Chihuahua (chee-WAH-wah), state ( 94,831 sq mi/245,612 sq km;), N Mexico, on the U.S. (Texas) border; Chihuahua; 26°36'N 103°11'W. Largest of the Mex. states, Chihuahua is divided into 2 regions—the mts. of the Sierra Madre Occidental to the W, and the vast, cactus-and-greasewood desert basins, broken by scattered barren ranges, to the N and E. In extreme E Chihuahua and W Coahuila is a desert basin, the Bolson de Mapimi. Chihuahua is a leading natl. mineral producer; gold, zinc, lead, and other minerals constitute the state's most valuable industry. Cattle raising has been revived. The state has seen damming of some rivers for irrigation. Chihuahua is one of Mexico's chief agr. states. Foreign (particularly U.S.) corporations have taken advantage of the large and rapidly expanding pop. and built mfg. plants (maquiladoras). Among the prods. are electronics and motor vehicles. First known to the Spanish through the explorations of Cabeza de Vaca, and after the settlement of Durango in 1562 by Francisco de Ibarra, Chihuahua and Durango were called Nueva Vizcaya. Became a state after the Mex. revolution against Spain. During the 19th cent. Chihuahua was a center of Apache and Yaqui activity; today the Tarahumara and Tepehuan Indians inhabit some of the remote regions of Chihuahua. Of considerable importance to Chihuahua's economic and political development was the W expansion of the U.S.; during the 19th and early 20th cent. foreign investment was considerable, with the border city of Juarez as the commercial link. Occupied by Amer. forces in the Mex. War and played a prominent part in the turbulent years following the revolution in 1910. In 1961, in an attempt to open some of the most valuable timber and mining lands in the nation, Mexico inaugurated the 560-mi/901-km Chihuahua-Pacific RR, which borders the gigantic Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon). At Nuevo Casas Grandes, in NW Chihuahua, is Paquime (Casas Grandes), a vast and important archaeological site.

History and Culture:

Many people have been drawn by the riches of Chihuahua. For centuries, two hundred tribes of native Americans have inhabited this land. Perhaps most notable are the Raramuri, a people whose rich spiritual ideology and strong cultural identity have persevered despite the intrusion of foreign customs. While more warlike tribes such as the Apache were overwhelmed and assimilated, the passive resistance of the Raramuri protected their identity. Even today, the Raramuri manage to resist the culture of the chabochi (the Raramuri word for white people).
The first Spaniards who settled this territory needed great tenacity to cling to a harsh land and extract treasure from the mineral deposits in the mountains. They also needed great bravery to protect themselves against the sudden and fierce attacks of the Apaches, who felt that their liberty and their hunting activities were threatened.
From the union of these two brave races came the modern Chihuahuan people who, like the very land on which they live, do not seem to know the meaning of the term, "middle ground." Everything in Chihuahua is extreme: the magnificent scenery, the soaring mountains, the sheer cliffs, the plunging canyons, the cascading waterfalls, and the forbidding deserts. All of these combine to create a fitting stage for the stubbornness, tenacity, courage, and faith of the Chihuahuan people.

Tourism: Chihuahua

is a land of magnificent scenery --mountains, canyons, deserts and fresh, clean, clear air. Its spectacular canyons are the biggest in North America. Within the canyons are beautiful waterfalls, one of which is the highest in Mexico. Chihuahua also contains fertile valleys--orchards and cropfields that were coaxed from the desert by the persistence of hardworking, warm, and loyal people.
To the northwest of the state the Paquime ruins stand as mute witness to our rich ancestry and great pre-Hispanic culture that flourished here, about 900 years ago. Today is still a vigorous area, dedicated to horticulture and cattle raising. Paquime is a sleepy city on the plain. It dreams of glorious past and is proud to be the most important archeological site in the north of Mexico.
Continuing with archeological zones, close to Madera you will find the "Cuarenta Casas" (the 40 houses) built into the cliffs during the Mogollon era, and, probably, inhabited later by the original Paquime settlers.
