Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dios da a Borda, Borda da a Dios

The silver route runs both north and south from Mexico City. My last blog described the north route up to Zacatecas, 350 miles (550km) from the capital. This time let’s travel south to Taxco, Guerrero, 110 miles out of Mexico City, about halfway south to coastal Acapulco. Taxco has an altitude of 1800 meters (Mexico City is 2300 meters). I traveled to Taxco from Toluca by train and detoured to see a stalactite grotto, called Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, one of the national parks.

Three names associated with Taxco are Juan Ruiz de Alarcon, Don Jose Borda and William Spratling.

The name “de Alarcon” seems to evoke images of the ancient homeland of the Spaniards. Taxco de Alarcon is the officially adopted name of the city in honor of Juan Ruiz de Alarcon (1581 -1639), who was born in Taxco, and who studied and lived both in Spain and Mexico. In Spain, Juan had a government post but was better known as a poet and playwright, representing the Siglo de Oro Spanish writers. Taxco stages Juan Ruiz’ plays every year after Christmas. The Mexican people liked his comedies with a Latin influence. His father was superintendent of the Taxco mines and one of his brothers was a local educator.

Don Jose de la Borda Sanchez (1699 -1778), a Spaniard of French descent, arrived in Taxco at age 16. Legend has it that Conquistador Hernan Cortez discovered silver and Borda rediscovered silver here. Borda spotted a rich silver vein while riding and wandering Taxco hills and made a fortune. In gratitude and as quoted above at the outset in Spanish “God gives to Borda and Borda gives to God”, Don Jose built the most exquisite baroque Santa Prisca Cathedral, the centerpiece of Taxco (Don Jose’s son Manuel served as priest in this church), as well as schools and roads. In addition, he managed costly projects such as the Borda Garden in Cuernavaca and Casa Borda in Mexico City that cost him more downs than ups in his career and resulted in death in obscurity. Despite his good conducts, Borda is remembered as one who made his fortune by cruelly exploiting native labor. I visited Jardin Borda in Cuernavaca almost everyday when I traveled there. It is the most elegant and restful garden I’ve ever seen. I added my name to the list of visitors, which include VIPs such as Hernan Cortez, Emperor Maximilian and Carlota and many others.

William Spratling (1900 - 1967), an American architect who was a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans arrived in Taxco in 1929. He designed Casa Manana, Cuernava for an American owner. He was associated with artist Diego Rivera in helping Diego’s exhibits in New York and he initiated and challenged in creating a silversmith workshop of his own. Gradually the artistic and economic foundation of the workshop he established continues to flourish until Taxco became recognized as the silver capital.

Today Taxco boasts 5,000 shops, large and small, embracing 400 silversmiths and apprentices in the city. I read that Tiffany’s silverware are made here. Spratling is acknowledged as Taxco’s Restorer, and the Father of Mexican Silver and honored with having his name attached to Taxco’s Silver museum. It is unfortunate that he got killed in an auto accident. Taxco's narrow, hilly and winding streets are hazardous.

While in Taxco, I took a minibus ride to the top of the hill to see a Giant Jesus statue. The bus started climbing the hill but appeared to go nowhere near the statue. The bus driver finally suggested I go out and walk to the top. I had a great view from the top overlooking the city fully of natural charm accented with colonial ambiance by red-tiled roofs.

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