Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila: Home of the First Wines in America
In the middle of the desert of Coahuila, there is a charming Magical Town called Parras de la Fuente (simply known as Parras).
It was the cradle of wine in America since Casa Madero was the first winery to operate in 1597. Parras was also the birthplace of Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco Madero, two decisive facts in its current wine and tourist activity.
In 2004, Parras de la Fuente was incorporated into the Magical Towns system to promote winemaking, architectural, and historical attractions.
The closest major cities to Parras are:
- Saltillo, 140 km away
- Torreón,155 km away
- Monclova, 250 km away
- Monterrey, 227 km away
- Durango, 410 km away
- Zacatecas, 500 km away
- Chihuahua, 620 km away
Mexico City is more than 1,000 km from Parras de la Fuente, so the most convenient way is to fly to Saltillo or Torreon and make the rest of the trip by road.
What is the history of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila?
The Mission of Santa María de las Parras was founded by the Jesuits at the end of the 16th century.
Almost as soon as they arrived, the Spaniards realized that the area’s climate was suitable for vines and wine, starting a winemaking tradition that grew over time.
The first great patriarch of the town was Don José Evaristo Madero Elizondo, a wealthy landowner born in 1828 who would become the grandfather of the town’s most illustrious son, Francisco Madero.
Parras is located at an altitude of 1,520 meters above sea level and enjoys a desert climate, cool in winter and warm in summer.
The average annual temperature is 19° C, with thermometers dropping to the 11 to 14° C range in December, January, and February.
It starts to warm up in April, and between June and August, it averages about 26° C. It rains very little, with the scarce precipitations falling mainly between June and September.
What are the main attractions of Parras de la Fuente?
Parras is a small town with the air of an old village, embellished by its large houses and its religious and civil buildings.
Among these stand out the Church of Santo Madero, the Church of San Ignacio de Loyola, the Chapel of San Lorenzo, the Municipal Palace, the Plaza del Reloj, and the House of Culture.
Again, Parras is the cradle of wine in America, and the famous Casa Madero, other wineries, and the lively grape harvest festival still bear witness to this.
Other attractions are the old aqueduct, the Estanque de la Luz, the petroglyphs, and some natural spaces near the town.
Even before arriving at the town of Parras de la Fuente, you will be enchanted by the haven in the middle of the aridity that the people of Parras have managed to create.
The green of the vineyards and the cypress and walnut trees announce that you are in an oasis surrounded by the Coahuila desert. It is only a matter of minutes before you can stroll through its streets, admire its old houses, and enjoy an aperitif with a glass of local wine.
Visit the Church of Santo Madero
One of the great architectural symbols of Parras de la Fuente is this church, which appears in the right quarter of the city’s coat of arms.
It occupies almost the entire extension of the summit of the hill of Sombreretillo, so-called because it resembles a hat in which the top would be the temple and the rocky sector that serves as a seat.
There are spectacular 360-degree views of Parras de la Fuente and the vast Coahuila desert from the temple.
San Ignacio de Loyola Church
This temple built in adobe and brick belonged to the Colegio de San Ignacio de Loyola de Parras de la Fuente and is one of the oldest built by the Jesuits in Coahuila.
It has a small museum where objects of worship, books, and old documents are exhibited.
In 2013, in the middle of the temple restoration, some mural paintings of the XVII century appeared on the interior walls, which were rescued.
The San Lorenzo Chapel
This chapel was built by Don Lorenzo Garcia in the old Hacienda San Lorenzo, now the home of the famous Casa Madero.
It still preserves the style of the simplest viceregal chapels and in its main altarpiece stands out San Lorenzo, the onomastic saint of the founder.
The temple is the favorite in Parras de la Fuente to celebrate Catholic marriages. It is the scene of the main religious and folkloric events of the Grape and Wine Festival.
Admire the Municipal Palace of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila
It is an elegant two-story building in pink quarry stone, with neoclassical Frenchified lines, with groups of balconies and windows crowned by triangular pediments, built like the Municipal Palace of Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila.
