Bajio – Region on the Mexican Plateau, With Enchanting Colonial Towns & Rugged, Dust-Blown Hills
In central Mexico you’ll find a wide, sweeping region called the Bajio! Its natural beauty is fascinating and its mountain ranges are inviting and beautiful. The Bajio is home to a prosperous silver mining location from the 17th and 18th centuries, which was responsible for a huge boom of wealth and activity in the Bajio for some time!
During this silver boom the Bajio cities flourished, grew larger and more impressive. As the silver mines ran their course, the expansion of the cities within the Bajio began to slow down accordingly. Eventually, these towns became depopulated.
They still remain in the Bajio, with all their original stylish architecture, and are incredible to explore!
Getting to know the Bajio – one city at a time!
The Bajio is a large region that spans many different states, and of course even more cities! The states of Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Querétaro all fall under the Bajio. Within these states you’ll find these notable cities qualifying to be great holiday destinations, all waiting to be explored:
- Aguascalientes, capital city of the state with the same name!
- Guanajuato, a city considered to be a World Heritage site by UNESCO, with a gorgeous valley and stunning Spanish colonial architecture. This city is home of the International Festival Cervantino, where cultures from all around the world are united in the celebration of the arts. It happens each October.
- Leon, a city made famous by its leather works, it’s also a great hub for traveling around other parts of the Bajio and features the International Airport allowing air travel to Guanajuato, San Miguel, Dolores and other places.
- Querétaro, a city that’s popular for it’s historic colonial downtown destination hotspot. This particular colonial old town has fortunately retained the geometric street planning that the Spanish conquerors designed side by side with the winding alleys of its Otomi quarters. This site is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a great one to tour!
- Real de Catorce is an inspiring old mining ghost town that may not sound like much, but the entire surrounding area is where the Huichol people make their traditional pilgrimage in search of visions and for the gathering of the Bajio area peyote growing there.
- San Luis Potosi is a place known for it’s popular historic colonial downtown area, one which showcases an interesting blend of different kinds of artistic styles used together on many of the city’s structures.
- Zacatecas is a city situated in a relatively high elevation, and draws people from near and far to its incredible colonial city charm. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, and there are many different fascinating sights to see here.
- Dolores Hidalgo, a city featuring a ceramics center
- San Miguel de Allende is another absolutely charming colonial city that has become particularly popular among artists, writers, retirees from all over the world, and tourists coming to sample some of this city’s lovely charm.
Some of the most fantastic sights to see in the Bajio – starting with Zacatecas!
When touring the Bajio, there are some sites that are definite must-sees. From the Franciscan missions found in the Sierra Gordo of Querétaro to the San Marcos Far in Aguascalientes, there is a tremendous amount of things to see and do all around the region.
Nestled within the Bajio you’ll find beautiful Zacatecas, a city whose historic centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 due to its abundance of important structures and incredible heritage. It’s a site worth stopping at just to catch a glimpse of some of these features!
This Bajio city was founded in 1546 following the exciting discovery of a rich silver lode. Zacatecas soon soared to prosperity, reaching the height of its heyday during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the city itself was constructed along the steep slopes of the narrow valley, the town offers a wealth of extremely breathtaking views from just about any place in Zacatecas.
There are so many historic buildings to be found all over this city in the Bajio, both religious and civil. The city’s grand cathedral was constructed between the years of 1730 through to 1760, and dominates the entire centre of the city, commanding attention from all who visit. It has a distinct Baroque design, but also features a mixture of European and indigenous elements decorating the cathedral side by side, making it truly a uniquely designed structure with a story to tell!
What to do in this historic Bajio city centre?
When touring around Zacatecas, you can cross the city centre by cable car. This journey will allow you to take in the breathtaking sights of the city’s lovely pink stone monuments!
If you’re up for it, you can go on a tour of the iconic Zacatecas El Eden mine, a tour where you can board an underground train which will escort you all the way down, deep into the ground past the Museum of Minerals and a handful of other interesting spots.
Of course, the Cathedral is a must-see, the Church of Fatima, the Gonzalez Ortega Market, and the Church of Guadalupe. There’s also the former San Pedro Bullring as well as the former Church of San Agustin. If you choose to see the Gonzalez Ortega Market while you’re in Zacatecas, make sure to check out some of the local handicrafts. You’ll also be able to find a few Mexican markets nearby.
