There is a snake crawling out of the centro histórico of Querétaro, Mexico. It makes its way 1.78 kms along what is now the avenue Zaragoza and finally hiding its head into one of the hills surrounding the center of the city. This snake is over 30 meters tall, and is made of stone, its blood was the life’s blood of Santiago de Querétaro for centuries. This snake is the aqueduct of Querétaro.
Whether you see it in the day or night, it is an impressive site. The Pan-American Highway makes its way beneath its arches. It has stood for hundreds of years and is still used today to bring water to the dozens of fountains that are found in the UNESCO world heritage city of Querétaro, Mexico. It is immaculately maintained, and is a fixture in the Querétaro landscape. Along it’s base it is now surrounded by trendy restaurants and coffee houses, but it was not always so.
When it was built, these streets were nothing more than fields of corn, and the legend of why the aqueduct was built is one of love that could never be. The aqueduct was built in the beginning of the 17th century by the Marquis del Villa del Aguila. At the time he was the richest man in Querétaro. He had more money than he could ever use, but he was old and alone. One day, while strolling through one of the many public plazas in Querétaro he came across a nun from the local convent of Santa Clara reading on a bench.
The beauty of the nun, made the Marquis fall instantly in love with her. Unable to resist he went over to talk to her. To his surprise and dismay, he found that her beauty was only matched by her intelligence and grace. What made matters worse was that this nun, Clarissa, also fell in love with him. But both the Marquis and Clarissa were pious people and they knew that Clarissa was already wed to the lord and could not be with another.
So, Clarissa asked the Marquis to show his love for her by building a home where they could both live together in spirit. Taking that to heart, the Marquis built the most beautiful house in the city, what is now the Hotel Casa de la Marquesa. The house was made of the most expensive material from around Mexico and the world. Its beauty rivaled the palace of the emporer in the Marquis homeland of Spain. But the crown jewel of the house was that it was the only one in Querétaro to have running water.
To make this possible he built the aqueduct of Querétaro, to bring water from 20 km’s away. He also shared this water with the public by placing 12 fountains around the city where the local population of Querétaro could have access to clean drinking water. To this day, the aqueduct, his house and the fountains stand as testament to this unrequited love.
Today the best place to view the Aqueduct is from atop the lookout point behind the Convent of the cross on top of the hill of Sangremal. Do not miss the opportunity to see it at night, when it is lit up and rises above the city.