, must obey the town’s “quiet hours”) and a sudden surge of interest among travelers who continue to seek the corners of Mexico that have not not been spoiled by high-rise hotels or drug-related violence.
Taxco seems to come out of nowhere. The crowded, bustling town explodes from the Mexican countryside, completely unannounced but instantly breathtaking. When I first arrived, I felt completely transported through time. Two and a half hours earlier I had been in modern Mexico City. Now I was in a town filled with red-tiled rooftops and white monasteries reminiscent of the 15th and 16th centuries.
The streets and buildings are all built harmoniously into the landscape without trying to change the natural ascents and descents of the mountainous terrain. Ancient-looking cobblestone sidewalks double as roads, which wind through the town like a magestic outdoor labyrinth. In Taxco, going for a walk is an adventure lined by high walls over which only a glimpse of the surrounding mountains can be seen.
The only car used throughout the town is the Volkswagen Beetle, giving the town a toy-like charm. Only the Beetle can navigate the steep and tiny streets because its engine is located in the back rather than the front of the car. Everyone owns the same car (if they own one at all), which is something I have only witnessed in movies like Edward Scissorhands. As one walks, the identical chugging cars just add to the fairytale charm that emanates from this unique town.
Often reduced to a side-trip, Taxco is much more. Many who stumble into the town decide never to leave. Every restaurant, church and shop has a story behind it. Both the days and nights cast an unforgettable spell on every traveler who passes through. Taxco is one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns in all of Mexico. If you ever find yourself within a reasonable radius of its meandering cobblestone streets, I recommend exploring it for yourself.
For all who do go to Taxco, remember to get lost within the mesmerizing white walls of the “Silver City” as many times as possible. And when you eventually decide to leave, good luck trying to translate Taxco’s magic into words.