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MEXICO: Real del Catorce

Linda Nyquist describes Real del Catorce (or simply Catorce), which is the center of a drug culture, the subject of a later posting. "Real del Catorce is located at 9000 feet in the mountains outside Matehuala, Mexico which is south of Monterrey, and north of San Luis Potosi. It is a wonderful destination. For years it was considered a ghost town, but is now called a "Ciudad de Leyenda" and is attracting tourism. I went there the first time about 15 years ago. We drove up one day past cactus plants and crumbling abandoned buildings on a narrow, winding road. The valley floor slowly disappeared behind us. The landscape looked like a marvellous John Wayne movie. Finally we reached the 2-mile long Ogorrio tunnel (narrow gauge), drove through it, and came out the other end to this wonderful town of abandoned 2-story houses, complete with gargoyles and decorations. There were a few people living there (maybe 200?), a functioning Catholic church to which there was an annual pilgrimage in October, and a health clinic run by the Public Health Service (SSA, Salubridad). We introduced ourselves to the resident doctor, who invited us to lunch, and had a marvellous day talking with him about his work. He treated mostly miners in the area and their wives. He was doing his social service. We saw the old mint and the opera house, and walked around the cemetery. This was a thriving town in 1850. It is a beautiful place, and I was happy to see it before it became overrun with tourists.

The origin of the name is not clear. Some say it refers to 14 bandits who frequented the area in the last century. Who knows. It is also reported that Enrico Caruso sang there; also, not substantiated. The magazine, Americas, had an article many years ago on Real del Catorce. For anyone driving between Monterrey and San Luis Potosi, it is worthwhile to take the time to drive up the mountain from Matehuala. You can overnight at one of a number of motels/hotels in Matehuala. You can even stay overnight in Real now, but I wouldn't say that it's 4-stars!"

Ronald Hilton - 1/21/02