Route 10

Fascinating Encounter between History and Modern Day Mexico

Route 10 mapMexico City
Everything comes together in this huge city, the oldest in the American continent: Colonial buildings, Pre-Hispanic vestiges, and the whirl of contemporary living. The variety of cultural spaces and heritage sites has given it a cosmopolitan nature. Neighborhoods – all different – offer bohemian, sophisticated, fun, and educational experiences, and more. And exploring the Centro Historico (downtown area), where everything began, is undoubtedly something you cannot miss. In the range of possibilities in Distrito Federal, there are also rural areas: capsules of peaceful green like those offered by tours around Xochimilco canals.

Mexico City has, until today, four designations as World Heritage Sites. In the Centro Historico – exemplary core of the City of Palaces – the opulent Colonial architecture rests over vestiges of the former Mexica metropolis. In Xochimilco, the fabulous original nature is conserved between channels and trajineras (traditional boats), like an American Venice. Ciudad Universitaria and Casa Estudio de Barragan are two jewels – one huge and one miniscule – of Mexican modern architecture, and they reflect the building creativity of this fascinating city.

The wealth in this city goes beyond its condition of great metropolis. Its Anthropology Museum rescues the millenary memory of the whole country. In the National Palace, murals scrutinize the Mexican identity, and next to it, the entrails of the Templo Mayor indicate that this was, once, an imperial capital. Sumptuous places like the Auditorio Nacional or Bellas Artes present the best in scenic arts, and the constellation of museums protects the essence of Mexican plastic expression. Mexicas and Conquerors already knew it: this city is a treasure in itself.

The megapolis has not completely replaced the garden that saw its origins. In Xochimilco, the very famous channels and chinampas (small land areas in the shallow lake bed) still survive, as well as the very beautiful landscape that once dominated the marshy valley. Near Cumbres del Ajusco, trees cover the mountains that surround the city and you can be witness of the recuperation of species like the white-tailed deer and the volcano rabbit, or zacatuche. In Desierto de los Leones, hiking lovers will find a combination of old convents and lush forests. And all of this is available without leaving the city.

Durango
Victoria de Durango is a city known as “the Pearl of Guadiana”, for it is located in a valley called by that name. It exists since the 16th Century and to date it is one of the most developed cities in this part of Mexico, due to its mining tradition and timber industry. A visit to the following museums is worth it: Museo Regional del Estado (regional), Museo Tematico del Cine (cinema), Museo de Arqueología (archaeology) and Museo de Arte Moderno (modern art).

Durango should celebrate a double Bicentenary. In this city – a fact that is not well-known –, the last battle over the Independence was fought on the night of August 30, 1821. Its official name comes from the first president in Mexico, Guadalupe Victoria, a native of the western part of the state. During the Revolution, the libertarian general, Arrieta, had to seize it three times, for such was its importance and the struggle as fierce. We won’t even mention someone by the name of Pancho Villa, also a native of Durango, because there are enough motives and it is not good to exaggerate.

Almost half way on the ancient Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Inland Royal Path) – main artery of the New Spain wealth – the stony city of Durango arises proudly, the place of armed events and legendary treasures. A rigorous and Baroque capital, the outstanding buildings in the streets – Casa del Conde del Valle del Suchil, the cathedral and its diverse palaces – hardly indicate its ancient magnificence as a mining center. Far from the times of wars and haciendas, its new industrial and financial vocation keep it current as a busy and extremely beautiful oasis in the vast plains.

Lerdo
This important agricultural and industrial city in Durango is part of the Comarca Lagunera (Lagoon Region). It is quite near the Nazas river and was founded in mid-19th Century. Surrounded by the dessert, it has enchanting landscapes; and a urban image of great appeal.

Ciudad Lerdo is located well inside the enormous Chihuahua Desert, the third largest in the continent, which should probably be called Coahuila Desert because it covers that state almost completely. It may seem strange, but this is a very crowded desert, surely the one with greatest ecologic diversity in the world. The place where dinosaurs formerly ran is inhabited today by hares and mountain cats. In its magnetic zone – Zona del Silencio – electronic transmissions are cancelled, and in the Bilbao Dunes, its aridity becomes extreme and hypnotically beautiful.

