The historical center of Queretaro is 4 square kilometers with 203 blocks and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To give you an idea of how large of an area that is, you could fit the Walt Disney World Florida parks all within 4 square kilometers and still have room to spare. Though it’s easy to walk around, some of the historical monuments on the outskirts are harder to get to. The trolley tour is an excellent way to reach the outer limits and hear some fun stories along the way.
Donna and I bought tickets for a two-hour trolley tour. You can buy one-hour or two-hour tour tickets (maybe more), and you do see different things each time. Sitting in the front, we were close enough to hear and read the lips of the tour guide. The entire tour was given in Spanish, but we were able to pick up on a few things, and when we stopped, we asked the tour guide to give a brief synopsis in English.
To the West…
Our first stop was the Cerro de las Campanas or Hill of the Bells to the west of the Historic Centro. Emperor Maximillian I (brother to Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I and part of the Hapsburg family) was executed by firing squad here on June 19, 1867 along with his Generals Miramón and Mejía. He was a well educated and a decorated Navy officer, and initiated many reforms such as limiting the work week and abolishing child labor. Unfortunately for him, the Mexican people did not want a foreigner as a ruler, and the United States backed the opposing party. His last words were, “I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me. May my blood, which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. Viva Mexico, viva la independencia.” His reign only lasted for four short years. Today it’s a beautiful park with trees, winding pathways, fountains and statues.
How did the Hill of the Bells get its name?
The Hill of the Bells does not contain any bells. The rocks in the park have an unusual amount of iron in them, and when the rocks were bashed together, they made a sound like a bell. Another story about the Hill of the Bells is that if a woman is looking for a boyfriend, she would go to the park and hit the rocks together 3 times to let them know she was available. If she wanted to get rid of a boyfriend, she only needed to bring him to the hill and bash his head against the rocks 3 times and she would be rid of him. Mexicans have a great sense of humor.
And to the East…
The second hour on the trolley we headed east of the Centro to the Templo y ex-convento de la Santa Cruz de los Miagros (Temple and ex-convent of the Holy Cross of Miracles). It is believed that a vision of the Holy Cross appeared in the sky here during a battle between the Spaniards and Chichimecas. Upon seeing this vision, the battle ended with the Chichimecas surrendering. A small chapel was erected on this spot in 1531, and later in the 17th century was replaced with the temple we see today. Opposite the temple is the Plaza de la Fundadores or Founders Plaza with 4 statues of the influential men who founded Santiago de Queretaro.
Continuing east on the trolley tour, we drove down one side of the aqueduct and then the other. The aqueduct consists of 74 arches, each 20 meters wide (just over 65 feet) extending 1,280 meters (42o0 feet)and an average height of 23 meters (75 feet tall). It was built between 1726 and 1738 at the request of a nun to the the Marquis Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana to bring clean water to the residents of the city. The story of the Marques and the nun I knew well.
An interesting fact about the Centro is that the roads and sidewalks are made of pink quarry stone. This is how you know you are in the historical area. Even when repairs are done downtown, they must still use the pink stone.
Since this is not a hop on hop off trolley tour, I won’t be doing this often. I’m sure in a year I will understand more Spanish and not be so in the dark on the historical significance. Regardless, it’s a comfortable way to see the sights that are quite a hike away.