On the internal walls of the palace, there is a splendid mural that summarizes the main historical episodes of Parras de la Fuente.
What to see in the House of Culture
This large house located in the central area of Parras, a few blocks from the plaza and the Alameda, was formerly a family residence, ceded for its cultural purpose.
Its main room is dedicated to the local hero, Francisco I Madero, displaying the leader’s birth certificate and photos of different moments in Madero’s life.
There is also a room dedicated to Venustiano Carranza, another Coahuila native born in Cuatro Cienegas.
Plaza del Reloj
This iconic square is located in front of the church of Santa María de las Parras, and its great distinctive feature is its clocks located on the four faces of the tower.
It was ordered to be built in the middle of the local commotion the day the news arrived in Parras de la Fuente, that Francisco I Madero had been assassinated in Mexico City (Feb 1913).
Which is the main wine producer in Parras de la Fuente?
The first wine in Mexico was produced at the end of the 16th century in the Mission of Santa María de las Parras.
Today’s Casa Madero was founded in 1597 under Hacienda San Lorenzo. Since then, its vines have been producing grapes to make the excellent brandy and wines of the legendary winery.
The beautiful Casa Madero is 8 km from Parras de la Fuente and has a museum where you can admire old equipment and barrels used in winemaking.
Other wineries of interest
Apart from Casa Madero, other wineries that offer tours of the vineyards and winemaking facilities worth visiting are Rivero González, Don Leo, and Hacienda de Perote.
The Don Leo vineyard is in the Tunal Valley, at 2,100 meters above sea level, one of the highest altitude winemaking vineyards in the world.
Where is the house where Francisco Madero was born?
This large house where the hero of the Mexican Revolution, Francisco I Madero, was born, is located in the former Hacienda del Rosario and is still owned by the Madero family, so it is only possible to admire it from the street, standing out its huge hardwood door and its garden.
Madero spent his childhood and youth in this house before embarking on the revolutionary struggle that would lead him to participate in the overthrow of Porfirio Díaz and to the country’s presidency, before being assassinated at a young age of 33 in 1913.
Is there a museum?
The oldest pieces in the Museo de Los Monos were not intended for exhibition but were scarecrows that José Cruz Hernández from Parrense built to scare away the birds that decimated his crops.
Later, Hernández made monkeys that looked like drunks to attract shoppers to La Divina Providencia grocery store, and the figures became an attraction.
In the small museum, there are “monkeys” made of wood, paper, and plastic, with striking masks, imitating well-known characters such as former Presidents Obama (USA) and Vicente Fox (Mexico).
When is the Grape and Wine Festival in Parras de la Fuente?
The grape harvest festival of Parras de la Fuente takes place in August.
It started over 100 years ago to thank God for the grape harvest. The main stage of the Grape and Wine Fair is Hacienda San Lorenzo, where Casa Madero, the oldest winery on the continent, is located. Still, all the wineries and vineyards of the town participate.
There are cultural events and wine and brandy tastings, accompanied by traditional “campechanas” and other Coahuilan snacks.
On the night of August 9, the eve of the big festival, a mass of “thanksgiving” is held in the church of San Lorenzo.
Then the lights are turned off in the surrounding area to witness the descent of the matachines from the Cerro de la Cruz, carrying lighted torches, ending with a show of pre-Hispanic dances.
On the big festival day, there is a parade with floats, led by a character representing Bacchus, the God of wine, and the queen of the Grape and Wine Fair.
Is there grape-stomping?
Yes! a good quantity of grapes is deposited in a wine press, and the queen of the fair, accompanied by handsome gentlemen, performs the traditional and symbolic treading of the grapes.
This is done to honor the god Bacchus and for the benefit of the first liters of grape juice that the villagers pray for the best wine harvest.
During the Grape and Wine Fair, children and young people also enjoy mechanical games, and there are concerts by nationally renowned artists and gastronomic and handicraft displays.
What is the old aqueduct like?
The city preserves a beautiful stone-arched aqueduct built in 1917 to carry water used for electricity generation.
