Migration to the USA, or to bigger residential and commercial hubs across Mexico, hits smaller and less prosperous towns the hardest. While Michoacán and Jalisco are the states from which most Mexicans choose to leave, Zacatecas has also been hard hit by the wave of migration. The town of Cerrito del Agua, Zacatecas, is one such town that’s been left all but abandoned by this outward flow of residents – home to only around 3,000 people, practically nothing is left but dust and cobwebs.
Unlike many of the ghost towns on this list, which were left deserted by choice or by force, San Juan Parangaricutiro in Michoacán was left deserted as a result of a quite striking natural phenomenon. Over the course of just nine years, a volcano formed, erupted and ceased to exist just kilometres from this tiny town. Nowadays, all that’s left of San Juan Parangaricutiro are the peeking spires of the former church, which rise triumphantly from the solidified lava coating the surrounding area.
Some 60 or so years ago, residents of Guerrero Viejo, Tamaulipas, were forced to move so that the USA and Mexico could build a dam to provide water to towns on both sides of the border. Guerrero Viejo was rendered a virtually abandoned outlier amongst the typically overrun border towns, which normally struggle to cope with the demands of unsuccessful migrants setting up camp there. Nowadays, it’s fighting the rising waters of the nearby damn, as well as a flood of drug dealers and a handful of migrants who have transformed it into their own out-of-sight, out-of-mind hideout.
Misnebalam, one of the most famous ghost towns in the Yucatán, enjoyed a mere 100 years of inhabitation – from 1910 to 2010 – before the final two residents living there (according to the 2005 census) upped sticks and left. Urban legend claims Misnebalam is deserted because it’s haunted by a ghost called Juliancito; in reality, it’s likely the final residents moved away when it became clear that the hacienda had already enjoyed its finest hour, and was now falling into ruin.
Cerro de San Pedro was formerly a thriving mining town with an abundance of gold and silver – until the actions of the miners themselves changed that forever. In the mid-20th century, they decided to strike, and lost. The mines closed, the miners left and the town turned into a partially deserted ghost town. Due to its proximity to the state capital, there are still visitors who enjoy strolling the empty streets of Cerro de San Pedro to this day.
The town of Ojuela in Durango was once, like the aforementioned Cerro de San Pedro, a prosperous mining town with deposits not just of gold and silver, but of manganese and zinc too. However, at around the same time as Cerro de San Pedro was left empty due to strike action, a flood decimated the mines of Ojuela, driving out the mining population. Nowadays, the prime attraction of Ojuela is an impressive suspension bridge and the deserted old mines.
Perhaps one of the most dangerous ‘ghost towns’ in Mexico, the former cotton cultivating town of Guadalupe, Chihuahua, is currently considered something of a no-go area. The only residents left there are either too old or poor to leave, and the homicide rates (the victims principally including mayors, politicians and activists) are sky high for a town with only 10,000 residents. Al Jazeera reports that the violence was prompted by the state, in an attempt to drive people out and let wealthy developers take control of the area’s valuable natural resources.
Finally, we come to the multiple ghost towns across the drug ravaged southern state of Guerrero. Sources claim that there are some 20 pueblos that have been left abandoned as a result of the ever-escalating drug violence in the state. Residents have fled due to both the threats they received from supposed members of the Knights Templar cartel, and the lack of action on the part of the authorities.