In 1548, some mule drivers decided to stop not far from the Cerro del Cubliete to have some rest and something to eat. They built a fire and ringed it round with some rocks they found lying there. After a while, they noticed that the heat from the fire had melted part of the rocks and that the substance running out was high quality silver.
The head of the mule train was Juan de Rayas, who decided to set up camp right there and then and start digging. It didn’t take long to strike a rich vein of silver and, in 1550, the mine was officially named the San Juan de Rayas.
This mine was 400 meters deep – at the time the deepest in the world. Not far from the mine head you can still see the remains of the church built here on the orders of the first Marquis of Rayas.
In 1760, the young Antonio de Obregón y Alcocer obtained a loan from Pedro Luciano Otero, one of the partners in the Rayas mine. By the end of the eighteenth century, Obregón was to become the almost legendary figure known as the Count of Valenciana.
It’s not clear how many years the digging went on, but more than once Obregón ran out of funds and it wasn’t until 1768, when the digging reached some 80 meters, that they ran into the richest vein that Mexico, and, at the time, the world had ever seen.
Antonio de Obregón, who was by then 48 years of age, would go on to amass a huge fortune.
Despite the cost of running the mine, the potential for some of the materials to mysteriously “disappear” and the heavy tax burden, Antonio de Obregón y Alcocer quickly became rich. The size of his fortune has never been truly measured, but some have claimed that, at the time, he may have been the richest man, not only in Mexico, but perhaps in the whole world.