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QUERETARO

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To Walk and stop. To watch: An old house of imposing architecture? An ostentatious religious compound with a façade made of stone?… To walk again along evocative streets. To be surprised, to admire, feel that you are going to corners full of memories, to rooms where conspiracies were plotted and, also, to a historic battlefield on which the Apostle James himself might have fought.

To walk from one place to another. Unveiling at each step the attractions and the history of Queretaro, with its Mesoamerican roots and neo-Hispanic architectonic features. This is the City where the struggle for Mexican independence was promoted and where the Mexican constitution was promulgated.

Queretaro, capital of the homonymous State, is a magnificent tourist option in the centre of Mexico, because the variety of its attractions transcends the monumentality of its delightful Historic Centre, to penetrate the unfathomable mysteries of its archaeological compounds.

Located more than 220 kilometres away from the City of Mexico, its name comes from the word "Queréndaro", of the Purépacha language, which translates into "The Main Ball Game" or "Crag Place" in English, terms that reaffirm its pre-Hispanic origin, when the zone was inhabited by the Otomíes, Purépachas, Tarasco and Chichimecas, peoples of lesser development than that of the Aztecs.
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    Before the arrival of the Spaniards, Queretaro was the frontier between the sedentary peoples of the south, dedicated to farming, and the nomad groups of the north, such as the Chichimecas - word translated as "Blood Suckers". Due to their "primitivism" and roving way of life, they were disdained by the Aztecs, who came to the zone in the early XV century.

    The Spanish foundation of Queretaro took place after a bloody fight between the Chichimecas and the Iberian conquistadors. The confrontation unfolded on top the Sangremal Hill, on July the 5th of 1531. According to chronicles written by Franciscan friars, the Apostle James, patron of the Spanish army, appeared in the midst of the battle deciding the Spanish victory.

    In gratitude for the divine intervention, the nascent City received the name of Santiago de Queretaro, being one of the top neighbours the conversed native named Conín, who was baptised as Fernando de Tapia, and who allied with Spaniard Hernán Pérez Bocanegra to confront the Chichimecas.

    In no time the modest town of natives became one of the most opulent cities in the New Spain, the third actually, after Mexico and Puebla. Its growth was supported by its strategic geographic location, which turned it into the gateway to enter the northern part of the country, a zone controlled by "the barbarian peoples of the inland" who "ought to be evangelised".

    The evangelisation task was assumed by the Franciscan, the Carmelite, the Jesuit and the Dominican priests, who before starting their laborious task on the isolated zones, built monumental temples and convents in Queretaro, amongst which the baroque and neoclassical styles are predominant.

    Amazing religious precincts, such as the Temple and former Convent of San Agustin, one of the major works of the Jesuits in New Spain, the Temple and former Convent of Santa Rosa of Viterbo, with its superb interior decoration and exquisite altarpieces, or the exaggerated baroque of the Temple of Santa Clara, stand out.

    The extravagant and sumptuous architecture leapt beyond the religious cloisters to become part of the houses and palaces of colonial roots, and of great civil works such as the aqueducts, conceived to provide the City with water, which due to their greatness have nowadays turned into the urban symbols of Queretaro.

    Though Queretaro not only was an important colonial urban centre, but one of the main scenarios on the efforts to boost the independence, because at the so called House of the Lady Magistrate - currently the Palace of Government - took place the conspiracy that unchained the famous Cry of Dolores, the act which marked the beginning of the Mexican emancipation.

    Once in the skirts of the City, the Pyramid of Cerritos, a religious precinct considered as one of the most important in the central zone of Mexico, should be visited. Other vestiges of much interest are the awesome archaeological zones of Ranas and Toluquilla, on the mountains of Sierra Gorda. Both places had great economic, political and religious influence upon the neighbouring settlements.

    Before leaving Queretaro behind, travellers should take some time in order to visit the rosary of restful towns of narrow streets and beautiful colonial churches located outside the City. The most representatives are San Juan del Rio, with its appealing baroque constructions, and Tequesquipán, with its innumerable stalactites and stalagmites.

    With an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, Queretaro - Cultural Patrimony of Humanity since 1996 - has a variety of attractions that tell us about the creative spirit and the push of its inhabitants, who faced more than one difficulty to sculpt inch by inch a City that dazzles and fascinates travellers.

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