A Visit to Pozos: Short and Sweet
Surrounded by the hazy blue peaks of the Sierra Gorda, Mineral de Pozos (commonly called just Pozos) is a lovely little has-been. At its peak a formidable mining town supporting some 70,000 people, its mines over the course of several hundred years produced lead, mercury, copper, and iron as well as silver. In the 20th century the combined effects of war (the Revolution and to a lesser extent the Cristero Revolt), flooding, and declining silver prices finally closed the mines, and the town's population dwindled to some 200 hardy souls.
Today the abandoned mines as well as Pozos' deliciously decrepit adobe homes and few restored mansions attract visitors interested in exploring outside the major destinations. The town's quiet streets and clear skies draw artisans and fine artists, too; a few have opened galleries or sell out of their homes by appointment (see Travel Guide page). Although tourism here arrives as a trickle rather than a torrent, couples and families from the surrounding area come for a short jaunt into the countryside or a relaxing weekend.
At 2,305 m (7,562 ft) above sea level, Pozos occupies in high desert chaparral environment that's slightly higher, and thus slightly greener, than neighboring San Miguel de Allende and Querétaro, both about 45 minutes away by car. The environment supports low-moisture plants like cholla and nopal cactus, agave, mesquite, and the native huizache tree.
Some friends and I recently visited the Santa Brígida (St. Brigit) mines, accessed by a rutted dirt road at the entrance to Pozos. One of our group knew of don Raimundo Torres, who worked the mines until they closed in 1965. A couple of local boys pointed us to the home of this spare and grizzled old gent. Although it was Sunday, don Raimundo agreed to show us around, pointing out the copper still visible in the rock, the triple smelters built early on by the Jesuits, and the pit and shaft mines built by private mining concerns after the religious order's expulsion in 1767.
In his soft-spoken Spanish, 79-year-old don Raimundo showed us the water tanks used for cooling the milling machines that once separated mercury from the area's volcanic rock, the remains of elevators used to lower men and materials into tiros (shaft mines), and the old electrical plant bearing a plaque dated 1898. Trimmed in deep red, the mine owner's white mansion is still---from the outside---totally intact and shows little evidence of graffiti or other abuse. Since the mines closed, don Raimundo has survived by caring for the property as well as planting modest fields of corn and beans.
Our visit was in early June 2009. The midday heat was powerful, and we were glad for the water we'd brought and hats to mitigate the burning sun. Thanking our guide for the tour, we gave him 200 pesos in appreciation for his time and interesting anecdotes before heading back to Pozos for a lovely lunch at La Posada de las Minas. Regaining our stamina with lemonade, tacos, and fresh salads, we saw some interesting artwork at Galería 6 and hit a small stand selling geodes, polished rocks, and fossils before heading back to our homes in San Miguel de Allende.
Like Real de Catorce, the former mining town in the arid northern region of San Luis Potosí state, Pozos is positioning itself for a comeback. Real estate agents sell fixer-uppers as well as new and refurbished homes with modern amenities. For now things are still quiet, peaceful, friendly, and decidedly low-key.
See the Travel Guide for restaurants, lodgings, galleries and other information about Pozos.
MINERAL DE POZOS LOCAL LISTINGS
MINERAL DE POZOS LOCAL LISTINGS