Travel Notes from Chihuahua
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I guess Chihuahua - the Capital city of the State with the same name - is not the kind of destination average tourists travel to on purpose. When, on the plane from Houston to Chihuahua, I happened to tell my next-seat traveler I was going to Chihuahua on vacation he stared at me quite surprised and commented: "On vacation? What for, there is only desert, maquiladoras and drug smuggling in Chihuahua!". As a matter of fact I wasn't going on spending my vacations in the city, I was just on my way to the Barranca del Cobre, further down the Chihuahua State, but on my way back I spent in Chihuahua half a day and had enough time for a short visit to the historical center that, I had read on my guidebook, retains some interesting colonial landmarks.
There is no much in Chihuahua to impress a tourist, and the same historical center, an irregular blend of historical buildings and modern constructions, is quite anonymous and unattractive. Still, the city with its history of uprisings and rebellions, provides chance for a dive into some of the most important moments of Mexican history.
"A Theater of Revolutions and Uprisings"
The city of Chihuahua is full in history and in the centuries has linked its name to revolutions and uprisings. It is here that during the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821) the "Father of the Country" Miguel Hidalgo was taken prisoner and executed by the Spaniard. The cell where Hidalgo was held prisoner and the yard where he was executed (1811) can still be visited today as well as can the church where his decapitated body was buried, before being re-buried in Mexico City after independence was achieved.
One century after Independence from Spain came the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). It was the time of Pancho Villa, to make his headquarters in Chihuahua and lead the División del Norte against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Because of his excellent military strategy and charismatic leadership Villa has become a folk hero, though it took him many years after his death (1923) to be accepted as a Mexican national hero. The Museo de la Revolución, hosted in the house where he actually lived, is dedicated to him.
"The Maquiladora Industry"
The word Maquiladora has become synonymous with Mexico manufacturing industry. Maquiladoras are factories assembling components imported into Mexico and exported - usually to the United States - as finished goods. The word comes from colonial Mexico, where millers charged a "maquila" for processing other people's grain. Maquiladoras are generally owned by non-Mexican corporations that take advantage of low-cost labor, advantageous tariff regulations, and close proximity to US markets. Toyota, Panasonic and Electrolux, among others, have maquiladoras plants in Mexico. The Maquiladora Industry has boomed in the 70s and by the 80s accounted as Mexico’s second largest source of income from foreign exports, behind oil. The Industry has started to decline in the 2000s because of competition from other low-cost offshore countries such as China and other countries in Asia and Central America. Today, despite the decline, there still exist over 3,000 maquiladoras along the United States–Mexico border providing employment for approximately one million workers.