batopilas

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We appreciate it when we receive comments and photos to share. From our story “Her Uncle Rode With Pancho Villa” we received many interesting comments by family members of people associated with Pancho Villa:

Crickett Quijada
Hi Lee, thank you for writing this article on my great uncle Ricardo Gonzalez with Francisco Villa and his wife Maria Luz Corral de Villa. He had three brothers. Jose, Simon and Daniel who was killed in WW11. Also he had three sisters, my grandmother Prajedes, Epifania and Isabel, all children of Estefana (Fanny) Gagen and Pedro Gonzalez.

Pancho Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie

Pancho Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez, great uncle of Bessie “Crickett” Quijada.

Alberto Gonzalez
Crickett is my cousin. I remember my Grandfather always with the funny hat and cane, I was with my Dad and my Grandfather (Ricardo Gonzalez) when this visit occurred

Rebecca Hughes
This is so cool, Ricardo was my Great-Grandfather and Crickett and Alberto are my cousins.

Matt Holguin
Ricardo was my great grandfather too! Small world!

Jonathan Corral
My family and I have been building a family tree of our family, the Corral’s, and since we only know of the Corral side. Everyone has passed away in our blood line from the elderly side and can only hope to find out more about Maria through her family or if we could find out if Francisco Villas side of the family happen to know more about Maria Corral. We have all been told by our (now deceased) grandparents that our family is related to Francisco Villas wife Dona Maria de la Luz Corral de Villa. I’m told my grandfather Joseph Louis Corral (born 1927) had a father named Leopoldo Corral (a Police Officer in Mexico and was assassinated as well) and his wife Maria Ortiz Figueroa Corral (born 1888). We know Maria Luz had a father named Jose de Jesus Corral, but we haven’t pin pointed exactly if she had any brothers our cousins. We’re told Leopoldos aunt was Maria Luz Corral.

Javier Solis
Jonathan my mother Alejandra Corral’s grandmother was Benigna Corral which was Luz Corral Sister. She still has memories of her grandmother and my grandmother (my mother’s mom) knew Luz Corral around Durango and Buena Sevi. My great great grandfather talked a lot about Pancho Villa.

 

Pancho Villa and Luz Corral de Villa Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez
Pancho Villa and his wife, Luz Corral de Villa, in 1914. Dona Luz Corral de Villa with Ricardo Gonzalez in 1967.

 

The California Native has been leading tours to Copper Canyon for more than 30 years. Located in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Copper Canyon is four times larger than the Grand Canyon. This area is rich in history from Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution to the booming silver town of Batopilas.

We offer a full range of itineraries from small group escorted tours to worry-free adventures designed for the independent traveler.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Linda & John Gowdy, from Poestenkill, NY, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 8-day to the Bottom and wrote us this quick letter about their trip:

Laurie-

I wanted to thank you for all your help and arrangements for our Copper Canyon trip! We got back Saturday night after a week of very relaxing travel. Everything was exactly as planned and we were very pleased with the accommodations and the trip. We had a very good time and the scenery was spectacular. Martín was an excellent driver on the “road” to Batopilas. He even put up with my bad Spanish!

Thanks again!

Linda Gowdy
Poestenkill, NY

Tarahumara church in the Copper Canyon.

Tarahumara church in the Copper Canyon.

El Chepe train exiting one of the 86 tunnels it will pass through on it's way through Copper Canyon.

El Chepe train exiting one of the 86 tunnels it will pass through as it travels through Copper Canyon.

Spectacular Copper Canyon view!

Spectacular Copper Canyon view!

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories, comments and photos with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Dianne Raymond, from Fort Fraser, BC Canada, who recently traveled with us on one of our Copper Canyon Independent Trips and had this to report:

I really enjoyed it all. Some of the favorite parts of the trip were the visits to Urique, Batopilas and the train trip. The local guides and drivers were helpful and friendly, especially the guide at Divisadero. We had a lovely river tour in El Fuerte. Our driver in Batopilas took us to see the entrance of a mine, he definitely knew his way around.

I liked having our train tickets, accommodations and transportation organized for us. We then had the freedom to do what we wanted the rest of the time.

Everything was well organized and seamless, good organization up front. It was grand and we felt safe. I have many memories that I will cherish. Thank you.

Dianne Raymond
Fort Fraser, BC Canada

Spectacular view on the road down to Batopilas

Quick stop for a photo on the way down to Batopilas.