Torreon
In the middle of the desert and inside the Comarca Lagunera (Lagoon Region) is found one of the cities with great economic development in the country. Its most relevant tourist attraction is the De las Noas Christ, the famous sculpture at the peak of a hill. A visit to Perla Canal is also worth it, built in the 19th Century, is now used for art exhibits. Other essential stops are the Arocena Museum, with pieces from Pre-Hispanic times, the Venustiano Carranza Forest, considered the lungs of the city, and the Revolution Museum.

Perhaps the walled image that its name evokes anticipates a history of steel and lead, railroad and industry, shells and bullets. An indispensable place during the Revolution because of its strategic location, it was fiercely disputed by all the factions. Madero’s followers took it and also Villa’s, the latter in two different occasions. Still today, shard scars left by the Northern Division can be seen in the Casino de la Laguna, now Arocena Museum. In the annals of the Revolution, Torreón is synonym for battleground.

The lagoon region has its center in Torreon, a place of agricultural, transformation and financial industries. As in any working and business city, international food is abundant and of good quality, especially the varied offer in meats. A New York steak followed by a good Parras wine will always be an available option for the hungry traveler. If what you seek is a banquet in the best Coahuila style, ask for asado rojo or discada, and then relax, pull up your sleeves, pick a table under the shade, and enjoy it with some beer.

Parras
This is a beautiful tree-lined city in the state of Coahuila. In addition to housing the Wine Museum, it has the San Lorenzo Hacienda, from the 16th Century, with its lovely gardens and lush vineyards.

Parras will always be Coahuila and, therefore, meats will never be absent in its kitchens, nor will grilled pork, barbacoa and chicken tamales. However, this is not just any place in the state, but its “oasis” and apex in the mixture of cultures and races. This is why the palate in Parras seems to come from everywhere: indigenous traditions, European immigrants and Spanish colonization. Also, if you add the oldest wine tradition in the hemisphere, you can round off the image of a place that recovers only the best from mestizo cuisine.

The countryside near Parras de la Fuente is marked by the invariable presence of walnut trees and grape vines splashed with wheat, corn, forage crops and vegetables. Geographical conditions have allowed this place in Coahuila to contradict the desert by becoming a true flower and fruit garden. The surrounding mountains protect it from abrasive desert winds, and they offer water in abundance; from this the existence of its popular spas. During the wine harvest, in spring and summer, its already beautiful image is improved when harvesting time begins.

The long path of the grape vine began, in the American continent, around 1579, in the city of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila. It was then that the vineyard known today as Casa Madero was established, home to the best wines in the country. This legendary wine-producing tradition was combined with its condition of natural garden, the origin of modern Mexican textiles, a fascinating melting pot of immigrant and native races, a jewel of living history, to become a Pueblo Magico in 2004. Nobody finds it odd.

Saltillo
An industrial city also with well-rooted traditions; you can’t miss trying pan de pulque, Salazar’s sweets and Ramos’ sorbets, you can’t leave without buying a jorongo (a typical men’s shawl) either. Traditions and local activities include baseball games and the rondalla (traditional group of serenade musicians). Visiting the Santiago Apóstol Cathedral and the Santo Cristo Chapel are also worth it, which are both examples of Baroque architecture.

On that day, October 22, 1913, the country seemed to be loosing its way; the usurper Huerta had seized power, Pino Suarez and Madero lay dead by the hands of some rural people, the Decena Tragica was coming to an end. The cause was reborn the next day in Saltillo, when Don Venustiano Carranza made echo with the people’s feeling and rose against the tyrant and reigniting the struggle. It would be four more years before peace returned to the republic. The nation, however, does not forget that in its hour of dire need, spirit resisted in Coahuila’s capital.

The industrial city of Saltillo, framed by harsh and tough land, had to be carnivore. The central theme of its gastronomy is anything that can be turned into meat and made into cuts, machaca (dried meat) or chicharron (fried skin). Meat gorditas or fritadas, whether beef or mutton, and always accompanied by flour tortillas, are two examples of their creative palate. And in a different subject, you must try pan de pulque – a specialty in the region – walnuts in different presentations, in sweets or pastries, and the very famous fruit liquors.

Monterrey
The capital of Nuevo Leon has so much to offer to the visitor in search of good restaurants, first-rate hotels and unique experiences. Santa Lucia, the artificial river that connects the Macroplaza (central plaza) with the fantastic Fundidora Park, is an obligated trip, as well as a visit to the Contemporary Art Museum, designed by Ricardo Legorreta. The Barrio Antiguo (Old Neighborhood) is also fascinating, and naturally, the Cola de Caballo waterfall, which is about 30 kilometers from the city.

