Street in Taxco, circa 1939

Here we have one of my older Mexican postcards showing a street in the small city usually known as Taxco but more formally named Taxco de Alarcón, the administrative center of a municipality located in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Taxco is located in the north-central part of the state, 36 kilometers (22 miles) from the city of Iguala, 135 kilometers (84 miles) from the state capital of Chilpancingo and 170 kilometers (106 miles) southwest of Mexico City.

The city is heavily associated with silver, both with the mining of it and other metals and for the crafting of it into jewelry, silverware and other items. Today, mining is no longer a mainstay of the city’s economy. The city’s reputation for silverwork, along with its picturesque homes and surrounding landscapes, have made tourism the main economic activity.

The postcard features a street scene painted by F. Lugo which has a 1939 copyright notice on the message side, and was published by Eugenio Fischgrund in in Mexico City. Fischgrund was the owner of Editorial de Arte, a publishing house of books and postcards located at Isabel La Catolica, 30-205, Mexico City. He showcased Mexican art and folklore, especially regional costumes. Fischgrund’s postcards were often made in collaboration with the photographer Luis Márquez (1899–1978), and he also published postcards employing watercolors by Charles X. Carlson (1902–1991), F. Lugo, and Rafael Martínez Padilla (1878–1958).

This example bears a 6-centavo stamp issued to mark the opening of the highway between Mexico City and Guadalajara and is either Scott #759 released in 1940 or Scott #789 from 1944 (the difference being the watermark which is impossible to check with the stamp affixed to the postcard). It was mailed on the night of June 26, 1944 to Andover, New Jersey, U.S.A.

The name Taxco is most likely derived from the Nahuatl place name Tlachco, which means “place of the ballgame”. However, one interpretation has the name coming from the word tatzco which means “where the father of the water is,” due to the high waterfall near the town center on Atatzin Mountain. “De Alarcón” is in honor of writer Juan Ruiz de Alarcón who was a native of the town. Like many municipalities in central Mexico, the municipality’s coat-of-arms is an Aztec glyph. This glyph is in the shape of a Mesoamerican ballcourt with rings, players and skulls, derived from the most likely source of Taxco’s name.

Before the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, the indigenous community known as “Taxco” was not located where the modern city is now. The name referred to a village about ten kilometers to the south, which is now referred to as Taxco El Viejo (Old Taxco). In pre-Hispanic times, this village was the most important in the area as it was the seat of the Aztec governor who presided over tribute collection in the surrounding seven districts. The modern Spanish town of Taxco was founded by Hernán Cortés in an area previously known as Tetelcingo, because of the abundance of silver here.

Mining here began in the pre-Hispanic period with natives extracting a number of stones for decorative and ritual purposes. The Spanish discovered silver lodes here in around 1532, which started commercial silver mining in the area. Mining operations in the area during the early colonial period was carried out mostly by mining haciendas such as the Hacienda del Chorrillo and the Hacienda San Juan Bautista, established by Cortés or his knights. In the mid 18th century, José de la Borda arrived to Taxco and started more modern operations in mines called Pedregal, El Coyote, San Ignacio and Cerro Perdido.

Street scene near the main plaza in Taxco, Guerrero State, Mexico, photographed on 25 December 2013

For most of the colonial period, the area was sparsely populated, including the town of Taxco itself. For this reason, it was governed as a dependency of Mexico City. When the modern state of Guerrero was created in 1850, Taxco was chosen to be the seat of the municipality of the same name. Since it was the only town of any size in the area, the town was taken a number of times during a number of different conflicts. During the Mexican War of Independence, it was taken by Hermenegildo Galeana in 1815. During the Reform Wars, it was taken by Porfirio Diaz in 1865. During the Mexican Revolution, it was taken by Jesus Moran and Margarito Giles in 1911, and occupied by Carranza’s forces in 1916.

Silversmithing was reinvigorated in Taxco by American William Spratling, who moved to the town in the 1920s, creating silver design workshops and exported items, mostly to the United States. With its fame for silversmithing, tourism became a major economic force in Taxco. In 1940, Taxco had a population of 4,963. This had more than doubled to 10,023 by 1950. The population in 2010 was 52,217.

Street scene with Piñatas public art in Taxco, Guerrero State, Mexico, photographed on 25 December 2013

Silverwork and tourism related to Taxco’s status as a silver town is the mainstay of the economy. Mining is no longer a major employer in the city; the last major mining operation on the outskirts of town, Industrial Minera México S.A., phased out operations beginning in 2007 due to the depletion of reserves and labor problems. Most commercial activity related to silver is the production and sale of silver jewelry, silverware and other goods. Commerce in silver here is both regional and international. Streets in the town are filled with silvershops selling jewelry, silverware and other goods. The city has been named one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magical Towns) due to the quality of the silverwork, the colonial constructions and the surrounding scenery.

Taxco lies along Mexican Federal Highway 95 and the toll road Mexican Federal Highway 95D. Taxco has two long-distance bus stations: the Terminal Estrella de Oro in the south and the Autobuses Estrella Blanca station in the northeast. There is no airport in Taxco. Transport within Taxco is generally by taxi, or “Kombis”—converted Volkswagen vans that serve as minibuses.

Typical VW Beetle taxis in Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero, Mexico, photographed by Alejandro Linares Garcia on 23 August 2009.

The climate in Taxco is mild, with average highs around 27 °C (81 °F) and average lows around 17 °C (63 °F) year-round. The dry season lasts from November to April, with rains typically occurring from June to September.

The city of Taxco lies on very rugged terrain and has steep, irregular streets. The streets are also narrow and generally lack sidewalks, making them picturesque but dangerous. Adding to the charm is that most streets are paved with dark stones, adorned with lines, pictures and even murals of white stone. Some of the pictures in the street are from the Zodiac and meant to indicate certain commercial activities in times past. One example of this is the sign of Taurus near the Church of Santa Prisca, which used to indicate the area of butcher shops. Buildings in the city typically have Spanish-style, red-tile roofs.

Cristo de Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero State, Mexico, photographed on 23 August 2010. Photograph provided by Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones, México D. F., México.

The town’s main plaza, officially called Plaza Borda after José de la Borda, is commonly referred to as the Zócalo. On the north side of this plaza is the Casa Borda (Borda House), the most important non-religious construction in the city. The front facing the Zócalo has two stories, but the back, facing the Plaza de Bernal, has five. This is due to the uneven ground on which the house was built. Much of the house is now dedicated to the Casa de Cultura (Cultural Center) where classes in languages, fine arts and sports such as judo are taught. The rest of the main plaza is surrounded by silver shops, restaurants and bars.

Holy Week in Taxco involves elaborate processions and ceremonies that have gained international fame. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, there are ten major processions, six during the evening and four during the day. Most processions are about two and a half kilometers long and take about two hours to complete. These commemorations date back to at least 1622 when they began in the atrium of the Church of the former monastery of San Bernardino de Siena. Now these processions and ceremonies center upon the Santa Prisca Church.

Bell towers of the Sanctuary of St Prisca at Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero State, Mexico, photographed by Michael Wassmer on 5 May 2005.

Other notable events include the San Antonio Abad Festival in January, the Jornadas Alarconianas (Alarconian Days) in May, the Jumil Festival in October, and the National Silver Fair in late November and early December.

Maize is a staple of food in Taxco. Common dishes include pozole and tacos. Dishes distinctive of Taxco include jumiles (a type of stink bug) prepared in tacos or Mole sauce, cecina (a cured meat), plum and bean tamales, and a drink called berta (honey margarita). Criollo cheese is a local specialty.


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