The History of Silver in Taxco, Mexico                  

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The history of silver in Taxco is a fascinating combination of legend and fact. Located in the hills between Acapulco and about 100 miles Southwest of Mexico City, Taxco in the state of Guerrero is one ofPhoto of taxco hills with churchthe oldest mining sites located in the Americas. It has retained its natural charm with its colonial ambiance, red-tiled roofs, cobble-stoned, narrow winding streets and the towering, impressive 240 year old Santa Prisca Catheral. It's natural wealth of silver attracted early Conquistadors.

Before the Spanish arrived the native Indians called it Tlacho meaning the place of the ballgame. According to local legend the Aztecs had the locals pay tribute to them with gold bars.  Hernan Cortes arrived and the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in 1521.   A year afterwards Cortes staked his mining claim in Taxco. By the end of the century, silver from Taxco had spread across Europe, and remote Taxco was reknowed for its wealth of silver. It had become Spain's primary source in the New World of precious metals and had become a busy mining area.  Mining gradually decreased in the Taxco area as other richer and more accessible mining areas were discovered and developed, and eventually faded out for almost 200 years.

Photo of twin belfries of taxco church In 1716  Don Jose de la Borda (a Spaniard of French descent)   rediscovered silver in Taxco, when as legend has it,  he was riding and wandering in the hills of Taxco and he spotted a rich silver vein. He struck a fortune in Taxco and in gratitude built among other things (schools, roads, houses) the beautiful and now famous Santa Prisca Catherdral, an ornate catherdral with lots of gold trim in the Spanish Baroque style (Don Jose's son served as a priest in this church). The church can be seen from all over Taxco, glitters in the sunlight and has become a focal point for the pueblo. Don Jose is still considered the "father" of Taxco, although he eventually left the area when he became over-extended, and left his mines unworked.

Thereafter more than a dozen other beautiful churches were built in this small town from other successful miners.

Between the 1600's and the 1800's Boliva, Peru and Mexico grew to produce about 85% of the worlds silver production.

During Mexico's 19th century war for Independence the Spanish barons destroyed their mines rather than lose them to the revolutionaries, and the art of silver work died out in Taxco for quite some time.

In the late 1920's the highway from Mexico City finally reached Taxco and in 1926, William Spratling, a U.S. citizen  and associate architecture professor from Tulane University arrived in Taxco to study Mexico and its culture. In1929 he moved to Mexico and was welcomed into the influential artistic circles of Mexico. In 1931 U.S. Ambassor Dwight Morrow commented to Mr. Spratling that Taxco had been the site of silver mines for centuries, but unfortunately had never been considered a location where jewelry and objects of silver were designed and made. This seemingly insignificant comment changed the course of Taxco's artistic and economic history. 

 Mr. Spratling discovered the potential talent in the locals and motivated the community artisans to create designs and rediscover the craft of silversmithing. With his own designs he created an apprentice system of training young silversmiths with artistic talent and gave them the opportunity to develope their skill. He brought in from Iguala a  highly regarded goldsmith to teach the art of working precious metal. The great beauty and craftmanship coming out of Taxco earned worldwide recognition and fame once again for Mexico. Over time many of these artisans opened workshops and stores of their own- all encouraged by his unwavering support. Now considered the great old masters of  Mexican Silver, Mr. Antonio Pineda along with former fellow apprentices the Castillos, Ledesma, and Chino Ruiz have produced and continue to craft some of the most highly regarded, collectable pieces of art, vases, serving sets and jewelry. Their work continues to inspire the next generation of silversmiths and artisans who now number in the hundreds.

William Spratling passed away in 1967 due to a car accident just outside his beloved Taxco.   Throughout Mexico Spratling is widely regarded as "The Father of Mexican Silver". A silver bust of Mr. Spratling resides in the town's silver museum, alongside images of Don Jose de la Borda, and The Spratling Museum behind the Santa Prisca Catherdral, houses the Spratling Collection of silver and Pre-columbian figures that he left to the town of Taxco.   For more information about Spratling visit the www.SpratlingSilver.com  website.

Each November, during the last week of the month, Taxco honors its source of wealth and fame with the world             photo looking down onto taxco and church      famous Silver Fair (or Feria Nacional de La Plata in Spanish), when  the craftsmen, artists and silversmiths show their work and a national prize is awarded to the best silver artist of the Fair.

When in Taxco you may want to visit the Spratling Museum, the Museo Virreynal de Taxco (3 stories divided into sections showing different periods of time and people in Taxco's history, many artifacts displayed were recently found in a hidden chamber of a local church during restoration), and of course don't miss the Santa Prisca Cathedral.  Visit the www.taxco.com website for more about  what is going in Taxco today, and learn more about the interesting history of silver in Taxco.

 

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