 

 

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Carol Schlafly, from Nashville, TN, wrote us about her recent escorted adventure in the Copper Canyon:

It was all just wonderful, food was great, all arrangements were just great, the hotels were great too! Rob [California Native guide] is wonderful — whatever we needed, he made it happen. Our al fresco lunch on the way to Batopilas was an unexpected and very sweet surprise.

I thought the prep work was great — wonderful info, all arrangements were very smooth, instructions were good. All the local guides and drivers were wonderful. A+ for all, lunch on the beach after petting the dolphins was great!

It was an adventure, we saw and did things I would not have ordinarily done, we saw some amazing terrain and some excitement along the way! Very exciting!

Rob Aikins is amazing. I could write a book on all the things he handled & how patient and understanding he was. His knowledge of the area and the contacts (he knows everyone) are fabulous. I would definetly recommend this tour to friends.

Carol Schlafly
Nashville, TN

Enjoying a picnic in Copper Canyon!

Enjoying a picnic in Copper Canyon!

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Bob & Ginnie Thurler, from Brooklyn Park, MN, wrote us this short letter about their adventure with us in the Copper Canyon:

We recently returned from your Ultimate 11-Day tour of the Copper Canyon. We both agree that this was by far the greatest vacation we have been on. Everything about the tour was first class and much more than we had expected it to be. This was the first guided trip we have ever been on. The guide did everything he could so that we were always informed of the days events, times and places, which we liked. We now have so much knowledge about the history of this area especially the people. As I stated before, this was our first guided tour and we both agree that it would be pretty difficult for anyone to top.

Bob & Ginnie Thurler
Brooklyn Park, MN

 

Tarahumara Musicians

Tarahumara musicians and dancer demonstrate a traditional Tarahumara song and dance in the Copper Canyon

Lost Cathedral of Satevo

Down at the bottom of the canyon is the “Lost Cathedral” of Satevo near Batopilas.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Phyllis and Arnold Aho, from Marquette, MI, wrote us this short letter about their adventure in the Copper Canyon:

Thanks for (arranging) our recent trip to the Copper Canyon as independent travelers. The train was excellent and the scenery was spectacular! Our side trips to the villages of Batopilas, Cerocahui and Creel were interesting and exciting. Our overnight in Divisadero was unique. It was a great experience!

Phyllis and Arnold Aho
Marquette, MI

 

The Cusarare Mission in the Tarahumara village of Cusarare near Creel, Copper Canyon

The Cusarare Mission in the Tarahumara village of Cusarare near Creel, Copper Canyon

 

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. Recently, Ted McGrath who lives in Vancouver, Canada, returned from our California Native adventure in Copper Canyon and wrote:

California Native sent Rob Aikins from San Diego as our guide, Rob was excellent. Great personality, loaded with local knowledge, an awesome wit and ability to deal calmly and politely with any off the wall situations. Rob spoke perfect Spanish and at every stop knew just about everyone we met. He worked diligently to make our trip a seamless time where all we had to do was enjoy the experience while he attended to the detail of herding cats. He left nothing to chance!

El Fuerte
Hotel Torres del Fuerte has big rooms, high ceilings, air conditioning, bottled water, wi-fi in the hotel lobby area. Each of the 25 rooms decorated uniquely. Nice large inner courtyard. Lets call the place “charming”.

El Fuerte to Divisadero
The train ride from El Fuerte to Divisdearo was as awesome a train ride as one can find. The ride through the canyon has to be seen to be appreciated. 86 tunnels, 36 bridges with interesting rock formations. The train was great. Air conditioned, good seating and the meal at lunch very tasty.

Tarahumara woman at Lake Arareko

A Tarahumara woman is selling baskets and small items at the shore of Lake Arareko.

The Hotel Mirador at Divisadero sits right on the edge of Urique Canyon and the view is stunning. We took a gondola ride across the canyon where three of the main Copper Canyon complex of canyons join – cool!

Divisadero to Creel
From Divisadero, the train on to Creel is not as scenic. The hotel (Best Western Creel) has nice rustic western themed public space. One could think you were on vacation in Montana–western themed rooms too.