The sister cities of Casas Grandes and Nuevo Casas Grandes have modern services that will accomplish the most demanding tastes. But the potters of the region make exquisite multi-colored ceramics, using ancient techniques inherited from their ancestors. Carefully hand-crafted and painted, these ceramics reflect the passion for excellence of their creators. They also show the influence of the master of this school of pottery, the internationally famous artist, Juan Quezda.
Ciudad Juarez is on the banks of Rio Grande in the north of the state of Chihuahua, on the border with the United States of America. It has an extreme climate and resembles the dunes that surround it, forever changing, forever transforming.
All day, in the Plaza de Armas, the wind whistles and whispers around the Spanish buildings, filling visitors with an almost overwhelming sense of history. The ancient beams of the Guadalupe Mission, first laid in 1659, have been carefully preserved through the years. Behind the mission is the more modern Cathedral, and the Plaza of the Founder.
Walk along 16 of September Avenue. Step between the same columns that President Benito Juarez passed through to arrive at the customs building, now converted into a museum, zealously guarding a carriage that belonged to the then President of Mexico, in addition to an excellent collection of documents, pictures and artifacts of the "Paso del Norte" -- the former name of Ciudad Juarez.
Crossing 16 of September Avenue is Juarez Avenue the entrance way for our guests who came from the North. Here, a mosaic variety of stores present the visitor with a preview of Mexico's arts and crafts.
We should not leave Ciudad Juarez without mentioning its famous international night shows, as well as the numerous sporting, cultural, social, and artistic events that are celebrated here every year.
The state capital, Chihuahua, Lady of the Desert, was founded by Don Antonio Deza y Ulloa at the confluence of the Chuviscar and Sacramento rivers in the name of God and the King of Spain in 1709. Its renowned Cathedral whose construction lasted almost 100 years, was built thanks to the richness of the Santa Eulalia mines, and to the native skillful hands of, who adeptly learned the ability needed to work the quarry.
The city of Chihuahua was an important setting for the hazardous years of the Independence movement; the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the "Founding Father of Mexico", remained a prisoner in what is now the Federal Palace. He was executed on June 11th 1811, in the central patio of the Government Palace, where we keep permanently lit the flame of liberty on the altar of the country.
The city of Chihuahua has numerous architectonic attractions such as the Cathedral, built of pink quarry stone which lovely portal shows the first traces of the baroque style.
During the prosperity of the Porfirian period, beautiful mansions were built. Amongst them was the Quinta Gameros, which today houses the Cultural University Center and the Regional Museum. It is a magnificent example of French Eclecticism, one of the most important in Latin America.
During the Revolution, while General Francisco Villa commanded the famous "Division del Norte", the "Porfirian Pax" was convened to listen to the cries of the population for justice. In their honor we maintain the Museum of the Revolution at the Quinta Luz, also known as Pancho Villa's house. In the museum are the personal belongings of General Villa, and many illustrative historical documents.
Hidalgo de Parral, the commercial door to the Sierra Madre, is a special place blessed by a people s fiercely loyal that wherever they might be, they miss what they proudly call the "Capital of the World" or the "Center of the Universe".
The architecture of Hidalgo del Parral is unique in the state. This was the capital of the New Vizcaya. As the conquerors advanced through the land, much of the plunder and mining richness fed back through Parral. These days, people of Parral are known for their hospitality. They have openhearted enthusiasm for people interested in their history, chapters of which are enriched by the stories of men such as General Francisco Villa, leader of the "Division del Norte".
As well as a history forged by great men, Chihuahua has the most scenic engineering work of Mexico: the railroad line from Chihuahua to the Pacific. The railway twists past the craggy cliffs of the Sierra Madre, and hugs the rim of the Cañon del Cobre (Copper Canyon) which is twice the size of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Actually, Copper Canyon is the collective term for the union of several deep, spectacular canyons, and this train ride offers visitors many possibilities for both conventional and adventure tourism. There are hotel facilities at the key points of the journey --Creel, Divisadero, Bahuichivo and Temoris.
