Atlantis of the Southwest
By Logan Hawkes
Once buried beneath the waters of South Texas' Falcon Lake, Mexico's colonial jewel, Guerrero Viejo, now a ghost town, glistens again in the warm Chihauhuan sun. But now only the skeletal remains of the once great city can be seen. And the graveyard that houses so many of the founding fathers of the royal city. Descendants of families from Guerrero are filtering back to join the ghosts they have left behind.
Once a great frontier city created by Royal decree, Guerrero, like Atlantis, sunk to the bottom of a watery grave and was no more. Gone were many fine examples of Spanish architecture and Old World craftsmanship. Gone was its Euro-like glory; the art, the people, and most of the glorious memories.
Old Guerrero, as it has been called since the residents of the town were forced-relocated to a newly constructed city some 13 miles to the south, has reappeared on the Texas-Mexico border since a decade of drought and water shortages have caused the waters of Lake Falcon to recede.
The skeletal framework of this frontier ghost town is now an attraction for visitors who come in search of history, ghosts and a taste of what life past must have been like in this remote outpost on the Mexican frontier.
Adventure travelers will find it's not easy to reach Old Guerrero. The nearest airport of size is located in McAllen, in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. In nearby Rio Grande City, visitors can opt to cross to Old Guerrero via the last hand-drawn people ferry left that connects Old Mexico to the U.S. border. Or you can cross at an international bridge into Nuevo Guerrero, and make the trip 13 miles up the banks of the Rio Grande to the site of the ruins.
The Rio Grande Valley region of Texas, like most of the Southwestern United States, is rich in historic and pre-historic past. And Old Guerrero was an important player in the late 1790s when its construction was ordered by the King of Spain. The Spanish conquest of the New World had reached its peak days in distant Mexico City, but an aggressive campaign to conquer new realms and spread the influence of Spain in the New World had caused satellite cities to crop up on the frontier.
Guerrero was a fine example of Spainís influence on the frontier. Once a thriving center of commerce and political clout, it was the mainstay of Spanish rule in a region that had been earmarked for land grants and settlement. Spain wanted its royal citizens to take hold of the territory and develop it in the name of the growing Empire. Wealthy landowners were born, and great ranches were established as civilization spread into the barren Upper Texas Valley.
Architects and craftsmen from the Old World and been been secured to plan the design and construction of the town. Itís primary Zocala Ė or town square Ė was to be magnificent, and its governorís palace was to be the finest on the frontier. A great Mission was established and became a focal point for religious leadership in the region.
Today, all that remains of that glory and history of the fallen city are the ruins that have resurfaced from the receding waters of the Lake. Uncovered now are the skeletons of the many homes, government buildings, schools, the Mission, the town square that once glistened in the desert sun, and a vast cemetery that still houses the remains of the colorful inhabitants that gave the city its history and fame.
Buried beneath the water for over 40 years, it's amazing to see the huge limestone building stones, and even the heavy wooden, hand-carved doors, preserved so well.
Old Guerrero is a great place to visit if you're looking for that historical, out of the way destination that takes you to greater heights and understanding of America's past.