Jalpan de Serra
First of the five Franciscan missions to have been built within the ecosystem of Sierra Gorda, the “Mezzito-Baroque” splendor of the Santiago de Jalpan still outshines any other building in the heart of Jalpan de Serra. Once the focus of a five-point masterplan by Spanish conquistadors to evangelize the North Mexican region of Querétaro, the 17th Century mission church stands today as a constant reminder that the whispers of evangelism largely fell upon deaf ears. A whimsical structure featuring a quadrangular tower, copper roofing, ogee archways and intriguing carvings of serpent-eating eagles, the expansive Franciscan temple is impossible to miss from the plaza. Sister church, the Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol is a similarly bracing sight, located on the fringe of the town and dedicated to the Friar Juan Ramos de Lora in 1761. The Jalpan de Serra missions, coupled with their three European-styled sister missions along the Sierra Gorda Valley were designated World Heritage Sites in 2008, subsequently influencing Jalpan de Serra's inclusion upon the Pueblos Magicos program, in 2010.
Designated the town's stronghold during the early 16th Century, Jalpan's fortress continues to have a dominating presence over the town. Its exterior is a stark contrast to the gay bright colors of Jalpan's immaculate homes, gardens and storefronts – Jalpan fotress built in the characteristic sandstone found commonly within the Querétaro region, emulating the moody darkness of the surrounding mountain landscape. Built in the early 17th Century, Jalpan's fortress is one of the oldest buildings in the town. Its history spans years of use as the municipal prison, coupled with a lengthy term as the primary defense point for the Oltec people during the invasion of the Spanish. Today, it continues to be a place of intrigue, housing the cultural and historical marvels discovered during archaeological digs and town development. Local remain wary of the building, since a vast number of paranormal sightings are alleged to have occurred during its 350 year history.
Flanked by a semi-circular formation of harsh, arid canyons and desert-like terrain, the time-honored town of Jalpan de Serra strikes a bold impression from the approach. Visitors content with exploring the many historical marvels Jalpan has to offer could be missing out on the real magic of the region, since the topography itself boasts a disarming array of awe-inspiring natural creations. Less than 2 km South from the exuberant spread lies the Jalpan Dam - an oasis centered around the man-made mud dam across the Jalpan River. Teeming with exotic wildlife, Jalpan de Serra has been praised for its commitment to conservation of the area – a stunning leafy eco-reserve home to more than 1,000 animal and plant life species. Here, the Jalpan River is at its most placid, influencing many visitors to hire kayaks for exploration of the area. It is said that if you venture down to the dam's Northern shore very early in the morning, you may happen across the water spirits indulging in play with the trout of the river!
Attractions & Things To Do in Jalpan de Serra
Museo de Serra Gorda – affectionately dubbed the “museum of the mountains” by locals, the former fortress carries a fascinating array of exhibits unearthed from the Puente de Dios Caves (South of the Jalpan River) coupled with an extensive gallery of art and crafts, collected from locations such as the Ex-Hacienda del Rayo. Open: Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm.
Mariano Escobedo Prison – formerly a village post office, the 17th Century building was transformed into a prison during the Reform War. It was the place within which the revolutionary liberal General Mariano Escobedo was imprisoned. Briefly exiled to the US for staging an uprising against Porfirio Diaz, the General would spend his last days at Jalpan, until his death in 1902. Open: Monday – Friday, 10 am – 4: 30 pm.