In the southern part of the State, linked by a superb four-lane highway, you will find the cities of Delicias, Camargo and Jimenez, all of which have something in common: they offer visitors beautiful places, aquatic sports, good hotels, and restaurants where you can enjoy delicious fried fish.
Please feel welcome in Chihuahua. As its popular song says --it is a blessed territory, bathed by the moon and the sun.....


Several million Americans look to the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua as their ancestral homeland. Chihuahua - with a total of 245,945 square kilometers within its boundaries - is the largest state of the Mexican Republic and occupies 12.6% of the national territory. In stark contrast, Chihuahua's population - 3,052,907 residents in the 2000 census - amounts to only 3.13% of the national population.
An understanding of Chihuahua's indigenous inhabitants from the pre-Hispanic era to the Nineteenth Century requires an imagination that dispenses with national borders. The border of the present-day state of Chihuahua with its neighboring Mexican states and the American states on its north is a creation of political entities. These borders may cause the reader to believe that the indigenous groups from Chihuahua were unique to their area and distinct from the indigenous inhabitants of New Mexico, Texas, Coahuila, Sonora, or Durango.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Although an international border separates Chihuahua from Texas and New Mexico, the indigenous inhabitants of Chihuahua did in fact have extensive cultural, linguistic, economic and spiritual ties with the indigenous groups of those two American states. For several thousand years, indigenous groups living in Chihuahua have had trading relations with indigenous groups located in other areas. And many of the Chihuahua Amerindians do in fact share common roots with the Native Americans of New Mexico and Texas. And, up until the last part of the Nineteenth Century, the border of Chihuahua and the United States was a meaningless line in the sand, across which Apaches, Comanches and other groups freely passed.
If you are from Chihuahua, it is likely that you have both indigenous and European ancestors because this frontier region represented both a melting pot and a battleground to the many people who have inhabited it during the last five centuries. Spanish explorers started exploring the region of Chihuahua (which was part of the Spanish province of Nueva Vizcaya) in the mid-Sixteenth Century, especially after the discovery of the Santa Barbara mines in 1567.
As they made their way through the Western Sierra Madre highlands and the deserts of Bolsón de Mapimí, the Spanish explorers found a wide range of nomadic and semi-nomadic indigenous groups. Some of the indigenous groups were named by different explorers at different times and, as a result, carried two or three names. Anyone who is studying the indigenous groups of Chihuahua may at first find this somewhat confusing.
The Concho Indians lived near the junction of the Río Concho River and Río Grande Rivers in northern Chihuahua. This region - known as La Junta de los Ríos - is a historic farming and trading area. The present-day towns of Presidio (Texas) and Ojinaga (Chihuahua) lay at the center of this region. The Conchos was named for the Spanish word "shells," most likely a reference to the many shellfish they found in the Conchos River. The Conchos - at an early period - cooperated with and allied themselves with the Spaniards, although on a few occasions they also fought against them.
The Toboso Indians lived in the Bolsón de Mapimí region. Living in parts of both Coahuila and Chihuahua, the Tobosos frequently raided Spanish settlements and posed a serious problem during the Seventeenth Century. The Jumanos who inhabited the La Junta area along the Río Grande River above the Big Bend engaged in agriculture, growing a wide range of crops, including corn, squash, figs, beans, pumpkins and melons.
The Suma Indians lived in the vicinity of present-day El Paso and through parts of northwestern Chihuahua and northeastern Sonora. The Suma Indians joined some of the missions that the Spanish missionaries set up during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Sumas eventually declined and disappeared, mostly as a result of the assimilation and mestizaje that took place in the Spanish-sponsored settlements in Chihuahua.
The Pescado Indians - named for the Spanish word for fish - lived along the Río Grande along northern border of Chihuahua and in parts of Texas. At some point, they were absorbed by other Indian groups and the Spanish settlers that moved northward into their tribal lands. The Mansos Indians also lived near present-day El Paso along the Río Grande border area. In 1659 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mission was established by Spanish missionaries for the Manso Indians living near present-day Ciudad Juárez.
