Pachuca, the capital city of the state of Hidalgo is only 85 km from Mexico City, but you never hear of it as a destination place or one where tourists spend much time. This could be, unfortunately, the result of its close proximity to the larger, cosmopolitan and cultural neighbor to the south. Sure it may lack the sophistication, elegance, charm & architecture el ‘De Efe’ possesses, but if you draw in closer, you’ll find a city with a distinct regional history, that to this day is evident in a lot of ways.
Pachuca, popularly known as ‘la bella airosa’, for its cool, evening gusts which pack a punch, is no slouch when it comes to presenting its signature charm and history. The architecture may not be a uniform colonial canvas, but there are more than just hints of Spanish & English influence throughout. In fact, the British from Cornwall spent a good deal of time here in the mid-nineteenth century when the area silver mines were operating at full throttle and they were part of the whole industry. The following is a partial list of the numerous things to see in this overshadowed city in central Mexico.
MINING MUSEUM & HISTORIC ARCHIVES
Because of Pachuca’s historical tie to the mining industry, this is the perfect starting point from which to appreciate the area’s early days and importance in this part of Mexican history. The museum is housed in a dated, yet grand neoclassical structure. Inside you’ll see detailed accounts of the history and progression of the mining industry. Its evolution, from the Colonial days to the different parties (Mexican, English & U.S.) in charge of operations, the entire time period is laid out. There is also access to the historical archives for research purposes with the proper credentials and pre-arrangements secured.
EX-CONVENT OF SAN FRANCISCO
Fixed at the corner of Morelos and Arista since the 15th century, this divine building displays a refined and detailed façade of incomparable Baroque splendor. When the barefoot Friar monks (los Frailes Descalzos) built this convent, they spared no detail, including the interior devotional paintings framed in a Churrigueresque fashion.
Plazas or central gathering spaces are not unique throughout Mexico. They all have their lush landscaping, comfortable seating and the occasional gazebo. But, how many can boast of having a 40-meter high clock tower made of Carrara marble with the inner workings manufactured by the same company that fabricated London’s Big Ben, as their center piece? None! But, in Pachuca, the ‘Reloj Monumental’ has graced its Plaza de la Independencia for over a hundred years now. It was initially gifted to the city as a way to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. Inarguably, now it has become the city’s iconic symbol and lends an entirely different feel to the usual Mexican plaza.
EL MUSEO DE LA FOTOGRAFIA (MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHY)
Housed in a portion of the Ex-Convent of San Francisco, this museum provides an impressive array of vintage cameras and equipment as well as over 900,000 images which span over 160 years of history in Mexico’s photographic journey. Included in these images is an archival collection of the famed Mexican photographer, Agustín Víctor Casasola, whose work captured early 20th century Mexico from political, religious, revolutionary and everyday life.
Former mansion of the wealthy Cornish Miner, Francis ‘Francisco’ Rule, this spectacular structure has stood since 1896 and has served numerous functions under its English-style architecture. After serving as Mr. Rule’s residence and business base for many years, the state of Hidalgo acquired control of it in 1942 and then it housed its administrative offices there. Then, in 1985 it became home to Pachuca’s Ayuntamiento, ‘city hall’, a function it serves to date.
Situated on Madero Avenue near the Temple of San Francisco, this park provides plenty of green space as well as play areas for children. One of the identifying features of Parque Hidalgo is the unique ‘earthy’ clock that’s built into the ground and graced with colorful flowers.
MUNDO FUTBOL Y SALON DE LA FAMA
It’s quite fitting that here, in the birthplace of Mexican soccer, Pachuca has an opportunity to share some history and details of the sport with visitors. Recently opened in the summer of 2011, the museum is impossible to miss, especially if coming in on the highway from Mexico City where you’ll see the giant soccer ball with stairs winding around it near Parque David Ben Gurión. With over 51 interactive exhibits, a 3-D theatre and volumes of text dedicated to the world’s greatest players, even those unacquainted with the sport may become converts.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
Edificio las Cajas Reales
Teatro de la Ciudad San Francisco
Edificio Central U.A.E.H
Mercado Benito Juárez
Jardín del Arte
Monumento de Cristo Rey
POPULAR FOODS IN PACHUCA
Barbacoa (Slow-roasted lamb wrapped in maguey leaves & made in earthen pits)
Pastes (Baked turnovers with a variety of fillings introduced by Cornish miners)
Mixiote (Variety of hot & spicy meats steamed in maguey leaves)
Escamoles (Ant larvae, a true delicacy for some)
Chinicuiles (Reddish worms found near the maguey roots)
DAY TRIPS FROM PACHUCA
Real del Monte (Pueblo Mágico)
Huasca de Ocampo
Parque Nacional El Chico
Buses depart the north terminal (Terminal del Norte) in Mexico City. Flecha Roja provides departures every 10 minutes for 71 MXN pesos. Other bus lines frequently run between Mexico City and Pachuca. Check here for additional transportation information.