Creel to Batopilas
After one night in Creel we departed to Batopilas. Along the way we stopped at a Tarahumara cave home, and then two stops at unique rock formations. One with “mushroom” like outcroppings and one (the valley of the monks) with a proliferation of tall (really tall!) rounded rocks. About noon we stopped at a roadside home for a classy picnic lunch.

Batopilas
In Batopilas we walked to Mision Del Sataveo. On the way to the mision we stopped at a Tarahumara school and handed out school supplies and visited the nearby cemetery. We also visited the local museum in Batopilas and the crumbling previous property (Hacienda) of a silver mining company.

Batopilas to Creel
On the return trip to Creel we stopped again at the roadside home for lunch and went to the waterfall near Cusarare. Nice diversion, neat waterfall.

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas.

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas, at the bottom of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. It was once one of the richest silver mining cities in the world.

Creel to Chihuahua
After leaving Creel for Chihuahua we stopped at a Mennonite home for lunch. There’s a huge Mennonite presence in Chihuahua state, they are very successful farmers and it shows in their opulent homes and ample modern farm implements. On the drive into Chihuahua we passed many fields of apple orchards. The state is the major apple growing region in Mexico. Arrived in Chihuahua around 2:30 pm, checked into the lovely Holiday Inn & Suites in Centro. Next we were given an introductory tour of the city centre–the Zocalo, cathedral and drive by Hidalgo’s museum and a gorgeous early 20th century home now belonging to the University of Chihuahua (Mansion ‘Quinta Gameros’). This was the end of the California Native tour except for a farewell dinner at a Centro restaurant, El Retablo.

The group left for El Paso the next day.

Ted McGrath
Vancouver Canada

Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd

Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd was born in Washington D.C. in 1835 and served as Territorial Governor of D.C. from 1873 to 1874.

At the bottom of the deepest canyon in the vast complex of mountains and canyons known collectively as Copper Canyon is the sleepy little village of Batopilas. Sitting next to the bougainvilleas in the town square you might see a cowboy riding his horse down the sunbaked-earth main street, or a group of brightly clad Indians packing their burros for the long journey back to their remote village. It is hard to believe that this quiet village was once one of the richest silver mining cities in the world.

The Spaniards first mined ore here in 1632. Over the centuries more than three hundred mines were worked, but it took a most unusual American to bring real wealth to the area. The man was Alexander Shepherd and the story starts, not in this remote section of Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, but in Washington D.C.

Statue of Alexander Shepherd in Washington D.C.

Statue of Alexander Shepherd in Washington D.C.

In 1871, Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd headed the D.C. Board of Public works and two years later became territorial governor of the District of Columbia. At that time Washington was a city with muddy streets and unpaved sidewalks. During his three years in office Shepherd constructed 157 miles of roads, 123 miles of sewers, 39 miles of gas mains and 30 miles of water mains, leading some historians to refer to him as the “Father of Modern Washington.” Instead of being heralded as a hero, however, he was ungraciously chased out of office after Congress discovered that he had overspent the cities budget by $16 million with a disproportionate share of the benefits going to neighborhoods in which he had financial interests.

Shepherd declared bankruptcy and, in 1880, moved his family to Batopilas, where he had purchased a silver mine from another American, John Robinson, for $600,000. Thirteen years earlier, Robinson bought two old supposedly worked out mines where he discovered a rich vein of ore, but then ran into a major obstacle—because of the remoteness of the area his transportation and processing costs were far too high to make the operation profitable.

Shepherd, who always thought on a grand scale, applied the same organizing skills he had used in Washington to his new mining venture.

He began by filing more than 300 additional mining claims and consolidating his holdings into the Batopilas Mining Company. Then, instead of shipping out raw ore to be processed at some distant location, he constructed a complete processing facility in Batopilas. The processed silver was cast into bars, loaded two bars per mule, and taken by monthly mule trains of up to 100 mules to Chihuahua.

Between 1880 and 1906, 20 million ounces of silver were extracted from the mines—ranking the Batopilas mines among the richest silver mines in the world. At their peak the mines employed 1500 workers, and the total length of tunnels exceeded 70 miles.

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda in Batopilas, at the bottom of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. It was once one of the richest silver mining cities in the world.

Shepherd’s innovations included the construction of the Porfirio Diaz tunnel—a tunnel bored through the base of a mountain, where a train hauled out ore, which was dropped down shafts from the tunnels above. The train had to be dismantled and hauled in almost 200 miles by burro and human labor. The tunnel is still there, now deserted except by bats.

