By Mitchell Davis
A few weeks ago the students of CGE Mexico Fall 2014 headed south to tour the ornate town of Taxco, which is located in the state of Guerrero and known throughout the world for its production of silver goods.
Taxco de Alarcón, usually just referred to as Taxco, sits in a geographical basin surrounded by large and scenic mountains. The name “Taxco” is thought to have evolved from the indigenous nahuatl word tlacheco which means the “place of the ballgame”. In fact the municipalities coat-of-arms is an Aztec glyph of a Mesoamerican ball court with rings, skulls and players. “Alarcón” is in honor of the 16th century writer Juan Ruiz de Alarcón who was native to Taxco.
The original city of Taxco was first inhabited by indigenous peoples in a place about ten kilometers south of the city as its known today. In pre-hispanic times this city was thought to be the most important in the region as it held the seat of the Aztec governor who presided over seven districts.
The modern Spanish town of Taxco, located in an area once known as Tetelcingo, was founded in 1529 when Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés and his men happened upon the abundant silver mines of the city while looking for metal to make their weapons.
Because of the Spanish influence and its desire to transform and control the native peoples, all the buildings in Taxco were made to a certain code of conformity dictating white outer walls and red tiled roofs that is still in practice today. If someone wanted to design their house or building in a different way it would be possible but they would be forced to pay a ridiculously steep increase in taxes. Another interesting feature of Taxco are its sidewalk-less streets made of black stones and decorated with lines and designs of white stone.
Probably the most intricate architectural find in Taxco however is the Santa Prisca Church in the center of the city. Santa Prisca was finished in 1758 only eight years after its start, which is unheard of as churches of its kind averaged 150-200 years in construction. José de la Borda donated the church with the rational that he made his fortune from the silver mines and wanted to give back to god. The church is filled with embellishments and intricacies of every nature as it was made in the Baroque style that is known for exaggeration.
While Taxco is known as the city of silver it is also internationally known for ceremonies of self-penitence during holy week each year. Three groups of people the Animas, Encruzados and Flagelentes, wear black robes and black hoods with eyeholes to remain anonymous and make a two and a half kilometer procession of various forms of self-torture.
This sterling city of white houses, self-penitence, and decadent rooms of worship will be a hard one to forget.
(Descriptions for underneath pictures)
1. sidewalk-less streets with intricate designs
2. floral street pattern
3. intricate street pattern
4. ballgame street mosaic
5. statues depicting the three forms of penitence for holy week
6. side view of Santa Prisca
7. Front of Santa Prisca
8. German organ in Santa Prisca that was brought all the way from Germany and reassembled
9. “exaggerated” inner walls of the baroque styled church
10. rooftop view of Santa Prisca