Acequia Madre – Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Acequia Madre

The remains of a centuries-old water system that inspired local legends of secret tunnels. 


In many houses in the historic state of Querétaro, Mexico, it’s rumored that there are old escape tunnels hidden behind the walls. These legends finally gained credence in 2016, when the remains of the Acequia Madre, the area’s early water system, was discovered under a parking lot.

When carrying out excavations at the Centro de las Artes de Querétaro (CEART), the remains of a 16th-century drinking water system were discovered under an old laundry room. Known as the Acequia Madre, it was originally an open-air channel that supplied water to the local residents, but to avoid water pollution, it was covered in the 17th century, forming a complex network of tunnels. 

Its operation declined in the 18th century, until finally the famous aqueduct of Querétaro was taken out of commission. When the water stopped, the wells and outlets in the city were boarded up. They slowly evolved into local legends that became associated in the local collective unconcious with ghosts, treasures, and conspiracies.

At the moment, the most impressive vestiges of the Acequia Madre can be seen through a series of viewing windows in the gardens of the CEART. However, the most sought-after parts are still found in the oldest private residences. It’s possible that there are still countless old wells and remnants of the ancient water system hidden in the places the legends talk about. 

Know Before You Go

When visiting the CEART, grab a map of the ancient city of Querétaro. The river that crosses the convent on the map is the original trace of the ditch.

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