Parres el Guarda is one of the original settlements of Tlalpan. But don’t think it’s just another. Parres el Guarda is very different. As daytrips go, it’s not the most likely town to be visited, but it is a very popular stop on the famous Cuernavaca Railroad Bikeway. Some will tell you, the Bikeway put Parres on the map. But then, historically, that’s what the railroad did a bit more than a hundred years ago.
But of course, the town is a bit older even than that. It’s not as old as the 10 other Pueblos Originarios of Tlalpan, but it’s still rather curious.
The name “El Guarda” comes from the colonial period when a guard station was positioned here on the Royal Road (Camino Reale) to Acapulco. You’ll recall that for 250 years, New Spain was getting bi-annual shipments from the Philipines via their most important Pacific coast port.
In 1800, a hacienda was founded here. It too was called Hacienda El Guarda for the only other thing of note in the area.
The hacienda ended up serving as an important rest point for those en-route to Acapulco. It was not a beach resort at the time. But all traffic to Cuernavaca, Chilpancingo, and Acapulco ended up passing through, exactly as the Bikeway traffic does today. In 1867, the Emperor Maximiliano I and his wife Empress Carlota stopped here on their way to Cuernavaca.
The actual Hacienda buildings were built between 1800 and 1810. A small chapel was dedicated to the Santa Cruz, the Lord of Santa Veracruz. Only a few ruins of these buildings can be seen today, though for their sheer size, one can get an idea of their grandeur.
In about 1890, the remains of the Hacienda were purchased by a Juan de las Fuentes Parres. He lent his name to the small hacienda town when the railroad was built through the town in 1896.
The town of Parres El Guarda was then founded by the workers of both the railroad and those of the Hacienda El Guarda. In 1897, the Mexico-Cuernavaca Railroad officially opened at the hand of President Porfrio Díaz. The first train finally passed through the town in 1901.
As might be imagined based purely on geography, the town was taken over by the Zapatistas in 1910. The Hacienda was not only out of business, but even subjected to violent attacks. The Zapatistas would only be driven at the end of 1914 by forces loyal to General Huerta. And this explains the present state of the hacienda ruins.
By 1925, construction of the Mexico-Acapulco Federal Highway would again displace town residents, and violate land rights. It was actually a concession to landowners to put the road through the middle of town, as in the days of slower traffic, nearly everyone would stop. The road opened on November 11, 1927.
An important work of public sculpture, the Monument to the Sacrificed Peasant (Campesino sacrificado) was dedicated in 1954. The work is by Francisco Arturo Marín. The monument faces the libre road, right next to the Ejidal Commisary building. Both the building and the monument were restored in 2017.
Today, as hundreds of years in the past, Parres El Guarda is your last stop in the city.
There is one more bike station, 15 minutes away, before cyclists reach the Morelos state line. But take in a little of this last Tlalpan town in before you go. It’s unique, a bit cooler than many other such places, and always welcoming.