Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was the Royal Inland Road, also known as the Silver Route. The inscribed property consists of 55 sites and five existing World Heritage sites lying along a 1400 km section of this 2600 km route, that extends north from Mexico City to Texas and New Mexico, United States of America. The route was actively used as a trade route for 300 years, from the mid-16th to the 19th centuries, mainly for transporting silver extracted from the mines of Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí, and mercury imported from Europe. Although it is a route that was motivated and consolidated by the mining industry, it also fostered the creation of social, cultural and religious links in particular between Spanish and Amerindian cultures.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro constitutes a part of the Spanish Intercontinental Royal Route from Mexico City to Santa Fe. The property, consists of five existing urban World Heritage sites and 55 other sites related to the use of the road, such as bridges, former haciendas, historic centres/towns, a cemetery, former convents, a mountain range, stretches of road, a mine, chapels/temples and caves within a 1,400 km stretch of the road between Mexico City and the Town of Valle de Allende. The Camino was an extraordinary phenomenon as a communication channel. Silver was the driving force that generated the wealth and commitment of the Spanish Government and the will of colonists to ‘open up’ the northern territory for mining, to establish the necessary towns for workers and to build the forts, haciendas, and churches. The outcome of this highly profitable process was the development of mines, and the construction of the road and bridges, the establishment of multi-ethnic towns, with elaborate buildings that reflect a fusion of Spanish and local decoration, an agricultural revolution in the countryside centered on large hacienda estates with churches, and the movement of peoples up and down the road, facilitated to a great degree initially by settlements of muleteers, all of which led to the development of a distinctive culture along the route. Ultimately the wealth of silver led to massive economic development in Spain and other parts of Europe and a period of great economic inflation. The impact of the road was enormous in terms of social tensions as well as ultimately social integration between the many people that came to be involved in the economic development. The structures in the property together reflect some aspects of this interchange of ideas and people along the southern stretch of the road.
Criterion (ii): The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro became one of the most important routes to bond the Spanish Crown with its northern domains in the Americas. Along the southern part of the route is a collection of sites related to work in mines and haciendas, merchant trading, military, evangelism and the administrative structure designed to control the immense territory from the Spanish metropolitan hub, adapted to the local environment, materials and technical practices, that reflect an outstanding interchange of cultural and religious ideas.
Criterion (iv): An ensemble of sites along the southern part of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, including examples of buildings, architectural and technological ensembles, illustrate a significant stage in human history - the Spanish colonial exploitation of silver and the transformation of associated rural and urban landscapes.
The component parts of the serial nomination illustrate the variety and diversity of functions and physical components that reflect the impact of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Some of the parts are vulnerable to inadequately controlled development, particularly of new roads, the disturbance of landscape settings, and physical neglect of fabric.
The specific way individual components reflect the overall impact of the road need to be set out more clearly in order that their individual contributions can be better reflected and understood, particularly in the case of existing inscribed World Heritage properties.
Management and protection requirements
Considerable legal protection is in place at federal, state and local levels. In terms of archaeology, the sites and particularly the road itself are less well protected. The conservation condition of most of the 60 nominated properties is generally good.
Management arrangements exist at federal level, trough the National Institute on Anthropology and History (INAH), and at state level in each of the ten states concerned. The management systems for the majority of the components are adequate and the overview role of the INAH is appropriate. Although there is no overall coordinated formal management framework for all components, the National Conference of Governors has committed to support the project of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro through the formation of a coordinating work group.
There is a need to define and protect the setting of the nominated sites beyond the proposed buffer zones when related to landscape structures; to put in place legal protection for all the individual sites; and to establish an overall coordinated management system that encompasses all the sites.
The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro developed to serve the great mining initiatives in northern Mexico during the Spanish colonial period, with attendant farming, grazing and military support for mining activities. Concurrently, evangelists devoted themselves to the spiritual life of indigenous people and settlers who accompanied the mining process.
In the early stages the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was not fixed in all its points and tracts. Even in later years it was not one fixed route, but can be seen as a gradual development of routes that linked what is now Mexico City to the remoter areas of the north where the mines and new towns were created. And along these routes, since the 16th century were planned development of forts, towns and haciendas to protect the routes.
The discovery of the mines of Zacatecas in 1546 was the fundamental starting point for this process, since it was indispensable to protect people and to guarantee the safe delivery of silver, mercury and the goods that were essential to supply the needs of the mining towns.
The wealth of the American North was exploited by conquerors, clerics and traders from Spain between 16th and 19th centuries. The first stages of the route linked the mines of Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí to the city of México, capital of the viceroyalty of Nueva España.
The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was itself connected, through Mexico City, to stretches of the Intercontinental Camino Real reaching Spanish dominions in the Philippines, Florida, the Antilles and the American South. Mexico City was linked overland to the port of Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, to service the European trade and overland to the port of Acapulco on the Mexican Pacific coast, to link to the Asian trade.
The expansion of the route later continued north to the villa of Santa Fe of the viceroyalty of Nuevo Mexico founded in 1598, today the State of Nuevo Mexico, USA.
In 1552 the mines of Guanajuato were discovered and they quickly led to great wealth. That discovery was followed by the development of mines at San Martín, Fresnillo, Sombrerete, Chalchihuites, Nieves, Mazapil, Indé, Santa Bárbara, Parral and Pinos, all between 1556 and 1604.
Increasing quantities of silver were exported to Spain and large amounts of currency were coined at the Casa de Moneda of México, the first Mint of America, founded in 1535. All this led to a huge growth of international trade, to the monetarisation of the world economy and, in 18th century, one of the first global economic revolutions.
The operation of the Camino Real led to a wide range of architectural, urban, industrial, highway and cultural development. The intensive silver production, exploration and growth of trade laid the foundations for the reales de minas (royal mining camps) and their protective frontier institutions, the presidios and misiones. New cities exerted administrative, economic, political, religious and regional control to ensure continuity for early Spanish villas, with Indian settlements as essential sources of farm-workers.
Along the route, as it extended through the north of the viceroyalty of Nueva España, landmarks were introduced to signpost the route, especially when far from population nuclei. An understanding of the natural environment and its topography was essential to build safe, controllable roads for all forms of transport, as well as infrastructure for the mercantile traffic - bridges, paving and fords. This reality configured the character of each section of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the propagation of Catholic dogma and the Hispanic language followed the trade.
The route had several periods of prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries. This prosperity waxed and waned as new mines were discovered, epidemics took hold or there were hostilities. Taking a broad overview, the 16th century was the foundation of al that followed and the settlements and churches built then are of great importance as setting out the way ideas from Spain were modified for the needs of the territory. The late 16th century and early 17th century were periods of great expansion and prosperity in some places when wealthy mines were discovered, and towns were founded, such as Zacatecas which grew rapidly in an unplanned way.
Other towns were set up as staging posts along the road as were forts and land allocated for Spaniards to develop haciendas - in many cases in conjunction with mining activities. The road itself remained mostly unpaved and hazardous and difficult to navigate in wet weather although a few early bridges were created. Planned mining towns followed in the late 17th century such as San Luis Potosí, and these were sited some way from the mines they supported.
The second general period of prosperity, also based on the silver mines, was the second half of the 18th century. During this period money was spent on rebuilding churches - many from adobe to stone, in providing stone bridges over rivers and streams and in enlarging haciendas.
The third general period of prosperity was after the Wars of Independence in the mid 19th century when the opening up of the route into New Mexico led to increased trade with the north, and in a variety of goods, not just silver. Again many churches were rebuilt, as were houses and civil buildings in the towns and cities.
The road began its decline as a conduit for silver with the advent of the railways. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation