Guanajuato, A UNESCO World Heritage Site
When a city or a structure is designated as a masterpiece of human creative genius, it meets at least one of the criteria to become named as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic city of Guanajuato, Province of Guanajuato, Mexico meets four of those criteria.
Guanajuato is located in the center of Mexico and is the capital of the state with the same name. One of the reasons it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site is because of its beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in America, including the visually stunning Templo de la Compania church. Another structure, The La Valenciana church, which you can step inside and admire its carvings and paintings, was built in the 18th century in the Churrigueresque, or Spanish baroque, style. It is located at the opening of the La Valenciana mine.
Speaking of silver, Guanajuato is a former, and well-known, silver mining city. The city was founded in 1559 and, in the mid-1600s, silver was first discovered. La Valenciana became one of the most productive silver mines in the world. UNESCO recognized the influence that the city of Guanajuato had on the Mexican mining towns from the 16th to the 18th centuries, which meets its second criteria to exhibit an important interchange of human values on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
READ MORE: Five Musts To Do In Guanajuato
Today, the La Valenciana mine is no longer operational, but parts are sectioned off for guided tours by retired miners. You will do as the miners did and descend below ground to see the narrow passageways and the historic drilling equipment used by the miners.
In addition to the impact that the silver mining industry had on the city, it had a direct impact on the structures built within the city. The church of La Valenciana (known as the Templo de San Cayetano) and the Casa Rul y Valenciana were financed by the most prosperous mines of the century and, according to UNESCO, were outstanding examples of significant stages in human history.
Finally, this historic town and its mines were associated with world economic history, particularly that of the 18th century. It was also a crucial location during Mexico’s War of Independence.
Today, tourists visit to see the church that silver bought and its pink stone façade, as well as enjoy the state’s tequila production and take in some popular paragliding opportunities throughout the state. Each year the city also hosts a Festival Cervantino in October, celebrating the arts and culture in Mexico. Its origin dates back to the mid-20th century when the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, performed his plays in the plaza. Travelers stopping by this unique historical town must sample regional Bajío cuisine, including enchiladas mineras (tortillas filled with meat, beans or cheese and topped with a sauce made from guajillo and ancho chiles) and pacholas Guanajuatenses (ground beef with spices).
Today, Guanajuato, Mexico is one of only 1,052 properties that have been given the distinction of being on the World Heritage List.
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