Shepherd did much to improve the town of Batopilas, building bridges, aqueducts, and a hydroelectric plant, which made Batopilas the second city in Mexico to have electricity—second only to Mexico City itself. By the time Shepherd died in 1902, the town’s population had grown from 400 to around 5000 (it is now around 1000). The hydroelectric facility he built was restored in 1988 and once again powers the town, and his original aqueduct still provides the local water supply.

Today there is no large-scale mining in Batopilas, though a few old prospectors still pan gold and silver from the river or extract small quantities of ore from the abandoned workings.

A group of Tarahumara Ladies in Batopilas

Today, a group of Tarahumara Ladies go about their business in the quiet little town of Batopilas.

A little holiday snow in the high country of Mexico's Copper Canyon creates a perfect Christmas Card.

A little holiday snow in the high country of Mexico's Copper Canyon creates a perfect Christmas Card.

Please join us and celebrate this year’s holidays in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. We still have some spaces left on our Christmas/New Years Ultimate Copper Canyon tour where we will celebrate a special Christmas with the Tarahumara Indians at the Paraiso del Oso Lodge.

On December 23rd, our small group departs from Los Angeles and Phoenix airports for an exciting tour into Mexico’s Sierra Madre. The 11-day Ultimate tour spends nights in El Fuerte, Cerocahui, Divisadero, Creel, Batopilas, and Chihuahua. As with all of our Copper Canyon tours, we ride the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad for one of the most spectacular train rides in the Western Hemisphere.

A Tarahumara church deep in Copper Canyon.

A Tarahumara church deep in Copper Canyon.

Participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a special Christmas Eve known as Noche-bueno (the Good Night), a delicious dinner at the Paraiso del Oso, and Ana Maria’s famous Christmas punch. Those wishing to join the Tarahumara Indians and mestizo community may attend the midnight mass, also known as La Misa del Gallo (Rooster’s Mass). Traditional Tarahumara dancing usually starts an hour or two before the mass, then recommences afterwards to make it an all-night celebration. As an old Spanish saying goes, “Esta noche es Noche-Buena, y no es noche de dormir” (Tonight is the Good Night, and it is not meant for sleeping).

A light snow paints Mexico's Copper Canyon in holiday colors.

A light snow paints Mexico's Copper Canyon in holiday colors.

As Christmas morning arrives, the celebration moves back to the Oso Lodge where local Tarahumara, who live in isolated ranchitos in the rugged mountains surrounding the lodge, join the hotel guests for the piñata party. The children take turns swinging at the Christmas piñata until it explodes, showering candy and small toys. The hotel is filled with laughter and glee as the children scramble to collect their treasures. Then gifts from under the Christmas tree are handed out. As the locals return to their mountain ranchitos, The California Native guests prepare for a beautiful day trip to the bottom of Urique Canyon. In the evening after the excursion, guests enjoy a special holiday dinner.

In a few days, it will be time to welcome in the year 2013, and we’ll join the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city of Chihuahua.

Some other highlights of this tour are the Cusarare and Basaseachic waterfalls, a day trip to the village of Urique, the “Lost Cathedral of Satevo,” a trip back in time to the village of Batopilas, and magnificent vista points which overlook a whole series of intertwined “barrancas” (canyons).

Want to celebrate Christmas in Copper Canyon but can’t take the full 11-days for your winter vacation? We also have an 8-day trip which departs on December 21.

To be a part of this year’s celebration and enjoy this truly unique experience, call us at 1-800-926-1140 (or 1-310-642-1140) to make your reservations now as time is running out. Happy holiday season to all of our fellow travelers.

Young Tarahumara girls play at school in Mexico's Copper Canyon.

Young Tarahumara girls play at school in Mexico's Copper Canyon.

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. This last February David & Stephani White, from Wilsonville, Oregon, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 8-day Independent Trip to the Canyon Bottom.

A Young Tarahumara Lady Weaves a Basket

A young Tarahumara lady weaves a basket in Mexico's Copper Canyon.

My wife and I took the 8-day to the bottom trip in February of this year. I have been meaning to write , but ….

We had a wonderful time. The hotel in El Fuerte was terrific. The train trip was fascinating and beautiful. We really enjoyed Batopilas. Julio, our guide, was very knowledgeable, helpful, and fun to be with. We had a special treat: government aid distribution took place in Batopilas while we were there. The town square filled with over 200 Tarahumara people in their colorful clothing to receive drought-assistance. The hotel at Divisidero is stunning.

