Durango is a state in northwest Mexico. This is one of the Mexican states with the lowest population density, but it has a lovely colonial capital city, lots of ruggedly beautiful terrain, including the Sierra Madre and the Cerro Gordo. This was the home state of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, and a festival is held to commemorate him every year in July. Read on to learn more about Durango, including its population, area, history, and major attractions.
Fast Facts About Durango
- Capital: Victoria de Durango ("Durango")
- Area: 47,665 miles² (121,776 km²), 6.2 % of the national territory
- Population: 1.6 million
- Topography: quite mountainous with the Sierra Madre to the west. Minimum altitude is 3,200 feet (1,000 m) above sea level. The highest peak is Cerro Gordo with an elevation of 10,960 feet (3,340 m) above sea level.
- Climate: mostly dry year round; in the higher parts of the mountains temperate with an average temperature of 60°F (16°C), and snow in winter time
- Flora: pine, cedar and oak trees in the mountains; fruit trees and pastures in the plains as well as cacti and agave in the arid regions
- Fauna: deer, wolf, coyote, rattlesnake, scorpion and a variety of birds
Durango History and What to See
The capital city, Victoria de Durango, is named after Guadalupe Victoria (1786-1843), one of the key fighters for Mexican independence and the first president of Mexico, The city was founded on July 8, 1563 and is located at an alititude of 6,200 feet (1890 meters) above sea level. The capital's historic center is one of Mexico's finest and attracts visitors with its parks, plazas and charming colonial buildings. One of these outstanding colonial buildings is the former prestigious Seminario de Durango where Guadalupe Victoria studied philosophy and rhetoric.
Today, part of the former seminary houses the rectory of the Universidad Juárez. Take a cable car up to the top of the Cerro de los Remedios to enjoy panoramic views of the whole city.
Durango state is most famous for being home to Francisco “Pancho” Villa (1878-1923). Born as Doroteo Arango in the small village of Coyotada, the poor peasant boy, who had been working for a wealthy landowner fled to hide in the mountains after having shot his boss to defend his mother and sister. During the turbulent years of the Mexican Revolution, he became one of its key fighters and heroes, not least due to the fact that he led the División del Norte (the Northern Division) to some victories that were founded at Hacienda de la Loma near Torreón with originally 4,000 men.
Following the road north towards Hidalgo del Parral on the border in the state of Chihuahua, you will pass the Hacienda de Canutillo that was given to Villa in 1920 by President Adolfo de la Huerta in acknowledgment of his services and in agreement to lay down arms. Two rooms of the ex-hacienda now exhibit an excellent collection of weapons, documents, personal objects and photographs.
On the border with the state of Coahuila, the Reserva de la Biósfera Mapimí is an amazing desert region, dedicated to the research of fauna and flora. To the west of Durango city, the road towards Mazatlán on the coast leads through splendid mountain scenery. And movie veterans might recognize some of Durango’s countryside that served as the set for many Hollywood films, mainly westerns, featuring John Wayne and directors John Huston and Sam Peckinpah.
Durango is an agricultural state: tobacco, sweet potato, corn, chile, beans and squash are planted, as well as many fruit trees, such as pomegranate, quince, peach, apricot, peron and apple. They also raise pigs and cattle and sheep, and a lot of cheese is made here. They maintain a tradition in many families of making home-made sweets, including preserves made from apple and quince, "cajetas" (a caramel made with goat's milk), and quince and peron jellies, coradillos, fig preserves and sun-dried peaches.
The Durango state fair, La Feria Nacional de Durango, is held every year at the end of July and beginning of August. The state has two "Pueblos Mágicos," Mapimi and Nombre de Dios.
Last but not least, Durango is an El Dorado for lovers of nature and extreme sports: the Sierra Madre offers great hikes to observe fauna and flora and adrenaline action like canyoning, mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling and kayaking.
Durango has an international airport, the General Guadalupe Victoria International Airport (airport code DGO) and good bus connections to other destinations all over Mexico.