Feature Story

Cerocahui, a surprise in Mexico's Barranca de Cobre, Copper Canyon

Tarahumara Girl
Copper Canyon
Church and Mision Hotel
Vineyard, Mision Hotel and church
Tarahumara girls going to church
Cross and church - Cerocahui
Church, Cerocahui
Tarahumara women selling baskets

A side trip from the Bahuichivo Station of the Chihuahua Pacific Railway takes one to the Cerocahui Valley, on the edge of the Copper Canyon, Mexico's Grand Canyon.

16th century Jesuits set up missions in the remote regions of Mexico's Copper Canyon teaching the indigenous Tarahumara Indians (or Rarámuri as they call themselves) to raise livestock, make wood products and introduced Old World plants to the region including grapevines for wine production.

The King of Spain a century later, in a political move, expelled the Jesuits from Mexico replacing them with missionaries of the Franciscan order. Mexico was ordered to cease wine production in order to protect Spanish wine producers. As a result, Mexico never fully developed its wine industry potential despite having excellent soil and climate for grape production.

Cerocahui and its Vineyards

The Copper Canyon village of Cerocahui (sero-kah-wee) enjoys a micro-climate that approximates spring-like weather conditions year-round ensuring perfect grape harvests year after year.

When the Jesuits left Cerocahui, the vineyards were destroyed --except for some cuttings secretly replanted behind Jose Maria Sanchez's house. Jose Maria's family preserved the vines, caring for, protecting and enjoying them for many generations up until about 26 years ago when the last Sanchez passed on without heirs.

The Old World Heirloom species of red grape was in danger of being lost forever but was saved when Sanchez's gardener, working with the Misión Hotel in Cerocahui, decided to restore the vine by planting cuttings on unused land adjacent to the Tarahumara built stone church and Indian girls orphanage.

Over the decades since, the original vineyard located on a gentle rise in the middle of the village has expanded across the river and now has over 4,000 vines under cultivation.

Hotel Misión de Cerocahui

The vineyard has become the centerpiece for the colonial era Hotel Misión as has the Misión Wine produced by them.

All the Hotel Misión guest rooms open to a rustic covered portal porch with hand-carved chairs and benches with grape motif. Vibrantly colored native-woven spreads cover beds and antique cast iron wood stoves provide heat for cool Alpine nights.

Some Activities Available from Hotel Misión by Horseback or Foot

Trek to Cerocahui Waterfall.

Visit the old Sangre de Cristo gold mine.

Walk to Las Cascaditas (the Little Waterfalls) in rainy season. Along the way see a sawmill, some Tarahumara ranchos and an old cemetery.

Hike to the overlook of El Valle del Leon (the Valley of the Lion). This moderate hike provides magnificent views of the town and valleys.

Visit the Jesuit Mission of San Francisco which was founded by Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra in 1694. Salvatierra was the first white man to reach the bottom of the canyon in 1695. The Mission Church is in front of the hotel.

For more information:

Mexico Tourism: http://www.visitmexico.com/en-us/

Chihuahua Tourism: http://www.chihuahua.gob.mx/turismoweb/

Copper Canyon: http://www.visitmexico.com/en-us/copper-canyon

Chihuahua Pacific Railway: http://www.chepe.com.mx/english/index.html

Misión Hotel in Cerocahui: http://www.hotelmision.com/

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—The JPG team

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