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CHIHUAHUA

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CHIHUAHUA MEXICO

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A city of contrasts in a dry and sandy area, a refulgent capital in the middle of the desert. This is the place where Chihuahua stands, with its temples of colonial origin, with its buildings of avant-garde lines, with its hundreds of assembly industries and its cowboy boots on exhibit in the glass cases of the shops.

Chihuahua - capital of the homonymous state - should not be considered just a drive-through place, with no history, no attractions, hardly known for the great number of assembly industries that have taken root in these northern lands, specially in Juarez City.

Due to its closeness to the United States, the Chihuahua people face a new crossbreed nowadays, one that mixes the Mexican traditions and cultural features with the lifestyles that its gigantic neighbour, located across the river, irradiates. The clash is evident in the architecture, the artistic concepts and even in the food, characteristics that give the city a distinctive touch.

Founded in 1709 by Don Antonio Daza, the city enjoyed prosperity during its first years, due to the bonanza of the neighbouring mines and the presence of the Catholic religious orders, which fostered the construction of beautiful temples in the XVIII century, mostly in the baroque style.

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The "Houses of God" stood upright along the streets of a city taking pride on its mineral wealth. In this way surged the Cathedral, a masterpiece made of pink stone, which construction took more than a century; and the church of San Francisco, of great historical importance for it had housed, in absolute secrecy, the remains of father Miguel Hidalgo, the initiator of the heroic deed for the independence of Mexico.

During the struggle for independence, Chihuahua was the scenario of one of the most outstanding but also dramatic events of that historic period: the shooting in 1811 of father Hidalgo in the central patio of the current Palace of Government. In homage of this illustrious man, the Altar of the Mother Country was built in the same place of the execution to honour his memory.

Years later, the injustices against the natives caused the uprising of Francisco "Pancho" Villa, who leading the famous Northern Division, turned the state into the cradle of the Mexican Revolution. In the present time, his house and headquarters, the Quinta Azul, are an attractive museum allowing us to know the hazardous existence of an historic character that became a legend.

When the revolutionary storm abated, the state of Chihuahua started a slow industrialization process that brought as a consequence the developing of the so called factories (large assembly plants), which have changed the face of this corner of the desert.

What remained unchanged either by the revolution or the industrial boom was the desolate greatness of the desert, the profound beauty of the gullies, the refreshing impetus of the waterfalls, the calm of the woods and the quality of the cultivations of the noted Mexican chilli, which comes mostly from the state of Chihuahua, the largest in the country.

And you do not have to go far from the state's capital in order to test your capacity of awesomeness, for Chihuahua must be one of the few places in the world in which you can travel through time with the mission of discovering the strange way of life of the Mennonites, a religious colony of German origins that lives in the outskirts of the city of Cuauhtemoc.

The Mennonites maintain a lifestyle shunning modernity. Their communities - orderly, vigorous, devoted - seem to be extracted from a history book. And this is because they resist giving up their centenarian habits and rejecting the "advantages" of modernity, and that is why they continue to illuminate their nights with candle lights and to use the power of the horses to pull their wagons.

The journey to the past is prolonged at the Archaeological Complex of Paquime, one of the most important pre-Hispanic legacies from the northern part of Mexico. There are about fifty edifices in this zone, some up to three stories high. The caverns close to the town of Madera, which treasure ancient pre-Hispanic constructions in their interiors, must be visited as well.

Another exclusive attraction are the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper's Gullies), four times wider than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado river in the United States, and with mountains surpassing 3000 meter altitudes. A territory that impresses, that is enjoyed and suffered, or best put, the suffering of the train going from Chihuahua to the Pacific Ocean, the old "charger" that runs through one of the most entangled geographies of the planet, is shared.

The journey to the past is over. Chihuahua - at 1450 kilometres from the City of Mexico - turns back to be the capital gleaming in the middle of the desert, in spite of the heat and the rain showers. A destination that must not be ignored, that should never be kept aside.

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