The Coahuiltecan tribes roamed through parts of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and most of Texas west of San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek. These Indians consisted of countless small nomadic bands, each of which was given different names by different explorers. Little is known about the linguistic affinity or the cultures of the Coahuiltecan Indians because they eventually disappeared, having been decimated by war, disease or assimilation, at the hands of the Europeans, Comanches, and Apaches.
The Tarahumara Indians who inhabited southern Chihuahua belonged to the Uto-Aztecan Linguistic Family and originally occupied more than 28,000 square miles of mountainous terrain, an area that is even larger than the state of West Virginia. Today, the Tarahumara are a people whose rich spiritual ideology and strong cultural identity have persevered despite the intrusion of foreign customs. The Spanish originally encountered the Tarahumara throughout Chihuahua upon arrival in the 1500's, but as the Spanish encroached on their civilization the shy and private Tarahumara gradually retreated to less accessible canyons and valleys in the Sierra Tarahumara.
The Tepehuanes Indians - like their cousins, the Tarahumara - belong to the Uto-Aztecan Linguistic Group. While their strongest presence was in the state of Durango and some western points of Zacatecas, the Tepehuanes also lived and hunted in southern Chihuahua. The Tepehuanes are most famous for their defiant revolt against Spanish rule in 1616-1619. The historian, Dr. Charlotte M. Gradie, has discussed this revolt in great detail in her recently-published work, "The Tepehuan Revolt of 1616: Militarism, Evangelism, and Colonialism in Seventeenth-Century Nueva Vizcaya" (The University of Utah Press, 2000).
The Varohío (or Guarijío) Indians are closely related to and speak a language very similar to the Tarahumara. They inhabited the Western Sierra Madre Mountains along the headwaters of the Río Mayo of both Sonora and Chihuahua. The Guasapar Indians - also related to the Tarahumara - inhabited lands along the Chiniap and Urique Rivers in Chihuahua.
The Apaches - as latecomers to Chihuahua - probably first arrived in the area of Chihuahua in the Seventeenth Century. They were linguistically related to the Athapaskan speakers of Alaska and western Canada and worked their way south over a period of centuries. By the middle of the Eighteenth Century, Apache Depredations along the entire frontier region, including Chihuahua, had caused taken its toll Spaniard and Indian alike.
The history of Chihuahua's indigenous groups is a story of resistance against the intrusions of southern forces, Spaniards, French émigrés, and Indian laborers who settled in Chihuahua to work as laborers (and avoid the excessive taxation of central Mexico). In studying the story of Chihuahua as it progressed through the centuries, one finds mention of one war after another, each fought by various indigenous groups and for various reasons.
The Tepehuanes Revolt of 1616-1619 inflamed western and northwestern Durango and Southern Chihuahua. It is believed that the epidemics that struck the Tepehuanes population in 1594, 1601-02, 1606-07, and 1612-1615 became a catalyst for this rebellion. The famine and disease, writes Charlotte M. Gradie, the author of "The Tepehuán Revolt of 1616: Militarism, Evangelism, and Colonialism in Seventeenth-Century Nueva Vizcaya," caused the Tepehuanes culture to undergo "enormous stress from various factors associated with Spanish conquest and colonization." This stress convinced the Tepehuanes to embrace a return to their traditional way of life before the arrival of the Spaniards. However, after causing great damage to the frontier, the revolt was crushed by the Spanish military. After the failure of the Tepehuanes revolt, the Tarahumares of western and eastern Durango and southern Chihuahua also revolted in 1621 and 1622. This rebellion also met with defeat.
As early as 1567, the silver mines at Santa Barbara were established in the territory of the Conchos Indians. However, in 1631, a vast new silver strike was made at Parral in what is now southern Chihuahua. The strike in Parral led to a large influx of Spaniards and Indian laborers into this area of Tarahumara country north of Santa Barbara. However, the steadily increasing need for labor in the Parral mines, according to Professor Spicer, led to the "forcible recruitment, or enslavement, of non-Christian Indians."
