San Miguel, one of the historic stops along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro route, has been recognized by UNESCO. // © 2010 Mexico Tourist Board
UNESCO World Heritage
UNESCO has recognized Mexico’s Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla in the Central Valley of Oaxaca as World Heritage sites. This boosts Mexico’s total number of UNESCO sites to 31 and also elevates Mexico’s ranking of UNESCO sites to sixth place worldwide.
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is more commonly known as the Silver Route. Starting in Mexico City and passing through Queretaro, San Miguel, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Durango, the route was actively used as a trade route for 300 years. From the mid-16th century to the 19th century, the Silver Route was used mainly for transporting silver extracted from mines in Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi, and mercury imported from Europe. Although it is a route that was motivated and consolidated by the mining industry, it also helped to foster social, cultural and religious links between the Spanish and native cultures.
The 1,615-mile Silver Route is the oldest route in the Americas, and an 869-mile section has been designated by UNESCO. This passes through five existing World Heritage sites — the Protective Town of San Miguel and the Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno de Atotonilco; the Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines; the Historic Center of Mexico City and Xochimilco; the Historic Center of Zacatecas; and the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro.
The Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla in the Central Valley of Oaxaca are located on the northern slope of the Tlacolula valley in central Oaxaca. The Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla have given origin to the domestication of plants in North America. The site consists of two pre-Hispanic archaeological complexes and a series of prehistoric caves and rock shelters that provide rock-art evidence of nomadic hunter-gatherers — including 10,000-year-old Cucurbitaceae seeds, considered to be the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent.