Mule Trains
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The Mule Trains
("Las Conductas" - A Preliminary Report)

Beginning with the arrival of the first Spaniards, products moved out of the sierra on the backs of mules generally moving in large mule trains called Las Conductas. Primarily, the animals carried gold and silver but apples, too were an important product that frequently went to San Bernardo, Sonora, on the coastal foothills. Coming back into the sierra were all manner of products including, two steam locomotives that were dismantled and carried to Chinipas where they brought ore down from the mines at Palmero. To many people, perhaps one of the most important shipments was that of beer which started in Creel and arrived heavily guarded in Urique several days later. But beer was only a small part of what was transported; every outside product needed or desired by residents came in on the backs of sturdy mules.

The life of a mule driver (arrillero) was difficult. Each one was responsible for 4-5 mules; they woke before dawn, had a simple breakfast, loaded the mules and were off. Lunch was eaten on the run from a small leather pouch or pechero hung from the neck and covering the chest. Nighttime they ate another simple meal then slept on cargo pads, usually with only a single blanket, regardless of the temperature.

While mules and burros still transport cargo from mountains to ranches, the days of large Conductas ended with the arrival of roads. Roads began entering the Barranca del Cobre region staring in the 50s, many associated with the construction of the railroad, which was inaugurated in October 1961. In 1976 the first (and to this date, only) road entered Urique. A year or two later Batopilas had road access.

The preceeding comes from informal conversations with old mule skinners, among them Pedro Mancinas and Ernesto Aguirre of Cerocahui. In early spring, 2002, I spoke with Lencho Mancinas, a legendary mule driver who now lives in Areponapuchi where his sons carry on the business transporting cargo for hiking groups into the barrancas with burros. The following routes of the conductas are, hopefully, but a start. Corrections are welcome and we invite Spanish speakers to visit us and record oral histories from other old timers.

Conducta Routes:

Urique to Miñaca  Urique to Naranjo where they camped in the Puerto de Naranjo, close to where Meleton Mancinas now lives. From Naranjo to Arroyo Largo from there to San Cayatano to La Laja then to Pilares to Cajon from there to Bocayna to Choguita to Mesa de Gonzales then to Miñaca where the trail ended.

Lluvia de Oro to La Laja  From Lluvia de Oro to Cienaguita then 6 hours through Refugio to Huetoibo where they stopped at the Casa Don Ines Urias (across the road from Hotel Paraiso del Oso). This trail would continue to La Cueva de Tisnada then to La Laja where then followed the above trail to Miñaca.

Batopilas to Urique  From Batopilas to Casas Viejas then continuing to Los Alison and onto Urique.

Batopilas to Creel  From Batopilas to Cerro Colorado then to Samachique then to Basahuachi and onto Creel.

Huasari (near Chinipas) to La Laja  Juasari to Palmarejo to Temoris to Piedras Lumbres to Bahuina to Cuiteco then to La Laja where it would join the first trail to Miñaca.

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 Updated 11/03/2009