As Chihuahua became a center of the silver trade, the tremendous pressures on the indigenous inhabitants inflamed and provoke a flurry of revolts. From 1644 to 1652, the Tobosos, Salineros and Conchos revolted in northern Durango and southern Chihuahua. In "Indian Assimilation in the Franciscan Area of Nueva Vizcaya," the anthropologist Professor William B. Griffen, commenting on the establishment of the silver mines at Parral in 1631, notes that the "influx of new people and the resulting development of Spanish society no doubt placed increased pressure upon the native population in the region." Griffen also cites "a five-year period of drought, accompanied by a plague," which had occurred immediately preceding the uprising as a contributing factor. The large area of southern Chihuahua inhabited by the Conchos Indians included the highway between the mining districts of Parral, Cusihuiriachic, and Chihuahua.
Very abruptly, in 1644, nearly all of the general area north and east of the Parral district of Chihuahua was aflame with Indian rebellion as the Tobosos, Cabezas, and Salineros rose in revolt. In the spring of 1645, the Conchos - long-time allies of the Spaniards - also took up arms against the Europeans, allying themselves with the Julimes, Xiximoles, Tocones, and Cholomes. Although this revolt ended in defeat in 1645, a new revolt of the Tarahumara took place between 1648 and 1652. Then, between 1666 and 1680, the Salineros, Conchos, Tobosos and Tarahumares all rose in rebellion following a drought, famine and epidemic.
In the meantime, to the north, Franciscan missionaries had successfully pacified New Mexico, claiming some 34,000 Indian converts. By 1630, the colony at Santa Fe consisted of 250 Spaniards and 750 people of Indian and Spanish mixture. Starting around 1660, drought and crop failure started to plague New Mexico with increasing frequency. Starvation caused hundreds of Indians to die. Tension increased between the Indian population and the Spaniards led to a serious revolt in 1680.
When the Great Northern Revolt took place in New Mexico in 1680, it did not affect just the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, as many believe. It was actually a widespread revolt that spread throughout all of Chihuahua and Durango. The Spaniards were pushed out of New Mexico down the Rio Grande to present-day El Paso. However, in 1684, as they nursed their wounds in El Paso, more rebellions popped up across much of Chihuahua. From Casas Grandes to El Paso, Conchos, Sumas, Chinarras, Mansos, Janos, and Apachean Jocomes all took up arms. The Tarahumaras also revolted once again in 1690 and were not defeated until 1698.
During the Eighteenth Century a new threat would appear in Chihuahua. The Apache Indians, starting in 1751, became a constant and unrelenting enemy of the Spanish administration. As the Apaches attacked settlements throughout northern Chihuahua, the Spaniards were forced to establish a series of presidios to contain the threat. However, the steps taken to contain the Apache depredations had limited effect and, by 1737, Captain Juan Mateo Mange reported that "many mines have been destroyed, 15 large estancias along the frontier has been totally destroyed, having lost two hundred head of cattle, mules, and horses; several missions have been burned and two hundred Christians have lost their lives to the Apache enemy, who sustains himself only with the bow and arrow, killing and stealing livestock. All this has left us in ruins."
By 1760, Spain had established a total of twenty-three presidios in the frontier regions. But the Apaches, responding to these garrisons, developed adaptation in their mode of warfare. Apaches became such skilled horsemen that they effectively bypassed the presidios and continuously eluded the Spanish military forces. Professor Robert Salmon, the author of "Indian Revolts in Northern New Spain: A Synthesis of Resistance (1680-1786)" writes that, by the end of the Eighteenth Century, "Indian warriors exacted high tolls in commerce, livestock, and lives."
Professor Griffen has explained that the Apache raids played a significant role in the assimilation of the Chihuahua indigenous groups, stating that the Apache raiders "displaced or assimilated other groups of hunter-gatherers known as the Sumas, Mansos, Chinarras, Sumanos, Jocomes, and Janos."
