Cascade Park

Cascade Park

Monday, April 20, 2015

Colonial Querétaro

Saturday we traveled three hours to the northwest of Mexico City to Querétaro, a growing city of around one million people, and one of the most prosperous cities in the country.  Querétaro is booming with new construction, but its colonial heart remains picturesque and filled with architectural gems.  There are pleasant plazas and gardens, quaint pedestrianized streets, and numerous churches.  It is also considered one of the cradles of Mexican independence.

The Church of San Francisco was begun in 1540, and is one of the oldest in the city.


From beside the church a pedestrian street winds through the heart of the old colonial city.

The street leads to the Plaza de Armas, one of several attractive plazas.  Unlike most Mexican cities, Querétaro does not have a "zócalo", a town square on which the principal government and religious buildings are all located.

Facing the Plaza de Armas is the building in which the Spanish colonial magistrate, the "corregidor", had his residence.  In 1810 the "corregidor" was Miguel Domínquez.  His wife, Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, was known as La Corregidora".   Josefa developed an interest in the writings of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, and sympathy for those who were oppressed under Spanish colonial rule.  Under the guise of hosting "literary discussion groups" she opened her home to a group of rebels who were conspiring to break away from Spanish rule.  The conspiracy was discovered, and the "corregidor" supposedly locked his wife in a room so that she could not warn the others.  The story goes that she whispered a warning through the keyhole of the door to one of the group, Ignacio Pérez.  Pérez, sort of like a Mexican Paul Revere, galloped off to warn the other conspirators.  Thus began Mexico's War of Independence from Spain.

This monument in honor of "La Corregidora" was built on the centennial of Mexico's independence.  The figure at the base is Ignacio Pérez.

A short walk to the east of the Plaza de Armas takes you to the Church and Monastery of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). 

The monastery in colonial times was a center for the training of missionaries to convert the indigenous peoples throughout the Spanish Empire.  Among the friars who spent time here was Junípero Serra who went on to found the missions of California.

Legend says that in 1697 a friar planted his staff in the meadow where the monastery now stands.   The staff sprouted leaves and grew into a tree.  The tree does not bear flowers or fruit... only thorns in the shape of the cross.  The tree still stands in the monastery courtyard.  In the plaza in front of the church there are vendors' stalls where the thorns are for sale.  I was chatting with one of the vendors.  He asked me if I was Catholic, and when I told him that I was not, he gave me one of the thorns.  Perhaps he was hoping to convert me.

The colonial center extends also to the west of the Plaza de Armas with more streets lined with colonial buildings...

...such as this colonial mansion which is now a boutique hotel.

The Church of Santa Clara was built in 1606.

It is noted for its baroque, gold gilt altarpieces.

The church faces yet another pretty plaza.

(photo taken by Alejandro)

A few blocks away, the Church of Santa Rosa de Viterbo is another example of baroque architecture.

After hours of wandering the streets of Querétaro, we returned to the Plaza de Armas to eat (and rest our legs) at one of the outdoor restaurants.  Alejandro ordered ostrich.  I had never eaten ostrich before.  I had a taste, and it was delicious.

There was much that we were not able to see during the short time that we were in Querétaro.  I would enjoy a return visit.  To my travel-buddy Jane... if you are reading this, how does Querétaro sound as a Mexico destination in the future?


  1. Great post! You've done an excellent job summarizing QRO's complicated history and taking readers on a journey through its various churches and squares.

    I love and miss this growing city. Looks like you had great weather, too!

    1. Thanks! We really only scratched the surface. We didn't go into any of the museums, nor to the colonial aqueduct, nor to the Hill of Bells where Maximilian was executed.
      Yes, we had very warm (80s), mostly sunny weather.

  2. In addition, Fr. Serra oversaw the building of 6 missions in Mexico to the Northeast of Queretaro in the Sierra Gorda. It is a MAGNIFICENT biosphere area and the journey to the missions is magnificent. In addition Edward James, Las Pozas is in Xilitla near the missions. Worth the trip, I promise.......Queretaro, although very large, is a very clean city. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I have heard of Las Pozas. We also saw signs along the highway for the Sierra Gorda. Is that in the direction of Bernal? We went to Bernal a while ago and thought it was charming, and we also climbed part way up the rock.

  3. F and I went to Querétaro some years back and loved it. A resident sister of one of his friends dropped everything and showed us around for a few days and we loved it. The buildings are wonderful and the system of plazas and andadores is lovely.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we should have added Querétaro to our "Magical Mexican Mountain Town Tour" series in our blog.