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Real de Catorce

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Real de Catorce, often shortened to Real, is a village in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí and the seat of the municipality of Catorce. It is located 160mi north of the city of San Luis Potosí, and currently has a full-time population of under 1,000 residents. This 'ghost-town' in the high and dry expanses of northern San Luis Potosí state was once a thriving silver mining settlement. Real de Catorce has long been a pilgrimage site for both local Catholics and Huichol shamanists, and is now being discovered by international tourists drawn by the desert ambience and reputed spiritual energy.GeographyThe village of Real de Catorce sits on the side of a mountain at more than 2,743 meters . It is located in the Sierra de Catorce range, one of the highest plateaus in Mexico, where summits may extend over 10000ft. These mountains lie in the arid Mexican plateau, cut off from trade winds of the Gulf of Mexico by the high peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental.The main road to Real de Catorce leaves Highway 62 between Matehuala and San Tiburcio. This is roughly to the east of Real, near the town of Cedral. From the main highway there is a 17mi cobblestone road which rises into the sierra, then the 1.5mi long Ogarrio Tunnel which only accepts vehicles one way .HistoryReal de Catorce is named for 14 Spanish soldiers killed here in an ambush by Chichimeca warriors. Other sources tells that in the beginning the name was "Real de Álamos de la Purísima Concepción de los Catorce" . Although a town had been there for many years, silver was discovered in the local mountains in 1772 and a few years later in 1779 the village was officially founded. The parish church was built between 1790 and 1817. Real de Catorce's heyday was in the late 19th century, when it had a population of 15,000, with some of Mexico's richest silver mines and a mint, as well as a bullring and shops selling European luxury goods. It was almost completely abandoned when the price of silver plummeted after 1900; only a few people remained in this ghost town, eking out a living from mine tailings and an annual influx of pilgrims to a reputedly miraculous image of St. Francis in the parish church. Today, its main income comes from tourism.
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