Category Archives: History

The Storm That Swept Mexico

The Storm That Swept Mexico is airing nationally on PBS on May 15th.

Produced by Raymond Telles (The Fight in The Fields) and Kenn Rabin, the new 2-hour documentary tells the epic story of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Fueled by the Mexican people’s growing dissatisfaction with an elitist ruling regime, the revolution was led by two of the most intriguing and mythic figures in 20th century history — Emiliano Zapata and Francisco “Pancho” Villa. At stake was Mexico’s ability to claim its own natural resources, establish long-term democracy, and re-define its identity. Capturing the color, drama, intrigue, and tragedy of the era, THE STORM THAT SWEPT MEXICO also explores how the Mexican revolution not only changed the course of Mexican history, transforming economic and political power within the nation, but also profoundly impacted the relationships between Mexico, the U.S. and the rest of the world.


Over ten years in the making and featuring interviews with a variety of scholars, veterans of the Revolution, and a trove of film footage virtually unseen in close to a century, THE STORM THAT SWEPT MEXICO is a fascinating exploration of the beliefs and conditions that led to the revolution, influenced the course of the conflict, and determined its consequences over the century that followed.


You can watch a trailer here:

Hasta Luego, Old Friend: Rancho Buena Vista (Baja) Retires

Friends of Rancho Buena Vista recently received a farewell email… Yes, after more than 50 years, this venerable but way cool rancho is closing its doors.

Here’s a link to their farewell email – there’s a lot of information about their closing celebration (it’s today, so if you’re in Cabo… head on over) and more.

Hasta luego, amigo. You’ll be sorely missed…

P.S. If you have any good Rancho stories or pics to share, we want to hear from you!

My pick for the best day-trip from Mazatlán — Concordia and Copala

By John Mitchell

The main plaza and Church of San José in the Spanish colonial mining town of Copala. Click on photo above to see larger version.

In a recent Mexico Premiere post, David Simmonds named Mazatlán as his “City Pick for 2011,” so I thought I would chime in and give my choice for the best day trip from this popular resort — the old Spanish colonial mining towns of Concordia and Copala in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental. With their winding cobblestone streets and unhurried ways, these two communities offer glimpses of a Mexico that has all but disappeared in Mexico’s bustling urban centers.

Concordia, which lies about 25 miles east of Mazatlán, has a peaceful main square dominated by the ornate baroque facade of its 18th-century San Sebastian Church. In front of the church, vendors sell colorful pottery and hand-carved wooden furniture that are fashioned in workshops around town. There is also an absurdly large rocking chair that looks as if it is waiting for a friendly giant to come along and sit in it.

Inside the nearby Municipal Palace, a lively mural chronicles key events in the area’s history from the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors to the 20th century. One panel shows Concordia’s buildings in flames after they were sacked by marauding French soldiers during the 1860’s. Another depicts the long-tailed urraca bird, which supposedly led the Spanish to Concordia’s rich silver deposits.

A few miles up the road from Concordia sits the mountain village of Copala. Smaller and more bucolic than Concordia, Copala still feels a bit like the virtual ghost town it once was. Brightly painted colonial-era buildings line Copala’s narrow streets, but the town’s most prominent landmark is the 18th-century Iglesia de San José. A statue of a dour-looking priest peers down menacingly from atop the church’s baroque facade, no doubt checking to make sure that parishioners attend mass regularly. Sunlight streams through high wooden doors illuminating an airy interior with a vaulted ceiling and neoclassical-style altars.

After Copala’s silver and gold mines ran dry, many of its citizens left in search of new livelihoods. But the re-opening of the abandoned mines for tourism has revitalized the town. Quite a number of foreign visitors liked Copala so much that they decided to stay. Some have started up funky hotels and restaurants such as the the Copala Butter Company facing the main square and Daniel’s Restaurant, famous for its “world-class coconut banana cream pie” that — as much as anything else — has helped put Copala back on the map.

Concordia and Copala can be visited on an independent day trip or organized tour from Mazatlán. There is bus service to both towns from Mazatlán’s second-class bus station. Passenger trucks called colectivos also ply the route between Concordia and Copala.

Move the cursor over the slide-show below to view captions. Click on images to see larger versions and for information on ordering prints or leasing photos for personal, editorial, or commercial use.

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Concordia and Copala, Mexico – Images by John Mitchell

Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico

Now Showing in Los Angeles

By Marita Adair

The  Olmec have arrived. Again. Three thousand five hundred years after their debut as a civilization, another  exquisite exhibition, Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico is front and center at the new Resnik Pavilion of the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA) through Jan. 9, 2010. It’s been 15 years since the last pull-out-all-the-stops Olmec exhibit at Princeton University, “The Olmec: World Ritual and Rulership.” Since then the Olmec began revealing even more of their significant secrets.

