This ‘ghost-town’ in the high and dry expanses of northern San Luis Potosí state was once a thriving silver mining settlement. Real de Catorce has long been a pilgrimage site for both local Catholics and Huichol shamanists, and is now being discovered by international tourists drawn by the desert ambience and reputed spiritual energy.
Thousands of pilgrims visit the Parish of Immaculate Conception the week around the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4 to express their gratitude for favors granted. Inside the church are hundreds of Retablos attesting to the miracles that have been performed.
At other times of the year, there is a continuous pilgrimage of people of all ages and nationalities. They travel thousands of miles to arrive at this sacred site and experience a mystical communion with the magical cactus. So much so, in fact, that the government has mounted a campaign to protect the cactus from these so-called “peyote tourists”. It is illegal for anyone but Huichol Indians to gather, or possess, the peyote cactus.