Photo courtesy of Catherine Marenghi, 2017

Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

— Emily Dickinson 

On a recent trip to Mineral de Pozos, Mexico, I bought a flute at a museum of musical instruments. Luis Cruz, who owns the museum, El Venado Azul, makes and sells instruments like those once played by the indigenous people. The flute, called a tlapitzalli, sounded so beautiful when the museum guide played it, I had to take it home.

The other instruments at the museum were gorgeous, too: the long, wooden rainsticks filled with sand, called chicahuaztlis; the eucarinas that imitate the sounds of the birds; the ear-pleasing rattles, called ayacaxtli; and the small, hand-carved wooden drums, called huehuetl and teponaztli.

At the end of the tour, the guide played the large thunder drum for us. It sounded exactly like the loud, booming thunder of Mexico.The sound of the  drum, and the rhythms he played on it, made us all want to dance. It was a powerful and spiritual moment, a reminder of the music that’s in all of us, and the joy, and the power music has to move us, and connect us to each other in the dance.

Before we went to the musical instrument museum, our tour guide, Dali, took us to a museum where we learned about the once-thriving silver mine in Pozos. We saw the old, water-cooled jack hammers the silver miners used to break the rock, and the carbide lamps that allowed the miners to see in the deep, dangerous shafts.

The lamps were lit by the gas produced by mixing calcium carbide and water.

We gazed across a landscape of cactus, agave, and pepper trees. In the distance, we saw the ruins of the old, stone buildings where the women and children separated the minerals — silver, gold, copper, zinc, and mercury — from the rocks. We walked among the ruins of the old Catholic church, which is now open to the sky and wind.

Photo by Catherine Marenghi, 2017

As I looked inside the old sanctuary, I remembered the stories about how difficult it was to get the indigenous people inside of the buildings for worship. It made no sense to them. They always worshipped in nature, their feet connected to the earth, their eyes aware of sun, and sky, and the position of the bright stars. And they danced. That’s why the churches all have courtyards  — they helped the missionaries to woo the indigenous people inside.

It struck me as both ironic, and a form of poetic justice, that now, the sweet, yellow xotol flowers that grow everywhere in Pozos, and the long, bending grasses, have replaced the yellow gold of the altars, and the priests.

There were several reasons for the town’s demise: the Mexican Revolution in 1910; the anti-Catholic government that met with fierce resistance in the militantly Catholic town; and the water pollution caused by the flooding of the mines. One day, the miners dug too deep. The mines flooded, and it was impossible to correct the damage. The mines, born in 1576 by the Jesuits (the the first Europeans to visit), closed in 1928. The population of Pozos dwindled  from 70,000 to a few thousand.

Dali said there’s someone in Pozos who still mines his own silver and gold. Although the law prohibits people from digging under their property, he’s doing it, anyway. Apparently, he’s doing fairly well. For every ton of rock, he gets a gram of gold (isn’t that like life?).

Pozos was declared a “magical town” by the Mexican government in 1982 because of its rich history. Developers want it to be another San Miguel de Allende. It’s slow going, but there’s a promising arts school now with classes in painting, music, and ceramics that is attracting visitors.

There are a few art galleries in Pozos, and a few restaurants, like the Posada de las Minas (Inn of the Mines), where we had lunch (and amazing salsa). Mostly, though, Pozos is what the Mexicans call a pueblo fantasma — a ghost town.

I liked being there — hearing the instruments, looking into the deep shafts, walking through the ruins, and learning more about the history of Mexico.

As we were leaving, a 9-year-old boy who was riding his bike down the same deserted cobblestone street I was walking on, stopped to ask me, ¿Viniste a ver las minas? (Did you come to see the mines?)

His friendliness, and the pride he had in his town, reminded me of why I love Mexico — the kindness of the people, the spaciousness of both land and heart. The dance.

14 thoughts on “A TRIP TO POZOS, MEXICO

  1. Catherine Marenghi


    This blog is lovely. I appreciated your capturing all the original indigenous names of the musical instruments, and the flowers.

    I especially love the closing line: “…why I love Mexico — the kindness of the people, the spaciousness of both land and heart. The dance.”

    Spaciousness of both land and heart. How very true.

    Have you considered publishing in Mexico Daily, the English language news of Mexico? I see they take outside submissions.


    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Catherine! I will check out the publication you mentioned. Thank you for the use of your wonderful photographs!

  2. Denise DiNoto

    Thank you for taking us on your visit with you. I was glad you included a clip with sound because after your descriptions I really wanted to hear some of the instruments. I am learning so much when you share these pieces.

    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Denise! I learn so much from traveling, and it’s fun to share the history. Blessings!

  3. Stella Myers

    This was a great trip to a place I have never been, and a good lesson in history. I forget sometimes that other places have great histories, not just the places I live.

    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks, Stella. I am having such a great time traveling in Mexico. There is so much to see, and learn.

  4. Valerie

    What a lovely piece. Understated but highly evocative, and gentle and compassionate. You really made me want to go there. Me too, loved the last line and appreciated the sound clip.

  5. Crystal

    I enjoyed this escape. I’ve heard these flutes before. I think I may like to own one myself some day. I play a transverse flute, but I’ve never tried to play these. They have a gorgeous sound though.

    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Crystal! They do have a gorgeous sound. They are pretty easy to play, as they have the same fingering as the recorder. I’m listening a lot, to get the right vibe.

  6. Ray Sparrowe

    Carolyn, there is a small flute-like instrument from Pozos on my desk as I write this. It is about the size of carrot, thick and stubby. Joie (mi esposa) and I were there with a friend in August. When we return to SMA in April we will visit Pozos again.

    I came across your piece in Lokkal, then followed it here to your blog. You write with transparency and not a little gracefulness, letting the reader meet your subject – be it how we rationalize death or pay attention to trucks. I hope you will still be in SMA next year (2018) sometime between April and September. I believe Joie
    and I would enjoy meeting you, and perhaps you would feel the same – even though I’m ordained in that other camp, the UCC. We make our way from La Cañada to Guadalupe from time to time, especially so that Joie can stock up on painting supplies at El Pato.

    Enjoy SMA! – Ray

    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Ray, thank you for reading my piece on Pozos, and for leaving me such kind words. I would love to meet you and Joie when you are in San Miguel de Allende in April! Let me know, and we’ll get together. Gratefully, Carolyn


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