In the year 1612, a flood erased most of Monterrey’s original stamp, but it is conserved in the cathedral and the bishop’s see, examples of Colonial constructions. Time – and wealth – would make this metropolis a catalogue of modern tendencies: the postal building refers us to Art Deco, the Condominio de Acero to Modernism, and the La Purisima Church to a liturgy in steel, cement and glass. Being kind to the leading Mexican architects, this city-gallery showcases pieces by Ricardo Legorreta in its museums and by Luis Barragan at the Faro del Comercio.

With world-class museums, Monterrey is, if not the cathedral then the basilica of culture in Mexico. It had to be this way: industrial and commercial success in the city would seem empty without space for the arts. The sole presence of Monterrey’s Contemporary Art Museum (MARCO) is enough to place it as one of the artistic points of reference in Latin America. Designed by Legorreta, its monolithic building receives the most outstanding visual artists in the hemisphere, and at the entrance, the famous Paloma de bronce by Juan Soriano welcomes the visitor.

Monterrey is on the edge of the second largest arid area in North America, the vast Chihuahua Desert. This is the same zone that touches New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua and Zacatecas territories, and it is one of the natural wonders of the world. The wonder of wonders, naturally, is Cuatro Ciénagas, three hours to the northwest. A truly unique habitat, water species survive in this place, challenging our understanding of the endemic. Blue and indescribable waters wait for us in the middle of the desert.

Included as a Pueblo Magico in 2006, Santiago is only minutes away from the center of the metropolis, neighboring the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park. It was founded in 1648 as Cuarisezapa and its old quarters are made up of what was once Hacienda de San Nicolas Guajuco. Outstanding because of its 18th Century architecture – as shown by the Santiago Apostol church – it is a living example of Nuevo Leon’s history. The municipality also houses the always popular De la Boca Dam and the Cola de Caballo Waterfall Eco tourism Park, home of the famous fall.

Hermosillo
The Capital of Sonora, in spite of being a small city, has so much to offer to the visitor who is looking for clear skies, history in the streets and nice people. It currently has important infrastructure for industrial and business tourism, but also has everything to meet the expectations of travelers in search of sun and beaches, since Kino Bay is really close. Those who want an original destination to celebrate the Bicentenario will also find Hermosillo to be a city full of stories.

There are those who say that the Sonora Desert is different than the one in Baja California, and there are also those who would make one out of them, only divided by the sea. What nobody would object to is that it is a complex, extremely beautiful, and very vast desert. Hermosillo lies in the region of the Sonora Plains; it is the only place where the sahuaro survives naturally: the giant cactus of incredible longevity. Famous for having some of the warmest regions in the continent, this arid zone awaits us with all of its diversity around Hermosillo.

Guaymas / San Carlos
135 kilometers away from Hermosillo, you can visit the city and port of Guaymas, famous for its beach known as San Carlos. Other bays worth visit are Bacochibampo and Miramar. In this part of the state of Sonora, you will also find mountains and sea, making it an ideal place for relaxing and letting yourself be surprised by the landscape. Its hotels are first class and it has two marinas with space for nearly 800 boats. Exploring the Sagrado Corazón and San Fernando churches are also a good option.

Guaymas is located in the Central Gulf Coast region of the vast Sonora Desert, which descends along the continent from the High California to the middle of the Sea of Cortes. Reaching 50 degrees Celsius, the highest temperatures in the city remind us of its condition as a wedge between the desert and the sea. Twenty minutes away, towards Ejido San Jose de Guaymas, we can visit the Sahuaral desert, where cacti and cyclopean century plants – up to eight meters high – point to the sun since five hundred years ago.

To this day, as a beach destination, Guaymas is understood as a synonym for San Carlos, but it was not always like this. Its marine tradition made it become more associated with the activity of a high level port – a fact that allows it to receive cruise ships – than with a tourist destination, although this has changed. It still celebrates a carnival like it did at the end of the 19th Century and, of course, there are also beaches. The adjacent urban area is called Miramar, and opens to the Bacochibampo bay, whose sunsets over calm waters paint the end of the day purple.

 

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