When visiting the silver capital of Mexico your trip isn’t complete until you explore a traditional silver mine! Dubbed La Valenciana Mine this area wasn’t just home to any ordinary mines. It was once one of the world’s largest silver mining areas, producing over one third of the world’s entire silver.
This adopted name actually describes the various mines located around the town of Valenciana, the most notable being Bocamina de San Cayetano and Bocamina San Ramon but everyone visiting says La Valenciana Mine. These mine complexes are located about 5 kilometers north of Guanajuato city.
Silver was discovered in the 1500’s and this area became a behemoth in the mining industry with its peak mining the 1700’s. The Valenciana area produced over one third of the world’s silver.
For generations workers were enslaved by their Spanish owners and forced to work long days in the mines. After Mexico’s independence in the 1800’s miners were now paid a small wage but the conditions were still grueling. Miners had to crawl through small shafts, most with only a candle for light. Those bringing the ore up from the mine shaft had to crawl and carry over 40 kilograms of weight up to 600 meters or more in near total darkness.
Entrance fee to the mine is 60 mx pesos per person, plus tip for the guide after the tour.
To get to the Valenciana mine you can find a bus is at the Parada de Autobus, next to the Mercado Hidalgo, the local market. You need to look for the bus that says Valenciana in the window and ask to be dropped off at Templo de San Cayetano Confesor. Cost is 10 mx pesos per person and they run frequently each hour. To get back to town cross the street opposite of the church to find the bus stop.
The tour itself is provided by ex-miners and also a few university students. Most of the guides do not speak English but visiting the mine and neighboring church, San Cayento is still worth the trip out of town.
Upon entering the mine you receive a hard hand and first visit the old model room with reconstructions of the area’s most notable mines. From there you make your decent, 60 meters into the dark underground. The mine shaft is composed of stairs with a rope to help you descend.
Although mostly in Spanish, all of the guides are very knowledgeable to the workings of the mine, especially if they were a former mine worker themselves. You learn the history of Guanajuato’s silver mining along with the horrible working conditions the minors faced each and every day. You also learn about the various minerals taken out of the ground and the sheer quantity that was removed from this area.
I have toured this mine twice now over the years and the tourism factor has definitely grown. The first time I visited there were no trinket shops or stalls and the guide I had spoke English. The second time I visited the mine was very busy with constant tour vans and we were just placed into a random group so they could cycle as many people through. It was a holiday week, which might explain the busyness but even though busy the tour was not rushed. With that, this tour along with the neighboring church are definitely worth your time visiting Guanajuato.
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