Thank you very much. It was a wonderful trip. Hopefully our enthusiastic recommendations to our friends will bring more business.

David & Stephani White

We appreciate it when our guests share their stories with us and allow us to post them on our blog. A few months ago Doris Beinhauer and Henry Adler from Rio de Janiero, Brazil, traveled with us on our Copper Canyon 11-day Independent Trip to the Canyon Bottom.

Hi Lee, Laurie and all the California Native team,

Just this week we have been talking with friends from Los Angeles about our trip to Copper Canyon and how much we enjoyed it. This little adventure turned out even better than I imagined.

We liked El Fuerte and the Hotel Torres del Fuerte. Chihuahua was also a real surprise.

Highlight of course was the trip from Creel to Batopilas. If we ever would visit again we would like to hike into the canyon, and if there is another time we shall surely contact you.

All the best from Rio de Janeiro,

Doris and Henry

Ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda

In the town of Batopilas, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, the ruins of the Shepherd Hacienda are a reminder of the time when this town was one of the richest silver mining cities in the world.

Mexico's President, Felipe Calderon, and California Native's President, Lee Klein, at luncheon in Mexico's Presidential Residence, Los Pinos.On May 21, 2010, California Native owners Lee and Ellen Klein were guests of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón at a luncheon he held in Mexico City at Los Pinos, Mexico’s official presidential residence.

Guests at the luncheon were specially selected international tour operators, and members of the international press corps.

The event was the kick-off of an initiative to spur tourism in Mexico’s many beautiful and fascinating “non-beach-resort” destinations.

This year marks Mexico’s Bicentennial, as well as the Centennial of the Mexican Revolution. In recognition of these events, The Mexican Tourism Board has created “Rutas de Mexico,”—ten tourism routes covering the 31 States of Mexico.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch and listened to speeches from Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s new tourism minister, as well as the President himself, who spoke of each of the routes. He spent quite a bit of time on the Copper Canyon Route, and talked about the town of Batopilas, which is visited on most California Native Copper Canyon tours.
The California Native's Lee and Ellen Klein at luncheon in Mexico's Presidential Residence, Los Pinos.

As guests of the Tourism Board and President Calderón, we spent the next four days touring on the “Revolution Route,” which included many charming Colonial Cities, including Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and others.

Watch our blog for more on these cities, along with our other Mexican destinations of Copper Canyon, Chiapas and Yucatan.

A dusty cowboy rides his horse down the sunbaked-earth main street, his pistol at his side. A small group of Indians, clad in bright colored blouses, breech cloths and headbands, pack their burros for the long journey back to their remote village, while nearby a group of children play tag around the bougainvilleas in the town square.

Cowboy walking horses up quiet street in BatopilasThis is Batopilas, a small village located in Mexico’s Sierra Madres at the bottom of the deepest canyon in the vast complex of mountains and canyons known collectively as Copper Canyon. Today Batopilas is a sleepy little village, but it was not always this way. At the turn of the century it was one of the richest silver mining areas in the world, but after that period, time seems to have stood still.

The Spaniards first mined ore in Batopilas in 1632, and the mines continued to produce for the next three hundred years. The peak mining period was reached during the late 1800’s when an American named Alexander Shepherd developed the mines to their highest level of production—a level which ranked them among the richest silver mines in the world.

The mining operation at that time employed 1500 workers, and the total length of tunnels was more than 70 miles. Shepherd did much to improve the town, building bridges, aqueducts, and a hydroelectric plant, which made Batopilas the second city in Mexico to have electricity—second only to Mexico City itself. His headquarters was known as the Hacienda de San Miguel—a complex of adobe buildings which included the family residence, the business offices and a mill and reduction plant. He later constructed the Porfirio Diaz tunnel—a tunnel bored through the base of a mountain, where a train hauled out ore which was dropped down shafts from the tunnels above. The train had to be dismantled and hauled in almost 200 miles by burro and human labor, because there was no road to Batopilas. In fact, the road to Batopilas was not built until the 1970’s, almost a century later. The tunnel is still there, now deserted except by the bats.

Today there is no large-scale mining in Batopilas, though a few old prospectors still pan gold and silver from the river or extract small quantities of ore from the abandoned workings.

