National Geographic : 1996 Aug
HEARTLAND &THE PACIFIC EternalMexico At first light Taxco rouses to another day in the silver trade. The Guerrero city of 95,000 touts itself as the "silver capital of the world," not for rich veins- most were tapped out by the early 19th century-but as home to Mexico's most skilled artisans. Unlike Vetagrande, which dedicated itself to mining and is now suffering a collapse, Taxco still prospers. Going beyond the traditional reli gious items made in other sil ver cities, Taxco began crafting jewelry, tableware, and art objects in Mexican designs. "Silver is native to Mexico," says designer Emilia Castillo. "So I do Mexican things, like a vase with a salamander crawl ing up the side." Here the second-generation silversmith works with master artisan Frumencio Estrada to perfect a swan pitcher (below left), one of myriad designs hammered out in her workshop. More than 60,000 of Taxco's people make their living with silver, each month using about 60 tons mined all over Mexico. Even so, the city has not escaped Mexico's crisis. "The banks are broke, so we operate without them," says Roberto Romo, director of Castillo's company. "Fortunately 95 per cent of our product goes to the U.S. and France. Dollars and francs keep us afloat." Foreign currency from cus tomers who live as far away as Japan (below) helps keep Lin da's Silver Shop in business. Owner Linda Cuevas offers Mexicans a deal: "They can't afford what they used to, so I give them a discount."