This exhibition brings together not only the newest revealed secrets in the freshest scholarly research of this ever-changing subject, the Olmec who flourished 1400-400 B.C., but direct from Mexico, more than one of the famous colossal basalt stone Olmec portrait heads weighing between 7 and 10 tons each. Among the rarest objects is a carved wooden human bust buried in a spring-fed bog three thousand years ago. When it and 39 other wood busts were plucked from the muck in the 1980s, the news made headlines. Then came the carefully supervised, agonizingly slow, drying process. And now we can learn why they didn’t rot.

In all, the carefully assembled  exhibition showcases “more than 100 monuments, sculptures, adornments, masks, and vessels, many of which have never traveled beyond Mexico’s borders.”

Olmec hands created this magnificence with the rudimentary tools of  chert, water, and sand.

And we, through the brawny strength of modern transport, reap the visual benefits.

When a multiton Olmec head is moved anywhere, the question always arises about how the Olmec tussled these enormous pieces even an inch, much less from stone quarry and carving to placement, without knowledge of the wheel. It’s an ongoing puzzlement. But these days they are transported by multiwheeled flatbed trucks preceded by carefully orchestrated wrapping, crating, and lifting by crane.  The LACMA site provides a film of this process. beginning at the open-air Parque Museo La Venta (La Venta Museum Park) in Villahermosa, to the LACMA exhibition where children are gathered around the featured sculpture. It’s not one of the portrait heads, but we get the idea. And just in case we wondered how tricky it might be to put this exhibition in place once it arrived at LACMA, see behind-the-scenes installation photos at Among those photos is a sneak-peek of one of the wooden human busts once submerged in mud.

And we,  through the highly evolved modern printing process, reap the benefit of up-to-this-moment knowledge of the Olmec in the exhibition catalog published by Yale University Press.

I jest, of course. Not to trivialize the value and history of the printing process, but creating a catalog of this significance (or any catalog of a major exhibition for that matter) involves a tad more than printing. There’s a major assemblage of knowledge (specialized scholarship, sweaty, dirty digging, evaluation, and discussion), government and institutional cooperation, gathering and writing text, procuring permissions, and attention to detail. Oh yes, an editor, a publisher, layout artist, and a major pile of cash.

In the end, the birth process complete, from exhibition to catalog, the latest news of the Olmec is ours for the devouring  from the comfort of our lounge chairs, and/or at the exhibition itself.

From Los Angeles the exhibition travels to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, for display Feb. 19-May 8, 2011.

The exhibition is organized by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, LACMA, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

1,800-year-old tunnel found at Mexico’s Teotihuacan archeological site

By Marita Adair

A robot went exploring  under the Temple of the Plumed the pre-Hispanic Teotihuacan  archaeological site outside Mexico City.  Instituto Nacional de Archeologia Historica (INAH) officials announced last week. It rolled into a tunnel where mankind has not trod for 1,800 years.

Looking more like a miniature moon buggy, it slipped, through a small hole in an entrance that had been sealed off with rubble almost to the ceiling all those years ago. During its outing  the four-wheeled robot snapped photos of  at least three chambers just begging to be explored. This is the first time a robot has been used for archeological purposes in Mexico. Ground penetrating radar revealed the existence of the tunnel.

Teotihuacan, so magnificent to see even today, roughly 1,900 years after its founding, continues to deliver new information, new discoveries, and more for us see and ponder. Perhaps as many as  250,000 people lived there. Its influence spread at least as far as Guatemala where a Teotihuacan-type city, Kaminaljuyu, flourished,  and to cultures all along its path. Teothihuacan-style pottery has been found as far south as Peru.It’s known that some of those cultures established neighborhoods at Teotihuacan.

Discovery of this tunnel and chambers promises to reveal something  about those early years. Perhaps even some idea of what the Teothihuacan people looked like. Despite decades of exploration, we still don’t know for sure who the founders were or what they looked like.


By John Mitchell

The old Puebla railway station, which is now part of the Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos or National Railway Museum in the city of Puebla, Mexico
The old Puebla railway station, which is now part of the Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos or National Railway Museum in the city of Puebla, Mexico

PUEBLA — A decade has passed since passenger service ground to a halt on Mexico’s railroads. However, the romance of train travel lives on at the Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles (MFNM) or National Railway Museum in the city of Puebla. Continue reading THE ROMANCE OF TRAIN TRAVEL LIVES ON AT PUEBLA’S NATIONAL RAILWAY MUSEUM

Posada de las Minas Offers Affordable Luxury in a Historical Setting

By John Mitchell

Entrance way and courtyard of the Posada de las Minas in Mineral de Pozos, Mexico
Entrance way and courtyard of the Posada de las Minas in Mineral de Pozos, Mexico

With its humble whitewashed buildings and nearly deserted cobblestone streets, Mineral de Pozos (or simply “Pozos”) is hardly a place where you would expect to find a luxury boutique hotel. However, that is exactly what has taken root in the heart of this sleepy Mexican town less than an hour’s drive from San Miguel de Allende.
Continue reading Posada de las Minas Offers Affordable Luxury in a Historical Setting