Spread along the Rio Papaloapam, high in the Sierra Norte north of the city of Oaxaca, are the ruins of Spanish haciendas that were built and inhabited during the years of Spanish exploitation of the mineral riches of the area.
According to historical records, Cortés learned of the possible existence of gold and silver in the Sierras and immediately sent scouts in search of the minerals. They returned with the news that the mountains were indeed rich with gold and silver ore, and Cortés, ever the opportunist, claimed the entire Central Valley of Oaxaca for himself (year 1521). The Spaniards built the infrastructure needed for mining operations and constructed aqueducts, large haciendas, stone bridges, and a church. These remains are located deep in a lush valley near the villages of San Miguel Amatlán and Lachatao.
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The Friday hikers explored El Socorro, the first section of the Spanish ruins.
A sinuous highway (the highway signs said so!) led us through seemingly endless mountains that offered spectacular vistas. Local people navigate narrow gravel roads that zig-zag up the mountainsides to their villages.
Winding River, Winding Road
After climbing to the mountaintop to pick up our guides in the tiny village of Amatlán, our excellent bus driver maneuvered to the valley floor on a dirt road that was clearly not designed for a school bus! He received a loud cheer and applause when we reached the fork where the hikers got off and started down the trail, while he continued on to a wide spot where he was faced with the daunting task of turning the bus around!
Our guides hopped off the bus and cleared rocks from the “road.”
Trail to the old mines
Who Lives Here?
The guide said it’s a casa de arañas, or spider house. Friendly spiders, of course!
Ruins of the Hacienda
Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the clean, clear waters of the Rio Papaloapam.
Perfect circles of pink blossoms crown these fat cactus
Epiphytes grow anywhere and everywhere they can find a resting place. Some cactus favor the tops of old stone walls, while other prefer to just hang around.
At the end of a long day of busing, hiking, and exploring…what could be better than relaxing and spending the night in a cabaña with a view!
For information on ecotourism in The Sierra Norte, and how YOU TOO could hike in these magnificent mountains and end your day in one of many charming cabañas:
Several of the photos in this blog were taken by my husband, David, who has become a hiker and photographer too!