The aqueduct is surrounded by oak and walnut trees, and there is still a flow of fresh water that children use to take delicious baths.
Another interesting monument is the so-called house of Don Jaime Madero, located in the former hacienda of El Rosario, an empty and beautifully preserved mansion belonging to the Madero family.
Other important monuments and attractions
Shortly before arriving at the Magical Town, you will find this monument made up of three sculptures, an Indian, a priest, and a Spaniard, symbolizing the people who participated in the town’s founding at the end of the 16th century.
Behind the temple of Santa María de las Parras is a small, well-maintained space called the Plaza del Beso (The kiss square). Its shady benches, semi-hidden by trees, gave shelter and protection from prying eyes to lovers, hence its name.
The Alameda de Parras is a green attraction of the Coahuila oasis, with poplars, walnut trees, rose bushes, vines, and well-kept hedges.
It is a place frequented by the locals to sit on its benches, chat, breathe fresh air, and listen to the chirping of birds.
At the entrance of the town is the Corredor Turístico, another green space to spend some family time in the shade, grilling a good barbecue in its grills.
What is the Pond of Light?
This pond of warm, clean, and crystalline waters is the main recreational spa of Parras de la Fuente.
The constantly moving water comes from the springs of the sierra, and abundant trees pleasantly shade the natural pool.
It gets its name from a legend that Thomas Alva Edison visited the place at the invitation of Don Evaristo Madero, grandfather of Francisco I Madero, and put some electric light bulbs to work.
Practice adventure sports
The Lima Canyon is a narrow gorge, very good for canyoning near Parras de la Fuente.
It has vertical walls up to 40 meters high, and when you climb or descend them, you cross different obstacles.
It is about a half-day hike, and you can also swim a little. The adventure may include the observation of some vipers and other snakes.
Where are the petroglyphs?
Near San Rafael de Los Milagros, on the Torreón – Parras de la Fuente highway, about 60 km from town, there are some hills in the middle of the Coahuila desert where there are some amazing petroglyphs.
The indigenous engravings on rocks of an uncertain epoch represent the events of daily life that caused more admiration and perplexity to our ancestors, like the rain and the sun.
The petroglyphs are about 100 meters from the road, and if you bring your bicycle, the best way to see them is by pedaling.
Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila: Gastronomy and lodging
The culinary art of Coahuila and Parras offers some delicacies, among which stand out the roast and pork tamales, mole, and barbacoa.
During the first days of November, the Festival del Dulce y de la Nuez (walnut and candy festival) is celebrated in Parras. The local candy artisans show off their rich elaborations of walnuts and pine nuts, figs, and grapes.
Best places to eat:
- Las Parras de Santa María, located at Calle Cayuso 12, is praised for its chamorro and paella, served with a refreshing sangria made with local wines
- El Mesón de Don Evaristo is a restaurant specializing in steaks that operates in a beautiful mansion on Avenida Francisco Madero
Other dining establishments in Parras are Angelotti’s, with Italian and Argentinean food, and La Casona Steakhouse, with excellent cuts.
To drink is a no-brainer: the local wines and brandy.
As far as where to stay in Parras, there are some lovely places for you to choose from.
- La Casona del Banco, at 285 Ramos Arizpe Avenue, is a nice hotel with rustic and cozy decoration, which offers an excellent breakfast
- Rincón de Montero is lodging with good facilities and Mexican food in its restaurant
- La Casa de Don Felipe, at Ramos Arizpe 96, is a clean, centrally located hotel
Other options are Hostal El Farol and Hotel Hacienda Los Portales.
Don’t forget a good souvenier
In line with the town’s main cultural tradition and economic sustenance, wine production, Parras artisans make beautiful wooden barrels on a small scale, which you can take as an ornament for your bar or house.
They also make practical basketry pieces from natural fibers.
Ready to enjoy the wines and exquisite culinary art of Parras de la Fuente and have fun at the grape harvest festival?
I hope this guide will help you round out a successful visit to this Coahuilan Magical Town. See you next time. Vamonos!