Copala used to be a busy place. It was established in the mid 1500’s by Spanish Conquistadors seeking “El Dorado”, the bottomless gold mine rumored to exist by the recently subjugated indians. They never found it but that did not stop them from looking. Their gold seeking expeditions lasted for another century and reached as far and wide as southern Wyoming. Copala was not a particularly rich mining area but it did produce its share of gold, silver and mostly copper for a couple of centuries. The history is rich with the Butter Mining Company, Franciscans and the color of everyday life. John Huston’s 1948 classic movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is rumored to have been shot on location there but I could not confirm that story. I do remember a museum of sorts in the funky restaurant on the east end of the main plaza with upstairs bedrooms named for the stars of the movie.
Over the years Copala became a sleepier and sleepier place. When the owner of the above mentioned restaurant murdered his wife followed soon after by the bird flu outbreak, and rise in Narco-violence and the cessation of the cruise ship visits, Copala slowly withered on the vine. Daniels Restaurant closed, Chalvas closed, the cool leather mask place closed, the Silver Mine Souvenir shop closed. All that was left was the church and the chickens.
Well good news! Copala has a lunch stop again! While out driving the mercifully uncrowded “libre” highway towards Durango, enjoying the deep, rich green of the tropical jungle, we stopped by and had a beer at “Alejandro’s”, a beautiful little spot that sits just below the main plaza on the south side. Just follow the steep, cobbled road down to the right and you will find it. The tour busses have found it already so try to go when a cruise ship is not in. It is a nice place with a basic, well priced menu. We did not eat there and the beer selection was limited to Tecate Light. But the ambiance was great and the drive up was spectacular too. So give it a try!