Jessi’s Blog: Taxco Silver
Mexico is well known for the indigenous art and jewelery that it’s denizens have produced over centuries. One of the best known silversmithing companies was produced in a town called Taxco. In someways, a discussion about the modern history of silver in the city of Taxco is nothing without the help of a Tulane professor named William Spratling. The city has a rich, and lively history full of legends that have helped create the beautiful silver today.
The modern Spanish town of Taxco was founded by Hernán Cortés in 1521, within an area previously known as Tetelcingo, because of the abundance of silver. It was transported back to Spain and become the empire’s primary source in the New World. Taxco had become a busy mining area during Spanish rule. Mining gradually decreased in the Taxco area as other richer and more accessible mining areas were discovered and developed, and eventually faded out for almost 200 years.
In 1716, Don Jose de la Borda (a Spaniard of French descent) rediscovered silver in Taxco,as the legend goes, he was wandering
in the hills of Taxco and he spotted a rich silver vein. He struck a fortune in Taxco and in gratitude built the beautiful and now famous Santa Prisca Cathedral, an ornate cathedral with lots of gold trim in the Spanish Baroque style. Though lavish, building the church made la Borda go bankrupt.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that Taxco silver became an internationally well known commodity. In 1929, Spratling, inspired by several summer visits, moved to Mexico, where he quickly integrated himself into the Mexican art scene. He became a friend and a strong proponent of the work of muralist Diego Rivera, for whom he organized an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. What really made Spratling a special character in history was his ability to recognize that silversmithing was an untapped source of commercialism.
Spratling began designing works in silverbased primarily on pre-Columbian and traditional motifs, and hired local goldsmiths to produce those designs in Taxco. As the reputation for Spratling’s silver designs grew, he expanded his operation, and began an apprenticeship program for others interested in designing in silver, many of whom continued to work in the Taxco area—with Spratling’s support—once their apprenticeship was over. By the 1940s, Spratling was selling his designs throughout Mexico and the United States. His work helped build modern day Taxco, and he has a museum in the sity.
Throughout Mexico, Spratling is widely regarded as “The Father of Mexican Silver”. A silver bust of Mr. Spratling resides in the town’s silver museum, alongside images of Don Jose de la Borda, and The Spratling Museum behind the Santa Prisca Catherdral, houses the Spratling Collection of silver and Pre-columbian figures that he left to the town of Taxco. Spratling silver is held in high regard today, even though due to labor issues, silver mining no longer occurs.
More of Jessi’s blogs:
“Indigenous Body Art”
“Jose Guadalupe Posada”
“La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo Chicano Rights”
“Aztec Death Rituals”
“What was Mexico Like?”
“El Dia de Los Muertos”
“Baja Cave Paintings”
“Mexico & WWII”
“History of chocolate in the new world”