View of Satevo's 'Lost Cathedral', near BatopilasThree miles downstream from Batopilas, past an old suspension bridge, is a 400 year old Jesuit mission. The mission, recently restored, is known as the “Lost Cathedral” of Satevo, because over the course of time all records of it were lost by the Catholic Church.

Most of the buildings in Batopilas were built during the Victorian Era, but some date back to the 17th century. Many of the businesses have no signs on them—after all, in a town the size of Batopilas everyone knows where everything is. In the general store the counters are the old-fashioned high ones, worn smooth and wavy from a century of customers resting their elbows on them.

Evening is a special time in Batopilas. As the twilight spreads over the little town square the residents gather to visit with their neighbors, share the events of the day, and relax. Meanwhile, the youngsters play basketball until it is time for bed.

Traveling to Batopilas is an adventure in itself. Beginning in Creel, the road travels up and down through mountains and valleys and finally, just outside of the Tarahumara Indian village of Kirare, heads straight down along a windy, twisted, one-lane, “E-ticket ride” dirt road to the bottom of the canyon. From there it hugs the side of the canyon as it follows the Rio Batopilas down river for another hour, finally arriving in Batopilas after 5½ to 8 hours, depending on whether you travel by car or take the local bus. The local bus is a rickety old school bus which makes the trip down from Creel every other day. For the return trip, the bus departs Batopilas at 4:30 a.m. so that it can reach the rim of the canyon before the radiator boils over.

The journey to Batopilas is a breathtaking trip, but is not suitable for all travelers as the road down may make the faint-of-heart wish they had stayed at home. The best time to make the journey down is in the winter time, because Summer temperatures can soar above 100° Fahrenheit

The year 2009 is coming to a close. We are now at the end of November and the holidays are coming up fast, but it is not too late to make your plans for a wonderful holiday getaway. We do have some space left on our Christmas/New Years escorted tour to Mexico’s Copper Canyon where we will celebrate Christmas with the Tarahumara Indians and the owners of the Paraiso del Oso.

On December 23rd, we will be departing with a small group out of Los Angeles and Phoenix airports for an exciting tour into the canyon. The 11-day Ultimate tour spends nights in El Fuerte, Cerocahui, Divisadero, Creel, Batopilas, Chihuahua and a wooded area just outside San Juanito. As with all of our Copper Canyon tours, we ride the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad for one of the most spectacular train rides in the Western Hemisphere. The train travels through the lowlands of Sinaloa State and up into the Sierra Madre Mountains, passing through 86 tunnels and crossing 37 bridges.

Some other highlights on this tour are the Cusarare and Basaseachic waterfalls, a day trip to the village of Urique, the “Lost Cathedral” just outside of the village of Batopilas located at the canyon bottom and the magnificent vista point which overlooks a whole series of intertwined “barrancas” (canyons).

Pinata

On this special trip, participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a special Christmas Eve known as Noche-bueno (the Good Night), a delicious dinner at the Paraiso del Oso and Ana Maria’s famous Christmas punch. Those wishing to join the Tarahumara Indians and mestizo community may attend the midnight mass, also known as La Misa del Gallo (Rooster’s Mass). Traditional Tarahumara dancing usually starts an hour or two before the mass, then recommences afterwards to make it an all-night celebration. As an old Spanish saying goes, “Esta noche es Noche-Buena, y no es noche de dormir” (Tonight is the Good Night, and it is not meant for sleeping).

As Christmas morning arrives, the celebration moves back to the Oso Lodge where local Tarahumara join the hotel guests for the piñata party. The native Tarahumara live in isolated ranchitos in the rugged mountains surrounding the hotel. They take turns swinging at the Christmas piñata until it explodes showering candy and small toys to the ground. The hotel is filled with laughter and glee as the children scramble to collect their treasures. Gifts from under the Christmas tree are handed out. As the locals return to their mountain ranchitos, guests with The California Native prepare for the day trip to the Urique Canyon. In the evening after the excursion, guests enjoy a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

What better way to end this year and bring in the new year than to spend the night surrounded by pine trees in the Sierra Madre Mountains. We will stay in comfortable log cabins at the Lodge at Norítari meaning a “Place Above the Clouds” in the language of the Tarahumara Indians. Here one can hike to a nearby lake or relax on an old-fashion porch taking in the peacefulness of this lovely area.

