La Descubridora – (The Discovery)

The historical references are inconsistent about the sequence of events, but all agree that La Descubridora was the first silver discovery in the Sierra Catorce.

La Descubridora was located on the western flank of Cerro la Descubridora, about 2 km. NW of the center of Real de Catorce at an elevation of 2700 meters (See Map). Its ruins lie just above the road to La Bufa and Agua Blanca, 1.9 km. from the Panteón (cemetery) entrance. Little is left showing of the operation except a few collapsed walls and at least four filled entrances.

Berlandier, Vol.1, p. 216 puts the discovery date in 1773 and tells the story of how a cowboy who had lost his horse was caught by a cold night and obliged to make a fire. In the morning he was surprised to find melted silver, which had run from his hearth. (This story is also told by Ward, II, p. 506, who mistakenly gives the date of the discovery as 1778.) The vein was then worked by Sebastián Coronado who Berlandier describes as “a poor private citizen who was not very rich and worked irregularly”.

In a short time other mines in the Veta Grande, like Padre Flores and Guadalupe, as well as mines in the Veta Madre and Veta Refugio were in operation.

1774
The first vein of silver was discovered by Sebastián Coronado and Antonio Lamas while they were exploring the sierra. (IPIÑA, p 14)

1777
On the 26th of August, Sebastián Coronado registered the mine as “La Descubridora”. (WALLACE, p 113).

1779
Coronado registered “La Descubridora” in Charcas on the 11th of August. (MONTEJANO , p 16).

Many claim markers similar to these are scattered over the hills of the Sierra Catorce. Some, like these, are quite legible and appear to be maintained. Others are in various states of decay; some are only piles of loose rock.

descubridora_marker1
Looking toward the south over the Descubridora claim marker which indicates a claim area of 30,000 hectares. Cerro Quemado is seen in the distance.

descubridora_marker2
View to the west  with La Bufa behind the nearby marker for the Nueva Descubridora claim. Area 6000 hectares.

descubridora_ruins1
The mine ruins are spread over the side of the mountain above the claim markers. The cut in the hill behind the marker in the foreground was a lower entrance to the mine.

descubridora_shaft
Inside the ruins there was a vertical shaft which would have been used for access to lower levels. This hole is now collapsed and closed just a few feet down. A tree has grown out of the rubble.

descubridora_ruins2
View to the west from above the La Descubridora Mine with La Bufa in the background. The ruins in the lower part of the picture are about all that is left of the original silver mine operation.

descubridora_view
View of the mine from a hill to the west. The mine was developed on at least three levels. The horizontal entrance is at the bottom left, the ruins in the middle conceal the shaft entrance, and more diggings are visible above the ruined structures.