Historic Town of San Sebastián del Oeste

Date of Submission: 20/11/2001
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
INAH/CONALMEX Puebla 95, Colonia Roma06700 Mexico E-mail: direccion.pmundial@inah.gob.mx
Coordinates: 20°45'30" N - 104°51'30" W
Ref.: 1590
Cultural landscapes

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On January 20 1605, the mines of San Sebastián del Oeste were discovered, and consequently, the town was founded. Since then, the town has had a close relationship with its surroundings, which cover more than 1,970 square kilometres. The town itself now spreads over 37 partially settled hectares.

San Sebastian del Oeste was one the main mining centres in the New Spain during the Colonial period. By 1785, ten gold and silver reduction haciendas and nearly 30 mines had been established there. The small town became a city in 1812, and reached its full maturitv around 1830. San Sebastian's productivity was halted by the 1910 military revolution, and soon after, foreign companies in charge of mining works moved to other areas. The last mine was abandoned 1921, and San Sebastian fell into complete oblivion. Nowadays, its main economic activities involve agriculture, stockbreeding, increasing tourism and to a lesser degree, forestry.

The rough topography of the land only allowed for an irregular lay out following a main east-west axis. The town is crossed by a river, on whose banks several XVIII and XIX century foundries were established. Building materials and structural solutions inherited from traditional Spanish architecture resulted in the use of large retaining walls and baseboards to protect buildings from moisture. Features such as public squares, like the Main Plaza and the Consistorial or Bone Plaza, winding alleyways, original stone pavements, plastered mud-brick walls, archways, attics and wooden and tile roofs are part of an integrated typology and constitute the town's distinctive traits. The southern part of town is on higher ground, and from here a series of terraces offer a panoramic view of the downhill succession of roofs belonging to buildings dating to the XVII, XVIR and XIX centuries, most of which are still in good condition.

The natural context (flora and fauna) is likewise an extremely important feature of this site. To this day, it remains almost in pristine condition, and is a perfect complement to the town's urban image. Ravines, hills, trees, etc., along with the town's lay out and architecture are part of one harmonic whole. San Sebastian del Oeste is a clear example of the important role played by the environment in shaping the urban image of rural settlements.