The vast state of San Luis Potosi (poh-toe-SEE) stretches across the windswept, sun-baked plains of north central Mexico. Its importance in Mexican history spans four centuries of influence, making its capital city of the same name a fascinating destination. San Luis makes an excellent side trip for any colonial cities tour, as it is easily reached from Queretaro (200 km to the south; a two-hour bus ride) and other central Mexico colonial cities.
The city of San Luis Potosi owes its early importance to the discovery of a large silver and gold deposit in 1592. Though its mines never rivaled those of Guanajuato or Zacatecas, the city became an important administrative and commercial outpost. In the 17th century it assumed the role of Mexico’s most important northern city, whose domain once stretched from Louisiana to New Mexico. It is a metropolis that combines its mining past with the magical touch of beautiful buildings from Mexico's colonial past. In 2010, the historic center of the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site within El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the Royal Road of the Interior Land) National Historic Trail.
It is one of Mexico’s most picturesque towns, whose central historic center features tiered esplanades, several handsome plazas, flower-filled parks, and an active cultural scene. Following independence, the city played important roles in various political upheavals. General Santa Ana trained his troops here before confronting the invading Texans at the Alamo in 1846. In the 1860s, ousted president Benito Juarez twice established the city as Mexico’s provisional capital. In the 20th century, San Luis was instrumental in Mexico’s 1910 revolt against an aging dictatorship. One of its principal leaders, Francisco Madero, was jailed here in 1910 before fleeing to San Antonio, Texas and issuing the Plan de San Luis Potosi. This document declared invalid the election results, and called on Mexicans to revolt on November 20, the day Mexico’s bloody civil war erupted.
Another valuable addition to a travel experience here is to visit the surrounding countryside. As it is a state which boasts a variety of ecosystems, San Luis Potosi is the hub from which to go and visit its three touristic regions: the Central Area, which has a forest climate and springs for diving; the desert of the Altiplano (high plateau) featuring Real de Catorce as its star attraction; and the Huasteca Potosina (the Huastec region of San Luis Potosi), the area of thick jungle with waterfalls and unsurpassed scenery. Also running north-south is the Sierra Gorda de Guanajuato range, creating a myriad of valleys and plains. Much of the state’s pre-Hispanic and colonial influence can still be seen today in the towns and villages of this region.