Bajio. Its ideal farming landscape and history as Mexico’s center of industry makes it one of the country’s most prosperous and safest areas.
Bajío is a low-lying region of central Mexico, extending from Zacatecas in the north to Queretaro in the south, with the states of Guanajuato and Aguascalientes in between. Its ideal farming landscape and history as Mexico’s center of industry makes it one of the country’s most prosperous and safest areas.
The Birthplace of Mexican Independence
The region was first developed under Spanish colonial rule starting from the sixteenth century, and the first major source of trade was silver mining. When this began to decline, the Spanish rulers turned their attention to other industries, most commonly agriculture. The most important government officers and positions of power were always occupied by native-born Spaniards which stirred up the resentment within the middle and lower classes as well as the indigenous population. There were numerous rebellions on account ths inequality and the area has a long history of popular uprisings. This rebelliousness became widely known, so much so that this region is popularly known as La Cuna de la Independencia, in recognition of the role it played in severing Mexico’s ties with Spain in the nineteenth century.
The region of Bajío itself is vast, encompassing four separate states as well as parts of three others. The land is very fertile, meaning there are lots of farms and ranches throughout the area, with several hundred kilometers of desert in the north. The northernmost cities are Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi, and would be the first urban centers to be encountered when approaching Bajío from the north. Both cities are large metropolises and have their own unique history but have in common economies that were born through the silver mines. To the west is the city of Aguascalientes, which is currently an important and growing industrialized state centered on auto manufacturing and finance.
Further south lies the city of Guanajuato, one of Mexico’s most interesting and beautiful cities. A university town, it’s large student population gives it a youthful feel, and its Baroque architecture is second to none. Not far from Guanajuato is the city of Dolores Hidalgo. This town marks the exact location from where the Grito de la Independencia was proclaimed in 1810 by independence leader Miguel Hidalgo, today considered to be the Father of the Nation. The town celebrates this event every year with the Fiesta de Septiembre: a ten day festival of sporting and cultural events which ends with a reenactment of the Grito. And a little south of Dolores is the charming town of San Miguel de Allende, a place popular with Canadian and American retirees, mostly attracted by its Spanish colonial architecture and domed churches. Such is its popularity that about 10% of its population is foreign born, and there’s even a Starbucks in the main square!
If you’re looking for a trip away from party-centric beaches and the frenetic pace of Mexico City, then the Sierra Gorda, located principally in the state of Querétaro is probably what you’re looking for. This is an isolated and off-the-beaten-track region, that contains an important nature reserve of the same name. Among its key attractions are the Sierra Gorda missions; five communities built during the conquest of Mexico. The buildings are notable for the combined effort of missionaries and the native population to construct them, blending together European and indigenous artistic forms.
When it comes to celebrations, Bajío is one of the most lively and entertaining regions of Mexico. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of them have some sort of religious connotation, such as the Semana Santa (Easter week), during which processions are held throughout the region to mark the Crucifixion of Jesus. During mid-summer, Mexico holds the International Folk Festival, where over fifty nations are represented. Finally, the Christmas Posadas are also an important highlight during the holiday season. This holiday festival offers the visitor concerts in most towns and cities, as well as musical processions, and community parties in the run up to Christmas Day.
Photo by Martha Silva