Click on "next" to browse photos.
Related sitesNovember 27, 1996
Take Chihuahua for a walk - 26 second/1M QT movie
CHIHUAHUA, Mexico (CNN) -- In a desert in northern Mexico, far from the country's best-known tourist attractions, you'll find Chihuahua.
Most tourists come here at the start (or end) of a trip on the beautiful Chihuahua-Pacific railroad. However, with its cathedral, museums, shady plazas and quaint cobblestone streets, the town is well worth visiting in its own right.
Chihuahua's main attraction is linked to its rich history: the mansion where Mexican Revolution hero Pancho Villa lived. It 's now a museum -- Museo Historico de a Revolucion -- filled with weapons, period photographs and documents. All the rooms have their original furnishings. You'll also see the site where Villa executed his prisoners and the Dodge he was driving when he was assassinated. The bullet holes are still visible.
Pancho Villa began his career as a cattle thief and bandit but eventually settled in Chihuahua and set up a profitable business trading meat and horses. He was one of the leaders of the revolution begun in 1910 to overthrow President Porfirio Díaz. He made Chihuahua a center of the revolution.
After Díaz was overthrown, a decade-long power struggle began. The United States originally supported Villa, but backed an opponent after getting reports of Villa's brutalities. In retaliation, Villa and his cavalry raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing 16 people. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent General John J. Pershing into Mexico to capture him. He did not succeed.
Finally, Villa met his end in 1923. As a guide at the museum of the revolution explains: "Pancho Villa used to like to be a 'compadre' for everybody. And he was invited once to go to this party and baptize somebody's child. On his way back to his house, he was ambushed and he was killed. Pancho Villa was driving. There were three more people with him and two more bodyguards. All of them were killed, except for one."
The Cathedral of San Francisco in the heart of Chihuahua is perhaps the most beautiful in northern Mexico. It was begun in 1717, but Indian raids delayed completion until 1789. The baroque facade has statues of Saint Francis of Assisi and the 12 apostles. Its pipe organ is the fourth-largest of its kind in the world. The cathedral also houses a museum of 18th century religious art.
The cathedral rises above the town's main square, the Plaza de Armas. On sale here, and throughout the city, are crafts made by the indigenous people, the Tarahumara, who adhere to their traditions perhaps the most of any Indian people in Mexico. They can be seen throughout Chihuahua, wearing brightly-colored clothing and head coverings. You will also see men in cowboy hats and boots -- this is cattle country, as it has been since the days of the "haciendas." Tourism is not the main source of income here. Chihuahua is a fairly prosperous cattle-raising, lumbering and silver-mining area.
And yes, Chihuahua did give its name to the diminutive dogs.
A trip through the Copper Canyon ("Barranca del Cobre") is one of the most spectacular in Mexico. Copper Canyon actually consists of 20 canyons, and is four times the size of the Grand Canyon. The "Chihuahua al Pacifico" railway runs between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, on the Gulf of California, where it merges with the Pacific Ocean. It rises from sea level to more than 8,000 feet ( 12,900 km) as it cuts through the Sierra Madre Mountains.
The railroad was begun in the late 19th century, but not finished until 1961, stymied by the revolution, lack of funds, and engineering roadblocks. It has 39 bridges and 86 tunnels along its 405-mile (653 km) route. It passes through -- and sometimes over -- farms, hills, towering cliffs, rust-colored canyon walls, river beds, pine forests and Indian villages, where you can buy crafts made by the Tarahumara Indians. The trip takes about 14 hours.
A ticket for the first-class train costs about $25; the second-class train about $7. It is advisable to book ahead for summer and fall, the busiest seasons. The train also transports cars.City Guides and Maps: Mexico
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.