In the early, quiet morning, the rumble of tires on original cobblestone streets is distinct in the central core of the historic city of San Luis Potosi, known as SLP to locals. It doesn’t matter if you are a local or a visitor, here warm welcomes are common with the phrase, “Buenas dias.”
The high desert city offers diversity
Located in the central highlands of Mexico, the area is officially a desert surrounded by mountains. As the day warms under brilliant blue skies, people head outdoors – to the markets, to work, to school, or just to mingle with their friends at their favorite eating spot or park.
Street vendors sell everything from gorditas to tamales to atoles. Open-air markets offer fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, cheese, and flowers at very affordable prices. You can buy groceries for a week for less than 300 Mexican pesos (about 17 USD). In the larger markets, you will also find a variety of local handmade goods, trinkets, and household necessities.
History and cultural traditions are celebrated in this central Mexican city. Plazas, churches, and gardens honor historical figures and events throughout the seven barrios spread across the city proper.
Historical sites begin in the central core
The Plaza de Fundadores, the Founders’ Square, was established in 1588 by Captain Miguel Caldera and local Franciscan monks. Originally a church and monastery, the restored Neoclassical-style building now houses the San Luis Potosi University administrative offices. The original central patio and four corridors remain symbolizing one of the oldest buildings in town. The plaza, located in front of this great architectural building, is a full city block lined with pavers. It provides an outdoor venue for socializing, relaxing, and several community events.
Just a few blocks away, the grand historic Cathedral stands. The Baroque façade features 12 Italian marble sculptures representing the 12 apostles. The original limestone sculptures representing the apostles were moved to the side facades, making this the only Cathedral in the world with 24 sculptures of the apostles. The interior holds a Byzantine-style stone cypress and tubular organ, which attracts worshippers from around the world.
The Cathedral sits on the Plaza de Armas. This central plaza is beautifully landscaped with fountains, trees, benches, and grassy areas surrounding a pink octagonal kiosk in tribute to great Mexican musicians. Both the City Hall and State Government Palace also surround this plaza. Local Huastecan women peddle their fresh honey and tortillas in the square. On weekends, a variety of musical groups serenade visitors. The Plaza buzzes with activity from dawn to nightfall and beyond.
Alameda Park is two city blocks of paths, fountains, and hub of public transportation
Alameda Park provides opportunities to stroll, people watch, and catch public transportation to surrounding neighborhoods.
The Plaza del Carmen, Our Lady of Carmen Square, is located adjacent to the Templo de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, and across the street from Alameda Park. This square was originally part of the Carmelite old convent church atrium. Consecrated in 1764, the building housed one of the largest convents in Mexico. Today, the church continues to hold daily worship services. An adjacent building is the site of a museum in honor of important historical contributors to SLP.
The Teatro de la Paz, City Theatre, was once a part of the Carmelite convent. Today it is SLP’s main cultural center hosting concerts, plays, and events. Mosaics and bronze sculptures are displayed inside; the Belgium bronze dome reflects sunlight onto the central ballerina statue in the main hall – a beautiful site to see.
Nearby, the Museo Nacional de la Mascara (National Mask Museum) holds a diverse collection of ceremonial masks from across the country. The masks, used in a variety of celebrations during the year such as the Semana Santa (Holy Week) events, range in size from small and simple to elaborate and quite large.
South of the downtown core lie more attractions with historical significance
The Plaza de Aranzazu and Capilla de Aranzazu (Aranzazu Square and Chapel) were once a stable and Franciscan convent. The chapel windows, domes, and many arches can be still be seen today. The chapel, the only one in Latin America located on the second floor, welcomes visitors today with entrance through the museum. The Museo Regional Potosino, located inside this plaza, includes a sizeable collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts. Sundays are free admission days to this museum.
The Calzada de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe Path, leads from the central historic core of the city to the Basilica de Guadalupe. The tradition of taking the image of Our Lady Guadalupe from the sanctuary to the Cathedral, praying for nine days and then bringing her image back, established this path. Today the path is used daily by families to stroll the tree-lined avenue.
The best way to see all these sites is by walking
These are only a few of the must visit attractions found in central SLP. One can only imagine what the central historical city looked like hundreds of years ago. Today it is a bustling shopping and business area. Several central streets are blocked to vehicles allowing pedestrian only usage. Buses and taxis transport individuals from the central core to the outer areas of the city along with many private vehicles. Despite this, many locals get around by walking as they have done for years.
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