For centuries the grid-like flagstone streets of Ciudad Mier were nothing more than farmer's tracks between plantations. Ringed by evergreen landscapes and wandering streams, its indigenous inhabitants enjoyed a simple, slow pace of life living off the fruits of their labors and selling cotton wares across the United States border, in the state of Texas. The economy of Ciudad Mier has remained largely unchanged since the 15th Century – still dominated by agricultural farming of cotton, sugarcane and corn. Officially founded in 1753 by General Prudencio Basterra, it was quickly established by a community of 19 families from the nearby town of Camargo and became a Spanish colonized town by 1755.
The enigmatic town of Ciudad Mier (sometimes referred to as El Paso del Cántaro) lies within the far North of Mexico in the state of Tamaulipas, along the U.S Texas border. The famous Rio Grande River and Falcon Dam lie just to the South connecting Starr County, Texas to Neuva Ciudad Guerrero – one of the most northerly cities of the Mexican state. At 150 feet in height, the Falcon Dam is the largest “low-lying, multipurpose dam” on the Rio Grande and responsible for providing hydro-electric power to two major plants. Behind it lies the Falcon Reservoir, a sixty mile long body of water now dedicated by the U.S as a place for conservation and recreation. Built in 1954, Falcon Dam remains one of the longest surviving earthen dams in the Americas.
Ciudad Mier has a long and complex history. Its situation below the Texas state border has seen its use as a base for Texan military, as well as a prominent invasion point, through which the Americans tried unsuccessfully to penetrate in 1844. During the 1950's, the area rose to prominence after it was revealed the notorious Fidel Castro used smugglers of the town to ship weapons across the U.S border into Mexico, via the Rio Grande. The old stop-gap between the river and Mier was Los Guajes Ranch – which can still be seen today, via a ten minute drive from the town.
Mier's hinterland is a stark contrast to the rustic haciendas and old ranches dotted throughout its mountainous municipal district. Plaza de Armas, the central square of the town conveys a little of the old architectural styles once prominent, further beautified with a towering avenue of trees. An ancient two storey kiosk of wrought iron, erected in the Porfirian style acts as the focal centerpiece, offset by the magical Church of the Immaculate Conception. Built in 1794, the sandstone building is one of the quirkiest in town and closer inspection reveals its towers to be remarkably uneven. From the approach, the roof seems ever so slightly tilted, although you'd only notice by staring for a few moments.
Throughout history, the 18th Century House of Columns has seen many uses, including a brief stint as the city jail and Masonic Temple. Today, the neo-Classical building with its striking six arches invites visitors to view the former jail cells and chapels, beautifully preserved and maintained with funding from local authorities. Continuing traditions that have spanned an age are integral to the community of Mier. The hospitable town welcomes one and all for its annual Fiesta de San Juan Bautista. Lively processions, theatrical street displays and a live cook off are among just some of the defining events. It is this charming sense of community and upkeep of traditions that influenced Ciudad Mier's integration on the Pueblos Magicos program in 2007. Despite short-lived issues with drug cartels operating within Mier, the town has once again proven that through community and unity, it can rise against even the darkest of forces.