Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, is one of the oldest routes where art, religion, and cultural development traveled.
Camino Real de Tierra Adentro: the most prolific route of exchange
The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro includes five sites already inscribed on the World Heritage list and another 55 sites located along 1,400 of the 2,600 km of this long route that starts from northern Mexico and reaches Texas and New Mexico, in the U.S.
This road is also recognized as the “Camino de la Plata”, since it was used between the 16th and 19th centuries to transport said material extracted from the mines of Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí, as well as mercury imported from Europe.
Although its origin and use are linked to mining, the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro also led to the establishment of social, cultural and religious ties between Hispanic culture and Amerindian cultures.
On foot, by cart or mule train, faith traveled the length and breadth of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, many times “hanging” from the chest of the religious, who, in order to evangelize the natives of the various Territories carried small Marian images, these are effigies known as “virgins of conquest”, whose cults, in some cases, are still celebrated.
That is why on this road religious traditions are celebrated as a manifestation of the cultural richness originated by this itinerary that celebrates a decade of its inclusion in the Unesco World Heritage List, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducts a series of talks that address its importance and historical value.
Through INAH tv, the historian Christian Medina López Velarde, from the INAH Aguascalientes Center, highlighted the importance of the “virgins of conquest”, small effigies that were transported by clergy, facilitating their transfer to inhospitable and difficult to access regions. An example is the Virgin of San Juan de Los Lagos, which marked a milestone for this region because, thanks to the movement that this road had, several sculptures with these particularities are present in various temples.
He highlighted other religious carvings such as that of Our Lady of the Incarnation, in Encarnación de Díaz, in Jalisco; Our Lady of El Pueblito de San Marcos, and the “Preladita”, which is a figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe, both in Zacatecas.
This route was a monumental 2,560-kilometer-long trade route that ran from Mexico City to the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA actively from the mid-16th century to the 19th century.
In its historical period, it was the largest land trade route in the world.
The route begins in Mexico City and to the current State of Mexico, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Durango, and Chihuahua, in the country of Mexico, and to the current states of Texas and New Mexico in USA
The processes that took place over three centuries bequeathed a cultural heritage of great value that includes archives, works of religious and civil art, musical manifestations and festivities, gastronomic culture and oral traditions.
The name lends itself to discussion or confusion, since during the viceroyalty of New Spain all roads passable by cart were called “Camino Real” , which existed in a significant number throughout the viceroyalty. Similarly, little explored territories were called “Tierra Adentro”, particularly towards the north of the viceroyalty, which is why Querétaro was called first, and then Saltillo “La Puerta de Tierra Adentro”.
For this reason, historically there were several “Royal Roads of Land Inside”. In addition to the road to Santa Fe, another prominent road is the one that led to Texas. The “Camino Real de Tierra Adentro”, which led to New Mexico, apparently adopted its name in the United States for legal protection.
Today, UNESCO has recognized this path on the Mexican Indicative List in November 2001, adding this route as a World Heritage Site, along with 24 other new sites from various countries around the world.