Saturday, January 9, 2010

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #15): Saltillo, Coahuila

Saltillo is often lost in the shadow of nearby Monterrey, but people who prefer a less-industrialized northern Mexico city would probably like Saltillo better. The capital of the state of Coahuila, Saltillo was founded as a colonial city in 1575 and named after a nearby waterfall coming from a local spring. The city has received a number of nicknames over the years, including “The Athens of Mexico”, “The City of Ideal Climate”, and “The Land of the Sarape” (a distinctly Mexican clothing item that originated here and which Saltillo's baseball team is named after).

Founded by Spanish colonists, Saltillo is the oldest post-conquest settlement in northern Mexico. In 1591 the Spanish resettled a community of their Tlaxaltec allies in a separate nearby village in order to cultivate the land and aid colonization efforts that had stalled in the face of local hostility to the Spanish presence. In 1824, Saltillo was made the capital of the State of Coahuila and included the area which is now the US State of Texas until the Texas War and the founding of the independent Texas nation.

Besides serving as Coahuila’s capital city, Saltillo is also a major commercial and agricultural center. There are approximately 725,000 residents in the metropolitan area, which features a large number of buildings constructed of pink quarry and limestone. Among the better places to visit are the Saltillo Cathedral, considered one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in the country; the Nueva Tlaxacala Plaza, mixing Spanish and native Tlaxalteca culture into a unique esplanade behind the local government palace (which itself was built in 1808 and is the sit of a number of historic murals); and the gorgeous El Casino de Saltillo, a Greco-Roman style building with neo-classic details.

The Saraperos are one of the best-run franchises in the Mexican League, annually in the hunt for a Northern Zone title and among the Liga leaders in attendance. Saltillo’s baseball park, Parque Francisco I. Madero, is one of the LMB’s bigger venues with 14,000 seats. The Saraperos are the defending Mexican League champions after defeating Quintana Roo in the 2009 championship series. Saltillo is also considered the 1980 pennant winner, although that season ended early with a players strike and the formation of a player-run league that ran its own schedule after the LMB called off the rest of their schedule that year.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#16): Mexico City, Distrito Federal

No comments: