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The Querétaro Aqueduct

On October 17, 1738, the city of Querétaro exploded in a frenzy. Enthusiastic crowds from every class of society filled the streets with colorful processions, overjoyed to see water bubbling from fountains all over the colonial city.

A jubilant group of Indians gathered outside the mansion of the Marqués del Villar del Aguila - the guiding force behind the spectacular aqueduct that had, at last, brought fresh water to the parched city. To the sound of the teponaxtle, or native drum, they regaled residents with songs of praise for the recently deceased marquis, including verses extolling the role of the indigenous peoples in the project and in the life of colonial Querétaro.

As chief benefactors of Las Capuchinas convent, the marquis and marquesa had heeded the requests of the concerned sisters for a supply of clean water for the growing city.

Twelve years earlier he had provided funds for a long aqueduct to bring in spring water from the ancient settlement of La Cañada, some nine kilometers distant, personally supervising the construction and even laying stones with his own hands.

Although the first section of the channel traveled underground, the final length of the waterway ran atop a long arcade that stretched almost five kilometers down into the valley where the city lay. The aqueduct terminated at La Caja de Agua, a cistern near the hillside monastery of Santa Cruz, which released water under pressure to a dozen public fountains and some 60 private ones in the city, many of them located in its numerous cloisters and also provided through the generosity of the Marqués.

Recently restored to pristine condition, the elevated structure is of Roman dimensions, comprising some 74 arches, some as high as 30 meters. Although it no longer carries municipal water, the colonial aqueduct ­ one of the most ambitious hydraulic projects of the colonial era in Mexico ­ is an imposing sight as it sweeps into the city from the surrounding hills.


Text and illustration ©1997 &1999 by Richard D. Perry

  • For more on the Spanish colonial monuments of Querétaro consult Blue Lakes & Silver Cities, our guidebook to colonial West Mexico.
  • See also our page on the Queretaran image of Our Lady of El Pueblito
  • Map of West Mexico

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