Silver was first discovered in Mexico’s Bajio region in the mid-1600s. A century later, Guanajuato was the leading center of silver mining in the world and today, both the city of Guanajuato and its adjacent mines are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The village of La Valenciana is located on the northern edge of Guanajuato and is home to the La Valenciana mine, once one of the richest and most productive silver mines in the world. Originally owned and operated by the Spanish, the La Valenciana mine was discovered by Antonio Obregon y Alcocer, who became the owner of the mine and Conde de Valenciana (Count of Valenciana).
Silver mining at La Valenciana brought great wealth to the region and magnificent churches and mansions were built with the riches. Much of the region’s early wealth belonged to the Spanish mine owners, while the people of Guanajuato worked as laborers. After the Mexican Revolution, operations at the La Valenciana mine were shut down.
The mine was reopened in 1968 as a cooperative yielding silver, gold, nickel and lead. The La Valenciana mine has since ceased operations, but it remains an important Guanajuato attraction. Part of the mine is sectioned off for tours which are expertly guided by retired miners who provide firsthand experience about working in the mines.
Descend into a dimly-lit mine shaft to explore several caverns displaying a variety of drilling equipment and mining tools. The part of the mine that’s sectioned off for tours has been restored with original equipment and historical artifacts. You’ll notice a figure of the Virgin Mary carved into one of the walls and narrow passageways that extend further into the depths of the mine.
Located just outside the entrance to the La Valenciana mine, the 18th century Templo de San Cayetano de La Valenciana (San Cayetano Church) stands as a monument to the wealth of the mine. This pink stone church was commissioned by the Count of Valenciana. Step inside to admire the church’s ornate interior with gilded altars, intricate carvings and enormous paintings dating to the 19th century.