Durango is a state in Northern Mexico. Most of the state is mountainous and heavily forested, with the Sierra Madre Occidental covering around two-thirds of the state.
|“||The glittering treasure you've been dreaming of day and night lies buried over yonder, beyond that there mountain.||”|
—Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Durango is composed of Chihuahuan Desert in the northeast, Altiplano in the central interior, and the Sierra Madre along the western edge of the state. The Sierra Madre of Durango was the setting for the famous B. Traven novel (later adapted into a Hollywood film), the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. One of the great novels about northern Mexico, the book serves as a good introduction to the area to this very day.
- 1 Durango (Victoria de Durango) – the city of Durango has been declared a national monument by the Mexican government thanks to over 1000 well-preserved historic buildings, many dating back to the colonial period. Also, many Mexicans consider Durango to be something of a spa city because of the many hot springs in the area as well as the natural beauty and wonderful climate the city enjoys.
- 2 Nuevo Ideal — a town north of the City of Durango near the Santiaguillo lake
- 3 Pinos Altos
- 4 El Salto — has places to practice rappelling, mountaineering and zip-lining
- 5 Gómez Palacio — the state's second-largest community, and an industrial center
- 6 Guanaceví — a mining and forestry center
- 7 Santiago Papasquiaro — famous for its pinole, a drink made from corn meal
- 8 Santa María del Oro
- 9 Tepehuanes
- La Quebrada - Though everyone talks about the Grand and Copper Canyons (both to the north), La Quebrada is actually the deepest canyon system in North America - it's such a steep canyon system that even the Spanish were never able to penetrate the area, so it lacks the historic mission churches like those found in the copper canyon, and modern tourism has yet to really take off. But if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, know how to use climbing gear, and aren't concerned with the large scale drug cultivation that goes on in the area, this is easily one of the wildest and most rugged areas in North America. (note: La Quebrada is a popular Spanish name and the one in Durango should not be confused with the more famous La Quebrada diving rocks in Acapulco.)
- Santiaguillo is a nearly 45-km-long lake about an hour's drive north of the City of Durango. Much of the southern section of the lake is dry, but the northern part near Nuevo Ideal has more water in it. You will have to take Mexican Highway 23 north and turn right on the main road at Guatimapé to get a good view of the lake.
Durango state has tremendous eco-tourism potential. In many ways the north of the state is very similar to the Copper Canyon area. There are canyons, Mennonites, and Tarahumara. The biggest difference is there are almost no foreign tourists or backpackers here - less infrastructure and less camaraderie but better opportunity for exploration and interaction with locals.
As a rural state, traditional agriculture is still the main economic activity for most of the population, despite only ten percent of the land being suitable for crops, and only fifteen percent being suitable for pasture. The main crops include corn, beans, chilli peppers, apples, alfalfa, and sorghum. Fruits such as apples and pears are grown in Canatlán, Nuevo Ideal and Guatimapé; nuts in Nazas and San Juan del Rio; and membrillo, apricots and peaches in Nombre de Dios. Most agriculture is concentrated in the Valleys region, in particular, the municipalities of Guadalupe Victoria and Poanas.
Mexican Route 40D runs through the State of Durango.
The Mexican Route 23 goes north from Durango (city) to Nuevo Ideal and Pinos Altos, as well as going south.
Tourism is a small industry here, despite the state's natural resources and history. The government has worked to promote the state for tourism, but this is concentrated mostly on the capital (including the movie sets around the city), two other towns in the state and to some extent, ecotourism.
There are many historic and tourist sites in the Valleys region, in particular in the city of Durango. The San Juan del Rio municipality has the house in which Francisco Villa was born. There are several important architectural sites in the city, including the Ganot-Peschard Museum of Archeology, which is recognized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History as a site of historical significance. In Súchil, the former hacienda of El Mortero was the home of the Count of the Valley of Súchil and is one of the state's major examples of colonial architecture. The town of Mapimí has conserved its traditional urban layout which has permitted it to become a Pueblo Mágico. The most important mine is Ojuela, now famous for its hanging bridge which connects the town with the mine, separated by an extremely deep ravine. It one of the largest of its kind in the Americas. Nazas has a house that Benito Juárez slept in while he was here.
- 1 El Tecuan National Park, Mexico Federal Highway 40, ☏ . 08:00-20:00. This park is in the pine-covered hills west of the City of Durango.
- 2 Mexiquillo Natural Park, Mexico Federal Highway 40 (140 km west of Durango next to town of La Ciudad), ☏ . Another mountainous park in the Sierra Occidental featuring a waterfall, natural rock garden, lakes, and railway tunnels with lodging on site and in the town of La Ciudad immediately adjacent. You might think you're in Colorado.
