Making our way out of a maze

Goat paths laced the hillside. My son and I picked our way carefully among the scrubby thorn bushes, broken terrain and low trees a month ago. By tacking along the trails we made it into the heart of a ruin.

Goat paths laced the hillside. My son and I picked our way carefully among the scrubby thorn bushes, broken terrain and low trees a month ago.

By tacking along the trails we made it into the heart of a ruin. Thick masonry walls, broken down archways marked the site of the colonial era Garrapata silver mine.

Within only a few years of their conquest of the Aztec Confederacy in 1521 Spanish conquistadors reached the valley below. Already widely known as a “place of metals” to the Purepecha, and other first peoples of the region, the gold that had drawn Aztec interest there now whetted Spanish desires. By the 1550s the first rich veins of silver had been discovered.

In the hills above Guanajuato, Mexico some 380 kilometres northwest of the capital a rush of miners began digging out the wealth that would sustained an empire for centuries.

This ore, once refined, filled the treasure fleet galleons sailing to Europe from the Mexican port of Veracruz. One, of the top three historic silver mining districts in Mexico, Guanajuato – according to one estimate I found – produced more than 1 billion ounces of silver and nearly six million ounces of gold during the Spanish colonial era.

Locals proudly proclaim that at their peak production in the 1700s, the silver mines of Guanajuato and neighbouring La Luz were the richest in the world.

As many names of old mines such as Las Rayas, Tepeyac, Valenciana and Santa Ana dot the map as headframes and old adits dot the land. Nearly 475 years after the first Spanish miner picked at the ground here, mining still has a key role in the economy. A guard at El Rosario, a mine now owned by Great Panther Silver Ltd. out of Vancouver, told me that the kilometres of mine shafts below us now linked a number of the old workings together as they targeted newly identified mineralization areas.

The maze of tunnels probably had more logic and right angles to them than the webwork of streets and passages in city of more than 150,000 in the valley below. Guanajuato fills that winding valley in a very haphazard way. At a base altitude of 2,080 metres, scattered settlements serving neighbouring mines climbed the hills. They eventually grew together through the spontaneous urbanization of suitable sites on very rough terrain.

Narrow pathways, only occasionally wide enough for a vehicle, angle off in all directions. One famous alley, the Callejon del Beso, puts fronting upper-storey balconies less than a metre apart – narrow enough for lovers from rival families to kiss, or so the story goes.

In this UNESCO World Heritage Site steep cobblestone walkways and stairs give the city a unique ambience. Without a very detailed map wandering around the cityscape can be very disorienting as the roof of home links to the floor of the neighbouring house above it.

One rule I quickly learned was when lost or confused, just head down. The Avenida Juarez basically paralleling the former course of the Guanjuato River provides the central line along the bottom of the valley to reorient the lost wanderer.

We all need to reorient ourselves occasionally.

The current election serves as one of those points calling for us to reflect again on what direction we need to go.

In the welter of attack ads and party bafflegab it can be hard to figure a clear way out of the confounding maze to the ballot box. Key environmental, anti-poverty and indigenous voices have barely been heard above the din. Important issues, like housing, foreign aid, increasing societal inequality or military priorities, have vanished or have never been raised.

Focusing on the basics might help. What kind of world do you want to leave for your grandchildren and subsequent generations?

We are laying that foundation right now.

On May 2 take a step towards getting out of the maze: vote.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Greg Dawson

Connie Thorn, 52, was arrested in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Jan. 27.

Abigail Jirousek, left, is tailed by Brian Horton while climbing a hill during the Cross Country Yukon January Classic in Whitehorse on Jan. 23. Jirousek finished second in the U16 girls category. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Cross Country Yukon hosts classic race

Cross Country Yukon hosted a classic technique cross-country ski race on Jan.… Continue reading

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

Yukon RCMP said in a press release that they are seeing an increase in tinted front passenger windows and are reminding people that it is illegal and potentially dangerous. (RCMP handout)
RCMP warn against upward trend of tinted windows

Yukon RCMP are seeing more vehicles with tinted front passenger windows, prompting… Continue reading

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 22-year-old man facing two tickets violating the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em>. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Arrest warrant issued for CEMA violation

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ansh Dhawan over two tickets for violating CEMA

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

Most Read