See the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda area of the Bajio!
A sort of utopia that based on Franciscan principles is what was imagined when these missions were created. It had been the local missionaries goal to learn the local languages of the Bajio, and even to experience trials such as hunger along with the rest of the local population.
The Franciscan Missions of the Sierra Gorda reside within the Mexican state of Querétaro, in the Bajio. They were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2003, and were credited to the individual who also founded several important missions in Alta California, Junípero Serra of the Franciscan Order.
The five missions include Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol and Santiago de Jalpan located in the municipality of Jalpan, San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco and Santa María del Agua de Landa in Landa, as well as San Miguel Concá in Arroyo Seco. You’ll be able to notice that the interesting facades of these churches have a distinct style which makes the structures very important, culturally.
The most prominent feature of these structures is the very ornate decoration of each one of the buildings’ main portals. This decoration is so well crafted, and you’ll be able to notice similar work on the church bell tower and inside some of the churches too. This particular type of decoration is referred to as “Mestizo Baroque” also called “mestizo architecture” according to INAH .
This fascinating and ornate decoration has a function – much of it tells a story and was aimed at schooling the indigenous people in the new religion. A blending of cultures is seen throughout the structures, rather than the obliteration of the indigenous beliefs. The way they were build shows a significant indigenous influence by the Pame people who made them.
One feature you’ll notice is the use of the colours orange, red, and yellow. You’ll also pick up on a theme of jaguars, rabbits, and other native sacred figures. These mission churches feature one nave which is covered with a cannon vault, but each one of them has its own style.
Check out the San Marcos Fair
From the 15th of April to the 18th of May, 2016 San Marcos carried on its annual impressive San Marcos Fair as it does annually this time each year, so if you happen to be in this area of the Bajio in spring, check it out! It’s heralded as being the unofficial-Official Fair of Mexico!
The San Marcos Fair was first celebrated during the time of harvest in November 5 to November 20, in the year 1828. The fair was a means of showcasing the produce and livestock that the state had worked so hard on, since it was a part of the economy that just about everyone at the time was involved in and was therefore very important – not just because of the importance of having this food to eat, but the way that the agricultural community was brought together. It was during that time that the fair was actually in direct competition with the fairs going on in Acapulco, Jalapa as well as San Juan de los Lagos.
The first of these celebrations were held mainly in the Parián, which was a market in the city of Aguascalientes. They carried on this way until the year 1848 before switching in 1842. The outside balustrade belonging to San Marcos Park was constructed on a plot of land which had been graciously donated by the Catholic Church.
The balustrade was constructed in a Neoclassical style, one that is still preserved to behold today. As soon as San Marcos Park came to completion the dates of the San Marcos Fair celebration was changed over to the month of April in order for it to coincide with the festivities that honoured the patron saint San Marcos.
Such a huge celebration going on in the Bajio is hard to miss. The San Marcos Fair is expertly organized by an independent foundation responsible for overseeing the governance of the fair’s operations, but the fair itself is supported by the state as well as the city governments of Aguascalientes.
This impressive Bajio area national fair boasts a wide array of activities, both traditional and modern. You can expect to see bullfighting and cockfighting, which are the most popular events that go on at this fair. Typically a musical performance will be put on featuring a prominent Mexican singer preceding a series of cockfights. The concerts will end up drawing even more attention than the cockfights that they are meant to showcase.
Cruising through the main fair avenue you’ll be able to see a variety of different sponsored stands, stages for concerts and performers of all sorts, theatre plays being performed, and mechanical games that will catch your attention. The fair’s livestock exhibition and the charreadas are a time honoured part of the celebration, and traditional elements of the fair.
Parties with traditional Mexican music being played (tamboras) take to the streets, and a casino is licensed in the city’s downtown for the occasion only! A series of different concerts, a variety of art exhibits as well as other different cultural events are scattered throughout the fair and in many different locations all around the state. The award ceremony for the National Award for Youth Art happens in Aguascalientes during this fitting time as well.
Pack your bags and see all of these Bajio attractions for yourself, and come to love this region of Mexico!
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