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Introducing Northern Central Highlands

Arid deserts to tropical forests, staunchly traditional to ‘Americanized’ modern, maize to pasta, the region covering the northern central highlands is as varied and colorful as its people, landscapes, food and culture. It was here that former mineral wealth created colonial cities, revolutionary activity left ghost towns in its wake and traditions – festivals, saints’ days and celebrations – have survived for centuries.

The region is fondly referred to as the Cuna de la Independencia (Cradle of Independence) and it was here that many made their mark in the country’s fight for autonomy. The colonial cities have fascinating foci: silver-ridden Guanajuato and Zacatecas, plaza-filled San Luis Potosí, arty San Miguel de Allende and former ‘activist’ hot spots Dolores Hidalgo and Querétaro.

Once you’ve had your fill of cobbled streets and pretty plazas, cross the deserts and take in the high and dry ‘ghost’ towns of Pozos and Real de Catorce, national parks such as Parque de Órganos and (the biggest, most unmissable jewel of all) the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the eastern arm of Querétaro state. This area boasts over 15 vegetation types and hot off-the-press tourism opportunities, including stunning hikes.

And as for the cuisine…travel a mere few kilometers for yet another take on a trusty tortilla or local dish: each region serves up its own specialties. Culture vultures will be well sated, too. From pre-Hispanic sites to art museums, concerts to nightlife, festivals to callejoneadas, this region enjoys pomp and ceremony…and knows how to put on a good (if noisy) party.

History

Until the Spanish conquest, the northern central highlands were inhabited by fierce seminomadic tribes known to the Aztecs as Chichimecs. They resisted Spanish expansion longer than other Mexican peoples, but were ultimately pacified in the late 16th century. The wealth subsequently amassed by the Spanish was at the cost of many Chichimecs, who were used as slave labor in the mines.

This historically volatile region sparked the criollo fight for independence from Spain, which was plotted in Querétaro and San Miguel de Allende and launched from Dolores Hidalgo in 1810. A century later revolutionary Francisco Madero released his revolutionary Plan de San Luis Potosí and the 1917 signing of Mexico’s constitution in Querétaro cemented the region’s leading role in Mexican political affairs.