During the Eighteenth Century, the Comanche Indians had also begun to raid Spanish settlements throughout Texas and northern Chihuahua. T. R. Fehrenbach, the author of "Comanches: The Destruction of a People," writes that "a long terror descended over the entire frontier, because Spanish organization and institutions were totally unable to cope with war parties of long-striking, swiftly moving Comanches." Mounting extended campaigns into Spanish territory, the Comanches avoided forts and armies. T. R. Fehrenbach states that these Amerindians were "eternally poised for war." They traveled across great distances and struck their victims with great speed. "They rampaged across mountains and deserts," writes Mr. Fehrenbach, "scattering to avoid detection - surrounding peaceful villages of peasants for dawn raids. They waylaid travelers, ravaged isolated ranches, destroyed whole villages along with their inhabitants."
In 1786, the Viceroy of Nueva España, Bernardo de Galvez, instituted a series of reforms for the pacification of the frontier. He constructed peace establishments (establecimientos de paz) for Apaches willing to settle down and become peaceful. Through this policy, several Apache bands were induced to forgo their raiding and warfare habits in exchange for farmlands, food, clothing, agricultural implements and hunting arms.
Although the Spanish administration had negotiated with both the Apaches and Comanches in an effort to bring peace to the frontier era, the establishment of the Mexican Republic in 1822 led to a renewal of the Comanche and Apache wars. Between 1836 and 1852, the Chiricahua Apaches fought a running battle against both American and Mexican federal forces. The Apaches continued to defy both Mexico and the United States for many years until 1886, when Geronimo, the famous Chiricahua leader, surrendered in the Sierra Madres to American forces that had crossed the border for the special purpose of capturing Geronimo.
Although many people living in Chihuahua during the Nineteenth Century were of Indian descent, most of the original indigenous groups had either been displaced, decimated, or assimilated. In the 1895 Mexican federal census, only 19,270 Chihuahua residents aged five or more claimed to speak an indigenous language. This figure increased to 22,025 in 1900 and 33,237 in 1910. A large percentage of these indigenous speakers were Tarahumara and Tepehuanes Indians, who had managed to preserve their unique cultural and linguistic identities.
In the unusual 1921 Mexican census, residents of each state were asked to classify themselves in several categories, including "indígena pura" (pure indigenous), "indígena mezclada con blanca" (indigenous mixed with white) and "blanca" (white). Out of a total state population of 401,622, 51,228 persons (or 12.8%) claimed to be of pure indigenous background. Another 201,182 - or 50.1% - classified themselves as being mixed, while 145,926 Chihuahua residents (36.3%) claimed to be white.
It is worth noting that the classifications for the entire Mexican Republic differed significantly from Chihuahua. Out of a total population of 14,334,780 in the Mexican Republic, 4,179,449 - or 29.2% - claimed to be of pure indigenous background, while 8,504,561 - or 59.3% - were of mixed origins. The total number of people who classified themselves as blanca was only 1,404,718 - or 9.8% of the population - a far cry from Chihuahua's figure of 36.3%.
In the Chihuahua of the present-day Mexico, the Tarahumara and Tepehuanes continue to represent the largest surviving groups of Amerindians. According to the 2000 census, the population of persons five years and more who spoke indigenous languages amounted to 84,086 individuals. The largest indigenous groups represented in Chihuahua were: Tarahumara (70,842), Tepehuán (6,178), Náhuatl (1,011), Guarijio (917), Mazahua (740), Mixteco (603), Zapoteco (477), Pima (346), Chinanteco (301), and Otomí (220). Of these groups, only the Tarahumara, Tepehuán, Guarijio and Pima-speakers are indigenous to Chihuahua and adjacent states. The other groups are representative of migrants from southern Mexican states, such as Guerrero, Puebla and Oaxaca.
The mestizaje and assimilation of the indigenous Chihuahua people was widespread and today most of the state is truly Mexican in its makeup. Most of the people of Chihuahua today do not speak Indian languages or practice Indian customs. However, the assimilation of Chihuahua's people was a process that took place over several centuries and the land of Chihuahua - now at peace - was a dangerous battleground for many generations.
By John P. Schmal