The Baroque City of Silver
by Angie Galicia
Nestled in the rough terrain of Guerrero State, this lovely city has the characteristic, romantic feel that defines Mexican colonial cities.
Its picturesque, labyrinthine streets are the ideal stage for a representation of the Passion Play during Holy Week, an event that attracts a large number of tourists every year.
On Palm Sunday, the population takes part by carrying palms and following “Jesus”, who enters the city triumphantly on a donkey.
The most attractive, singular celebration, however, is the one that takes place on Good Friday: a long, solemn procession is led by the faithful, who carry the lovely images of Christ and of some of the saints on their shoulders. Other men, their heads covered, carry thick trunks with needles on their shoulders as a symbol of penitence.
This is how Taxco shows its deeply religious nature, tightly framed by the narrow streets of the town. But it is not so much the beauty, clearly influenced by the baroque, nor the many traditions of the state of Guerrero that catch one’s interest, as it is the abundance of silver and the imaginative way the artisans work this metal to produce beautiful jewelry, tea sets, sculptures and all kinds of ornaments.
Taxco, or “Tlacho”, which means, “place where the ball game is played”, was already known to the natives of the region before the Spaniards arrived. They extracted silver from the entrails of these lands to pay their tax to the Aztec emperor.
Today, despite its decline as a mining area, Taxco is still one of the principle silver-extraction zones, and the place par excellence in the production of silver wares. Its narrow streets are lined with silver stores where tourists marvel at the ability of the artisans to produce such wonderful works of art, and at such affordable prices.
Taxco’s development as a mining town began with the arrival of José de la Borda in the colonial period. De la Borda invested much of his mining wealth in the construction of the Church of Santa Prisca, the patron saint of the city. Its facade and interiors are worked in the churrigueresque style, and one can appreciate here, the imaginative and delicate work of the town’s artisans.
Saint Prisca is honored on January 17, when children and adults alike gather outside the church with their pets, who will be given a blessing. At dawn the next day, the faithful sing “Las Mañanitas” to their patron saint and dance in the courtyard of the church.
The city of Taxco has almost remained untouched by the “evils” of modernity. The narrow, steep cobblestone streets do not allow for the free passage of cars, and the area does not lend itself well to the construction of tall buildings or hotel complexes. Because of this, its beautiful and romantic colonial, essence has remained practically intact, for the enjoyment of all who visit it.