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Santa Eulalia, Chihuahua, Mexico

The town of Santa Eulalia is intimately linked to the history of the city of Chihuahua. It could be said to be its direct antecedent, and one of the oldest towns in the state of Chihuahua. It was founded in1652 by the Spanish captain Diego del Castillo, who discovered a silver mine that he named Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, and the mining camp he called Santa Eulalia de Mèrida in honour of Saint Eulalia. The governor and Captain General of New Vizcaya granted permission to Captain Castillo to excavate the mine, but luck was not on his side and after a series of failures and tragedies the work at the mine was suspended. The mine remained abandoned until 1707, when Nicolas Cortez de Monroy, Eugenio Ramirez Calderon and John Holguín applied for permission to operate the mine. It was located five kilometres from the present day Santa Eulalia. The town was called ‘Xicuahua’ by the local Indians a name that was deformed by the Spaniards to ‘Chihuahua’ or ‘Chiguagua’. The original name is in the Nahuatl language and means ‘dry and sandy place’. It was in this locality, some time later, that a small town grew called ‘Chihuahua El Viejo’. General Lew Wallace narrates a story that the mine had a very curious origin. He wrote that a band of thieves which had taken refuge inside the mine, discovered large quantities of minerals therein. They went to the authorities and asked for pardon for their crimes if they showed them a mine that had so much silver they would be able to build a cathedral with the proceeds. The proposal was accepted and they were pardoned.

Rhodochrosite from Santa Eulalia, Mexico
Luis Lyons photo
Mimetite from Santa EulaliaLuis Lyons photo

The mountain where the mine is located is made of igneous rock. The rock precipitates the mineral when it comes in contact with water. There is such a large amount of water in these rocks that the mines have to be drained constantly in order to be able to work in its interior. Santa Eulalia has produced large quantities of green with grey smithsonite for years. These spectacular specimens are mainly found in level eight of the mine, in a water table where there is a high concentration of zinc leachate. The coating of zinc helps form, esferalite, rhodochrosite, hemimorphite, creedite, chalcite, and crystals of arsenopyrite. The Potosí Mine is one of the most prolific locations for specimens in all of Mexico often being compared to Mapima. The creedite that is found in Santa Eulalia is renown for its beautiful, purple, crystalline colour that it is often confused with amethyst.
The mine of Santa Eulalia plays an intrinsic part in history; the discovery of the mine fostered the development of new towns in the north of the country. Practically all the silver coins that were minted for circulation in Europe in the XVIII century, were made from silver extracted from this mine. This is evidence of its relevance in the global context.

Church in Chihuahua, Mexico

Santa Eulalia continued to be an important mining town until the mid-twentieth century when several mines closed due to slow economic activity. Today, the city of Chihuahua has grown so much in size that it is practically adjoined to Santa Eulalia. It has many interesting historical monuments and quaint, ancient streets and alleys that have transformed the city into a tourist attraction.

The mine soon became famous and miners from all over the country headed for Chihuahua. The proposed cathedral was indeed built with funds generated from taxes imposed on the mineral. The mine was one of the most important in the colonies. The Mint registered large quantities of silver, but most likely that was only half of the mineral that was actually extracted. When Baron Von Humboldt visited Mexico at the beginning of the XIX century, the richest deposits of silver were to be found in the Santa Eulalia Mine, where between three and five thousand miners were employed.