Littered with ancient barrios and churrigueresque churches, Tlalpujahua taps an emotive response from those who ascend the town from the West. Climbing the foothills of the boundary peaks, the former mining town looks as if it has sprouted from the ruins of the mountainside, such is its preservation of central natural beauty.
Situated at the juncture of Estado de Mexico and Michoacán, the rustic town of Tlalpujahua is best remembered for the gold rush of the 19th and early 20th Century – a miner, under the employ of French entrepreneur Francois Joseph Fournier having found a valuable channel whilst routing for copper mineral deposits. Dos Estrellas Mine became the world's premier source for gold, until the devastating landslide of 1937, subsequently heralding the end of the town's heyday. The legacy of Tlalpujahua's “golden age” lives on at the Museo Tecnológico Minero Siglo 19 – an open-air museum village at the mine, where actors recreate the scenes of daily life, dressed in the 19th Century garb. Tlalpujahua became SECTUR's 20th Pueblo Magico to be included on the program, largely because of its preservation efforts.
Not content with being consigned to history as a once great mining town, Tlalpujahua's resourceful inhabitants chose a very new path – the production of Christmas decorations. Casa de Santa Claus opened during the mid 1970's and remains the most oft visited attraction of Tlalpujahua. Lined floor to ceiling with handmade tree adornments, glass baubles, fairy lights and toys, Christmas is a daily celebration within the “House of Santa Claus.” The headquarters of Adornos Navideños SA de CV remain firmly routed within Tlalpujahua, along with its primary factory – employing in excess of 1,000 locals. Despite this, a significant proportion of private businesses have also found their feet, as purveyors of handcrafted and home blown glass decorations. Outlets such as Casa de Santa Claus are commonly found along the boutique alleyways and calles of Tlalpujahua – each resembling a sparkling grotto of fairytale likeness.
Churrigueresque churches may be found in abundance at Tlalpujahua, however none stay as true to the rustic character of the town than La Capilla del Señor de Los Zapateros de Tlalpujahua (or Barrio Los Zapateros.) A meeting of both the churrigueresque and colonial styles, its exterior resembles a sheer white cliff face, from which an ornate entrance and bell tower have been carved. To the East Wing, a modest stone-slabbed grey bell tower offsets the brilliant white of the building – exemplary of its rustic character. In the foreground of the churchyard sits the oft photographed Atrium Cross, said to have been carved from the “instruments of Christ's Passion.” The 16th Century village church is world's apart from the grandeur of Parish of San Pedro y San Pablo/ Del Carmen Sanctuary on the main plaza. Clad in pink sandstone with white trim, its Baroque features have lent Del Carmen Sanctuary to the imaginations of local writers and film-makers, keen to capture its emotive beauty within their own art.
Featuring an untold array of architectural pleasures, visitors often find it difficult to tear themselves from the tranquility of central Tlalpujahua. Located upon a mountainside, the exterior of the town is equally as breathtaking, owing to its situation upon the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Thickset forests of pine and oak guard the many interlocking rivers of the municipal area, hiding a number of biosphere reserves and protected natural parks. For the ultimate in escapism, head up to the peak of Somera, where it is said the world's end and beginning can be seen!
Attractions & Things To Do in Tlalpujahua
Museo Tecnológico Minero Siglo 19 – Mexico's premier open-air mining museum, featuring re-enactments of daily life and offering tours into the murky depths of Dos Estrellas Mine. With the widest collection of mining artifacts in all of Mexico, the “Gold Town's” museum is an eye-opening experience. Open: Monday - Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm.
La Estanzuela - a local workshop famed for its ceramic production. Tours are offered of the facility, which continues to use indigenous and traditional methods for the creation of breathtaking vases, pots and home-ware. Revisit a time when pottery craft dominated the town's economy and the legacies left behind. Open: Monday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm.