History is full of tales about sunken ships, hidden hoards, and other kinds of lost treasure. Among these are tales about lost precious metal mines. A typical “lost mine legend” usually follows one of several themes. Sometimes, the mine is discovered and worked on in secret – an individual prospector, town, or tribe is able to produce impressive amounts of precious metal for trade, but will not divulge where they obtain it. Other stories tell of an explorer who came upon rich precious metal deposits – but after returning to civilization for the proper mining resources, is unable to locate the deposits again.
Many lost mines have evidence of their existence and are rooted in historical fact. Many others are only the stuff of stories and legends. The Tayopa silver mines are unique in that they have been found, and lost, twice.
The story begins circa the 17th century with explosion of the Jesuit population in Mexico. While the primary goal of the Jesuits was to spread the message of their religion, they were also responsible for generating income for the church. This became so widespread that the Spanish government attempted to suppress it by criminalizing Jesuit mine ownership. However, this just pushed the Jesuits to mine in secret.
Somewhere near Sonora, Mexico someone through unknown means discovered the silver mines of Tayopa. Eventually, a town (Guadalupe de Tayopa) was built nearby with a fully equipped Jesuit church. Records of church inventory indicate that it kept a vast amount of silver artifacts. However, due to widespread aggression from Apache Indians, the entire town was abandoned and no one ventured into the area again for several years. With that, the Tayopa mines were lost.
During the early 20th century, a small group of miners ventured into the area and claimed that they had located the Tayopa mines. With such a valuable discovery, they started a mining company named Cinco de Mayo to exploit the mines. However, the Mexican Revolution in 1910 squelched their efforts and the mines were lost once again.
Colloquial stories about Tayopa claim that the mountains were not mountains at all, but colossal mounds of silver. At current market rates, Tayopa would be a valuable find, indeed.