Guanajuato, Mexico Introduction

Guanajuato statue

The history of Guanajuato is a story centuries and centuries in the making. Long before the ambitious Spanish conquest of the Americas commenced, the mountainous terrain of Guanajuato was home to indigenous civilizations such as the widespread Aztec empire and smaller local civilizations like the P'urhépechas, who are credited with the naming of Guanajuato.

Enter the Spaniards

After a streak of great luck in nearby Zacatecas, Spanish prospectors set foot in rocky highlands of what would later become Guanajuato State. One look at the geography and they were envisioning the mineral riches to be discovered. Their instincts were right on, as the state was tapped for silver, gold, iron and a host of other valuable metals in practically the blink of an eye. From that point on, Guanajuato State was considered one of Mexico's wealthiest and at one point was producing up to 40% of the world's silver. With indigenous laborers taking care of all the dirty work, silver tycoons were left to simply watch their wealth amass and enjoy opulent lifestyles.

The town of Guanajuato, founded in 1554, quickly got in on the action just four years later, when the mining bonanza led to the discovery of one of the richest silver veins in the hemisphere. Guanajuato's still operational La Valenciana mine would go on to produce 20% of the world's silver over the course of the next 250 years. With a constant flow of wealth thanks to the mine's seemingly unending wealth, silver barons were happy, the Spanish monarchy was happy, and the town was prospering.

However, as most seemingly flawless things tend to do, Guanajuato's wealth-driven bliss started heading down a rather rocky path come the mid-18th century.

Continue: History of Guanajuato - Crisis