To be a part of this year’s celebration and a truly unique experience, make your reservations now as time is running out. Happy holiday season to all of our fellow travelers.

The beauty of Mexico’s Copper Canyon and the simple life-style of its Tarahumara residents is the real “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” but this remote region of rugged mountains and deep canyons may also hold more traditional treasure—gold and silver buried in undiscovered troves.

Treasure may be buried near the Satevo Mission

In February, 1767, King Charles III of Spain decreed that all Jesuits be expelled from the New World and that their properties be confiscated. His counselors had advised him that the Jesuits held a special allegiance to the pope and opposed the supremacy of the monarchy. In addition, there were suspicions that the Jesuits were involved in political intrigues in Madrid. Some of this came about because the Jesuits, known as the “Black Robes,” had acquired much wealth and power throughout the empire, causing enmity among clergy of other orders.

To prevent the Jesuits from hiding their wealth, it became imperative that the expulsion be carried out simultaneously and without warning throughout the empire. Messages under seal of the king were sent to all military commanders and were not to be opened until June 25. On that day the officers were ordered to arrest and deport the Jesuits and confiscate all the church’s property for the crown.

Despite the best efforts at secrecy, the Jesuits in Mexico became aware of the plan and began conveying their treasure out of the country by secret channels. Because of the short notice, they could not transport all of the gold and silver and were forced to bury large quantities of it.

In the bottom of Copper Canyon, four miles beyond the town of Batopilas, is Satevo, a small settlement with a beautiful old church, Iglesias San Miguel de Satevo. The church, with its three-tiered bell tower and its three domes, is all that remains of the mission of Santo Angel Custodio de Satevo, built by the Jesuits around 1760 and destroyed by a fire in the late 1800’s. All of the mission’s records were lost in the fire and the church has become fancifully known as the “Lost Cathedral of Satevo.”

In the 1800’s, vandals looking for wealth hidden by the Jesuits, ransacked the church and its crypts, but there is no evidence that they found anything. Some people believe that treasure is still hidden in the vicinity of the old church and, indeed, throughout the Sierra Madre mountains.

Many of our Copper Canyon trips visit Satevo and the old church of San Miguel de Satevo. On these journeys to the bottom of the canyon you probably won’t uncover the gold and silver allegedly buried by the Jesuits, but among the beauty, tranquility, and the always-present history of the region, you’re sure to discover your own “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

We received this letter from Robert Bolton, a photographer from Wellsville, Utah, who was delighted with his trip and the photographic opportunities in Copper Canyon.

Dear California Native,

Respecting my recent trip to Copper Canyon with your company, to begin Rob was an outstanding tour guide in all respects. He is highly competent, knows his facts and he was a pleasure to be with. Rob worked diligently to meet the various requests of tour participants. In summary, I count Rob as a new friend.

In regards to the trip itself, it was a thorough adventure. It seemed in some ways as though I was stepping back in time one hundred and fifty years – except for the modern amenities. I particularly enjoyed the cultural aspects of the sojourn, dealing with remote peoples and villages.

Batopilas was exceptional, and in my view the high point of the trip, although there were many other singular experiences as well. This remote village was a joy to visit, and, as I am a serious photographer, a pictorial feast. I spent the first afternoon there making pictures of the town and colorful facades. I would have enjoyed spending an additional day in Batopilas. Another aspect of this particular experience was observing the village inhabitants interacting with one another. They take time to enjoy one another’s company, something that is disappearing in western culture.

Further, this is the first time I have ridden a train since I was a child, other than a brief experience in Europe this past September. I thoroughly enjoyed the train and the various cultural experiences along the rails.

Our first nights stay at Torres Del Fuerte in El Fuerte was a special treat. The old world charm at this hotel was particularly memorable. I would have enjoyed spending a bit more time at this venue.

Throughout our travels the food was great. In particular, the cooking at the restaurant in Batopilas and at Diego’s – Paraiso del Oso – was outstanding. One other note: I had some of the best guacamole of my life at a small restaurant in Creel that Rob took us to.

To conclude, I’ll not soon forget this outstanding travel experience. Thank you for a wonderful adventure.
Sincerely,

Robert Bolton
Wellsville, UT

Thank you Mr. Bolton. And we invite others to share their impressions, photographs, and videos of their California Native trips.
Lee Klein