- Mexico Highway 40. The section of the highway from Durango towards Mazatlan is perhaps the most scenic drive in all of Mexico. This section of the highway is narrow with many curves and has been replaced with the new Fed. 40D. The old Fed. 40 can take up to 8 hours to travel, while Fed. 40D should only take 3 hours. During the winter months there is the added danger of ice. When going eastbound, Mazatlán to Durango, after reaching the top of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Fed. 40 becomes more linear, and it goes through the towns of La Ciudad, El Salto, and El Soldado. It continues in a line up to a point around 30 km from Durango, and it again goes downhill with many curves. In all the downhill sections, the use of engine brake is advised.
The most important secular celebration of the state is the Durango State Fair (Feria de Durango). The most important annual events in the Semi-desert region are the municipal fairs of Gómez Palacio, Mapimí and Santa Ana in Nazas. In the Valleys region the most important annual events are the Apple Festival in Canatlán and the Nut Festival in San Juan del Rio. Important religious observances include those in La Sauceda in Canatlán, El Nayar, La Sierra de Gampon in Guadalupe Victoria and El Tizonazo in Indé. In the Sierra region, most towns observe the feast days of their patron saint with plays based on Biblical stories. Celebrations related to Christmas and the New Year are also important.
In Quebradas, patron saint days are important and often feature indigenous music. The Tepehuans continue the tradition of the mitote, a kind of ceremonial dance, three times per year: in February to ask for health, in May to call the rains and in October to celebrate the first harvests of corn. Those of Mexica, Huicholes and Tarahumara also conserve many aspects of their traditional dance and music.
Probably the best-known tourist product of the state relates to scorpions. In the 1980s, a number of entrepreneurs turned the animal into an unofficial symbol of state pride. Most are sold encased in acrylic and mounted on knickknacks such as ashtrays, napkin holders, keychains, earrings, wood boxes and wall mountings. These objects dominate tourist markets such as the Gomez market in Durango City.
The craft items of the state are very similar to those of Zacatecas and Chihuahua. Most of the items made are utilitarian and ceremonial. They are less known compared to those of the middle and south of the country. Many craft items are still important to local cultures and identities.
The most widespread and developed handcraft in the state is pottery, found in just about all of the territory. Common products include flower pots, jars, pots and cazuelas (large cooking vessels). The most decorative pottery is found in and around the city of Durango, with techniques such as pastillaje (laying small rolls or balls of clay over a pot before firing to make a raised design) and sgraffito, especially in the newer generations of pottery.
The next most-widely done work is basketry and other items made with stiff fibers. These include baskets, carrying nets or bags, petites, sombreros, furniture and decorative items made from ixtle, wicker, mesquite roots, reeds, pine needles, pine strips and cactus ribs.
Textile work is produced all over the state, using cotton, ixtle, lechugilla and wool usually to make clothing. Cloth made with both backstrap and pedal looms are found frequently, but the most-commonly made items are knitted. Embroidery is also widespread.
Indigenous crafts include embroidered clothing, household utensils, farm tools and ceremonial objects.
Much of the state's cuisine is based on corn, although wheat products such as flour tortillas and various breads are readily found. Beef is important but pork dishes are also common. As much of Durango has a colder climate, especially in the higher elevations, soups are popular as a main as well as a first course.
One of the best known dishes, caldillo duranguense, is essentially a hearty beef soup with roasted green chili peppers. Gorditas are a particularly popular and important food historically, as they were a mainstay for field hands who found the pockets of corn or wheat convenient for carrying and eating meats and sauce outside of the home. Although found in other parts of Mexico, tacos de tripe (intestines) are particularly popular here. Asado rojo de puerco, known as asado de boda in other parts of north-central Mexico is popular. Tamales are popular but they are smaller and have more meat than those made further south. Moles are popular as well. There is barbacoa, but the meat used is as often beef as it is the mutton used farther south. Popular northern dishes include machaca as well as burritos, influence from neighboring Chihuahua. During Lent population (most Catholics) tend to lean toward vegetarian dishes with or without cheese, as fish is not common in the diet of this landlocked state. Local specialties include pinole, which is best known in Santiago Papasquiaro.
The raising of cattle in various parts leads to the making of a variety of cheeses. Some, like manchego and asadero, are available in other parts of the north, but local varieties such as queso ranchero are also consumed. Concentrated sweet paste made from quince is often called cajeta (used for a milk product in other parts of Mexico) as well as the more common name of ate. Other traditional sweets are similar to those found in central Mexico.
The state of Durango is seriously plagued by trouble with the drug cartels, though this very likely won't be an issue for tourists who stay in the city and don't venture into the backcountry.