Mina La Valenciana was one of the richest mines in the Guanajuato region and is located in the hills 7 km outside of the historic center of Guanajuato City. In the 18th century, the mine produced 60% of the silver in the world, and the riches found made Guanajuato and the Spanish Empire quite rich. The vein of silver was discovered in 1548 and is still producing silver today. During our trip to Guanajuato, we decided to take the short trip up the hill to explore the mining town and the beautiful church on the hill above. We were not disappointed.
While there were many mines in the hills of Guanajuato, this was one of the most productive. Today the mines are part of a UNESCO Heritage Site. Many of the incredible buildings in Guanajuato City were built as a result of the riches found in the hills surrounding the city. While it was mined in the late 16th century, the real prize was discovered 1760. It would end up being the largest silver deposit in Mexico.
At times during the 18th Century, the mine outpaced the production of all the mines in the Viceroyalty of Peru. There were thousands of people working in the mines. Mina la Valenciana reached its highest production levels from 1768 to 1804, peaking with over 15,000 tons of silver in 1887.
The mine spreads out deep underground into the hills outside of Guanajuato City. Today it has reached a depth of over 700 meters. On the surface, the mine has been restored to its 17th century height and it has been turned into a museum. While parts of the mine are still in production, they are not always producing at full capacity, so the miners work part time as tour guides who can take you for a tour into the old mine shafts. The cost was less the 50 pesos each, so it was definitely worthwhile.
The tour guide will take you down a staircase to a depth of 60 meters to give you an idea of the conditions that the miners went through. It is dimly lit to make it look like candle light. There are lots of old pieces of equipment and it will only take 30 minutes to 1 hour to explore.
On top of the hill above the entrance of the mine is the Church of San Cayetano, which was built in the 18th century by the owner of the mine as a thank you for his good fortune. It was constructed between 1775 and 1788 and is an example of the churrigueresque style found throughout Mexico. Inside the church there is plenty of opulence, with silver and gold flake throughout the church, mirroring the riches found below.
This was one of our favourite experiences from our trip to Guanajuato, and we’re happy to share these pictures as inspiration for anyone who is thinking of visiting.