The Silver Trail

The Silver Trail

In the Heart of the Sierra Madre sits a town of exceptional qualities. Batopilas brings to mind the first intrepid explorers who, in search of mineral riches, ventured into the depths of Copper Canyon. History tells tales of various bonanzas during three centuries of mineral exploitation that generated 300 million ounces of native silver, putting Batopilas in place as one of the most important mining districts in the world.

 At the close of the 19th century, ex-politician and North American Alexander R. Shepherd arrived in Batopilas to take possession of the mines. With immense skill, the Patrón Grande -as he was known – succeeded in realizing the mining dream utilizing advances in technology, streamlined labor, and efficient management to produce 27 million ounces of silver in 30 years of operation by his company, the Batopilas Mining Company.

One of A Shepherd’s great challenges was the transportation of the silver from the mines to the nearest railroad. Not only was the distance a factor, but also the rugged terrain. The closest railroad station to the Batopilas mining district during the operation of the BMC lay in Chihuahua City, a distance of 385 km (240 miles) of which the first 200 had to be traversed on the back of a mule in 5 stages of about 40 km (25 mi) daily. The final 185 km were traveled in wagons drawn by up to 14 mules.

 The Silver Trail Convoys left monthly from the town of Batopilas with cargoes worth an average of $60,000 pesos in silver ingots weighing 35 kg (77 lbs.) each. The number of mules utilized by the convoy varied between 100 and 150, and sometimes as many as 200 mules were necessary to transport the silver shipment.

 The mining company of Batopilas facilitated this enterprise to Chihuahua City by constructing stations at intervals of roughly 40 km, to support and service the convoy, and streamline its progress along the route. At each station was a manager who kept the corrals filled with fodder and made sure that there was hot food and a warm hearth when the arrieros (muleteers) arrived.

The Silver Trail Recreation Project

In a project of regional cooperation, the municipality of Batopilas along with 7 other municipalities along the Silver Route (Guachochi, Carichic, Cusiguariachi, Cuauhtémoc, Gran Morelos, Santa Isabel and Chihuahua) are working together to promote and share not only the cultural legacy of an historic trail but also to highlight the natural wonders of their areas and explore the tourist potential of the Silver Route through the medium of the annual event of the Silver Trail Convoy which takes place in the month of October every year.

 This event recreates the arduous historic marches on mule or horseback, passing through some of the most spectacular country in the world. The Silver Trail pays homage to those muleteers who, with sacrifices and risk had the responsibility of bringing the silver from the mines of Batopilas to the Banco Minero (Miner’s Bank) in Chihuahua City. This event also brings attention to forgotten aspects of our (Mexican) culture such as the significance of the mule driver, highlighting the fact that this activity, so important to our history, is at the point of disappearing. The recognition of this last generation of arrieros and the possibility of keeping them employed via tourist activities justifies this significant event, and also suggests recognition of the moral debt we owe to this profession which has so contributed to the history of our country.

 The message of the 8 municipalities which work together without political agendas is that of regional integration in favor of unity, and the development of cultural and social activities for the benefit of the community.

Click here for a Chronicle of an Adventure on the Silver Trail

 

The Silver Trail Itinerary for 2011 is now posted below, though subject to change. Funding has been difficult to come by this year so we will continue to post all updates here as we receive them. For a full day by day explanation of the trip in Spanish please click here.

Itinerario “Ruta de la Plata”

7 Octubre                   Concentración Batopilas

8 Octubre                   Batopilas

9 Octubre                   Posta Potrero, Batopilas

10 Octubre                 Posta Teboreachi, Batopilas

11 Octubre                 Posta La Laja, Guachochi

12 Octubre                 Posta Pilares, Guachochi

13 Octubre                 Posta Guajochi, Carichic

14 Octubre                 Posta Bacaburiachi, Carichic.

15 Octubre                 Carichic

16 Octubre                 Cusihuarachi

17 Octubre                 Cuauhtémoc

18 Octubre                 Gran Morelos

19 Octubre                 Santa Isabel

20 Octubre                 Chihuahua

21Octubre                  Entrega de la plata en el Banco Minero de Chihuahua

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