Probably the oldest mining town in North America, Taxco (TAHS-coh) was the Indian village of Tlachco (meaning “place of ball game”) when Hernando Cortés' captains discovered rich gold deposits. Initial development began after José de la Borda, a French miner, arrived in 1716 and amassed an immense fortune. Borda's initial impact on the mining industry was carried on by a young American named William Spratling, who came to Taxco in 1929 to write a book. Stranded in Mexico after his publisher went broke, Spratling turned to the silver business. He opened a retail outlet and found apprentices among the local youth, many of whom went on to become proprietors of their own silver shops.
Plaza Borda, Taxco's main square, is typical of those in other old Mexican towns: tree shaded, with benches for relaxation and a bandstand for musical performances. The shops in and around the plaza specialize in silver, and shopping for it is undoubtedly the most popular tourist activity in town. The range of items in Taxco's more than 300 silver shops covers everything from inexpensive trinkets to artistic pieces selling for hundreds of dollars.
The price is usually determined by weight, and many shops sell both retail (menudeo) and wholesale (mayoreo). Always check for the stamp bearing the numerals “.925,” which certifies that it is at least 92.5 percent sterling silver, and for the two-letter initials signifying the manufacturer. If you're looking for items at the less expensive end of the scale, try the Silver Market (Mercado de Artesanías Plata), a block or so southeast of Plaza Borda; the stalls here carry a huge selection of rings, chains and other jewelry.
Much pageantry is associated with Holy Week (Semana Santa). On Palm Sunday an image of Christ on a donkey departs the nearby village of Tehuilotepec, east of town, for a processional to Taxco. Candlelit processions by penitentes take place nightly, culminating on Holy Thursday, when the Last Supper is staged in front of the Church of Santa Prisca. The Resurrection re-enactment takes place on Saturday evening, and another processional occurs on Easter Sunday. If you plan on being in town during Holy Week, make hotel reservations in advance.
The weeklong National Silver Fair (Feria Nacional de la Plata), held the last week in November or the first week in December, is Mexico's foremost silversmith competition. Each year judges confer international recognition to artisans whose designs and workmanship are deemed superior. Craftsmen from around the world display and sell their wares.
Another annual event of interest to visitors is Alarcón Days (Jornadas Alarconianas). This cultural and artistic festival offers painting expositions, band serenades in Plaza Borda and musical performances during the last three weekends in May; check with the State Tourism Office for exact dates. Presentations of plays by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, a Taxco native born of noble Spanish parentage who wrote his works during the same period as Miguel de Cervantes, are given in city plazas.
Steep, narrow roads, infrequent street name designations and many one-way streets make driving in Taxco difficult. Walking is the best way to explore. Combis are a convenient and inexpensive means of local transportation; rides in these white Volkswagen minibuses are about 50c (U.S.) in town. Taxi fares in town average about $3 to $4; taxis also are available for visiting points of interest in the surrounding area.
A particularly scenic way to appreciate Taxco's mountain setting is by taking a ride on the Monte Gondola, which departs near the entrance to town. The cars hold up to four people, and the views as they ascend to the Hotel Monte Taxco are spectacular. There are a few shops and a snack bar at the top, and another panoramic vista from the hotel terrace. The cable car operates daily; the last car comes down at 6:50 p.m. A one-way ticket is 45 pesos; round trip 65 pesos. The fare for children is 30 pesos one way, 45 pesos round trip. You also can take a taxi back down.
“Tour guides” will eagerly approach visitors around Plaza Borda. Ask to see their credentials, and beware of freelance guides who are not federally licensed or government sponsored. The State Tourism Office can recommend a reliable licensed guide.
Visitor InfoGuerrero State Tourism Office (Secretaría de Fomento Turístico) Mex. 95 TAXCO, GR . Phone:(762)622-6616
Things to SeeCacahuamilpa Caves National Park