Cerro de las Campanas National Park

If you’re seeking a destination that combines history, culture, nature, and beauty, look no further than the Cerro de las Campanas National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional Cerro de las Campanas), also known in English as the Hill of the Bells. In this guide, we will explore the wonders of this remarkable protected historical corner of Mexico and how you can make your visit an unforgettable experience.

Introduction to the Cerro de las Campanas National Park

Cerro de las Campanas National Park

Geographic Location

Situated in the vibrant city of Querétaro, the Cerro de las Campanas National Park is located in the heart of Mexico, offering unparalleled accessibility. It belongs to the state of Querétaro.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The park is more than just a green space. It was here where President Benito Juárez marked a milestone in Mexican history, reinforcing its cultural significance.

The history of Cerro de las Campanas is closely linked to a significant event in Mexico. In 1867, the Republican army led by General Mariano Escobedo besieged Maximilian of Habsburg and the remaining French and conservative troops. On May 15th, at the eastern base of the hill, Maximilian surrendered his sword to General Escobedo, marking his total surrender. At the site, there is now a small obelisk commemorating this event. Maximilian and his generals, Miguel Miramón (former President of Mexico), and Tomás Mejía, were captured and tried by a war tribunal at the Teatro de la República. They were found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad.

On June 19th, 1867, at dawn, at 7:05 a.m., they were taken to Cerro de las Campanas for the execution. Eighteen soldiers ended five years of French intervention and foreign rule. The executions took place on the eastern slope, about 350 meters from where they had surrendered.

After the executions, three piles of stones with crossbars were placed at the same spot. Later, wooden crosses were placed, which are now housed in the Museum of the Magic of the Past in Querétaro. In 1886, a simple monument was erected consisting of four wooden columns supporting iron grates, forming a rectangle of approximately 10 by 5 meters, with three stone columns in the center bearing the names of the executed.

After diplomatic relations were reestablished, Austria requested permission to build a chapel on the site. Construction began in 1900, and the project was overseen by the Viennese architect Maximiliano von Mitzel. The construction work was carried out by Francisco Kaska and Santiago Jimeno, who was later replaced by Marciano Tinajero. The chapel, built in a neo-gothic style, was blessed on April 10th, 1901, by the Bishop of Querétaro, Rafael Sabás Camacho y Guzmán.

In the 1950s, the facilities of the Querétaro Fair were built on the western slope of the hill, which were later relocated in the 1970s. In 1967, a part of the hill was declared a national park and is completely surrounded by the central campus of the Autonomous University of Querétaro. In the park, at the summit of the hill, a quarry esplanade was constructed with a balustrade around the perimeter, accessible from the southern side through a staircase. A monument to President Benito Juárez, 13 meters in height, was also erected, standing on a rectangular base measuring six meters in height by 14 in length and seven in width. It was inaugurated on May 15th, 1967, to commemorate the centenary of the triumph of the republic. The inauguration was attended by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Governor Manuel González Cosío y Rivera, as well as former Presidents Emilio Portes Gil, Lázaro Cárdenas del Río, Miguel Alemán, Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, and the Secretary of the Interior, Luis Echeverría Álvarez.

The history of Cerro de las Campanas is marked by these significant historical events that took place at this site. The chapel and the commemorative monument are tangible witnesses to the historical and cultural significance of the site, reminding us of the struggle and victory of the Mexican Republic.

Creation of the National Park

On July 7th, 1937, the site was designated a national park, thus protecting its natural richness and historical heritage. The park’s name derives from the distinctive sound produced by rocks colliding, resembling the sound of bells. These rocks are called phonolites, which means "sounding stones." For a long time, tourists have taken fragments of these rocks as souvenirs, significantly reducing their existence.

Previously, the hill was situated on the outskirts of the city, but due to population growth, it is now practically located in the city center. This urban growth has completely surrounded the hill with buildings and development.

Geography and Climate of the Park

Geographic Features

The Cerro de las Campanas rises mightily, offering spectacular views of the surrounding city. The terrain is ideal for outdoor walks and hiking.

Climate Conditions

With a temperate climate throughout the year, the park is a delight to visit in any season.

Flora and Fauna

The park hosts a diverse range of wildlife, from colorful birds to small mammals, as well as a variety of regional flora.

Attractions and Activities

Cerro de las Campanas Viewpoint

The summit of Cerro serves as an observation point, from which you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Querétaro.

Monument to Benito Juárez

The Juárez statue is a focal point in the park, a reminder of his significance in Mexican history.

Hiking and Outdoor Walks

The pathways through the park are ideal for hiking, picnicking, and nature enjoyment.

Birdwatching and Wildlife Observation

Equipped with binoculars, you can observe a variety of birds and fauna in their natural habitat.

Landscape Photography

The park offers exceptional opportunities for photography, from panoramic vistas to close-ups of nature.

Infrastructure and Services

Park Access and Transportation

The park is easily accessible, with public transportation routes leading directly to the entrance. Parking is also available for visitors arriving by car.

Accommodation and Services

Within a short distance from the park, visitors will find a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to more affordable hostels. The park also provides restroom facilities and picnic areas.

Park Regulations and Guidelines

Visitors are advised to follow the park rules and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. This includes respecting marked areas, not feeding animals, and taking all trash with them.

Cultural and Historical Heritage

The Park’s Role in Mexican History

The park plays a vital role in Mexican history, as the site where Benito Juárez marked the end of the French intervention in 1867. The Juárez statue stands as a reminder of this crucial event.

Importance in Local Culture

The Cerro de las Campanas National Park is a gathering place for the local community, hosting festivals and events throughout the year.

Events and Festivals

From concerts to cultural festivals, the park is a hub of activities year-round, adding to its appeal for visitors.

Preservation and Conservation

Current Conservation Efforts

There is an ongoing commitment from park authorities and environmental organizations to maintain and protect the park for future generations.

Environmental Issues and Challenges

Like many natural spaces, the Cerro de las Campanas National Park faces challenges such as soil erosion and the preservation of its fauna and flora.

How Visitors Can Contribute to Conservation

Visitors can contribute to park conservation by following rules, not littering, not feeding animals, and considering making a donation for park maintenance.

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