REAL DE CATORCE
Located in the Sierra de Catorce mountain range, the small ghost town of Real de Catorce lies hunched-up against a mountainside. Once boasting a population of 40,000 people, Real's population has decreased to just over 1000 residents today. It has remained an important pilgrimage site for Catholics and indigenous Huichol, whose territory covers regions of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Durango, Jalisco and Nayarit.
Sources are conflicted about the name of the town - which means "Royal Fourteen." Some claim the name was originally "Real de Álamos de la Purísima Concepción de los Catorce" (Real de Alamos of the Immaculate Conception of the Fourteen), as the generally accepted history is that the town was named after 14 Spaniards who were ambushed and killed by Chichimeca warriors.
Our favoured story is that of the Huicholes sacred pilgrimage each March, which covers a vast distance & many states in just 14 days. This journey is greatly challenging, considering Real de Catorce is seated at nearly 9000 feet in altitude.
Though a town had long been established in Real de Catorce, it wasn't until 1772 when silver was discovered - leading to the founding of an official village in 1779. The Parish Church was constructed between 1790 and 1817, and other important buildings were later added - including a bull ring and a cock-fighting theater. Real de Catorce reached its heyday in the late 19th century, until it was abruptly abandoned when the value of silver plummeted. Few people remained in this isolated village, and the ones who did earned their meager living sifting through the tailings from the abandoned mine.
Real de Catorce was the second village in Mexico to be granted Pueblo Magico status – an honor it earned in 2001. As a village that is less frequented by foreigners, this charming town has managed to retain a sense of having traveled back in time. The government of San Luis Potosi is currently constructing two major parking lots on the entrance side of the Ogarrio Tunnel to manage the high traffic that arrives with the thousands of pilgrims arriving for the feast day of St. Francis of Assissi on October 4th. Real de Catorce is also of major significance to the Huichol peoples, who make an annual pilgrimage by foot across Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango and Zacatecas enroute to Wirikuta, which they believe is the birth place of the world. Tourists who are intrigued by Huichol shamanism are often drawn to Real de Catorce in order to visit the shaman’s temple at El Quemado.
Arriving in Real de Catorce is an other-worldy experience that involves passing through a 2 KM tunnel that was officially opened on April 2, 1901. After 5 minutes of driving through near-darkness, past mine-shaft openings, you will exit the tunnel feeling as though you have traversed a time warp to arrive at the end of the world - and considering the Ogarrio Tunnel is the only way back to reality - it's fair to say Real de Catorce truly is a realm beyond the edge of the time.