Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines
Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world's leading silver-extraction centre in the 18th century. This past can be seen in its 'subterranean streets' and the 'Boca del Inferno', a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m. The town's fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings, resulting from the prosperity of the mines, have influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. The churches of La Compañía and La Valenciana are considered to be among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America. Guanajuato was also witness to events which changed the history of the country.
Guanajuato is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble of a mining operation. Just as the major 18th-century hydraulic works are inextricably linked to an urban topography determined by the confines of the river path and mineral outcrops, so the splendour of the Baroque buildings is directly linked to the wealth of the mines. The churches of La Compañía (1745-65) and above all La Valenciana (1765-88) are masterpieces of the Mexican Churrigueresque style. In the field of the history of technology, Guanajuato may also pride itself on unique artistic achievements such as the 'Boca del Infierno', a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m.
In 1548 the Spaniards, who had settled in the region in 1529, discovered rich outcrops of silver at Guanaxhuata, which means 'Frog Hill' in the Tarasco language. To protect prospectors, miners and the new settlers, four fortified structures were erected at Marfil, Tepetapa, Santa Ana and Cerro del Cuarto, and formed the nuclei of the later town of Guanajuato. Sprawling through a winding valley at an altitude of 2,084 m, Guanajuato differs from the other colonial towns in New Spain because it was not laid out on the standard grid plan. Instead, the scattered areas grew together through the spontaneous urbanization of suitable sites on the rough, natural terrain.
Founded when the silver mines were opened, Guanajuato had a symbiotic relationship with them until the 19th century. Its growth, the layout of its streets, including the picturesque 'subterranean' streets, its plazas, and the construction of hospitals, churches, convents and palaces are all inextricably linked with the industrial history of the region which, with the decline of the Potosí mines in the 18th century, became the world's leading silver extraction centre.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC